The St John River Valley is the Crown of Maine.
When someone says they’ve been to Maine, ask them to tell you where. Dollars to donuts, the landing in Maine is usually near the Green Bridge on the state’s south end. Then after a short visit they probably high tail it back to the population centers below Maine.
Time, travel and knowing Maine is very tall, pretty wide keeps some from venturing too far north, east and west.
Missing out on so much up into the many interior sections to sample like the Crown of Maine.
The purpose of this blog post to leave you knowing more about the St John River Valley than when you stumbled onto the Me In Maine website.
More on settling the St John River Valley and the people called the Acadians, the French Canadians. To strengthen the mail route and plug a gap in service providing was one of the goals of the Quebec and New Brunswick governors.
The Acadians, displaced to make room for loyalists to the King of England after the American Revolution then moved from the southern valley to the north.
What was the carrot to entice the relocation? Moving for the land grants, the chance to gain the services of a priest and to reunite deported family members.
Fort Kent Maine in the St John River Valley originally settled as a military outpost during the Aroostook War.
It took a long time to settle the issue of where to put the border between Canada and Maine.
The original block house stockade now a historic tourist attraction named after then Governor of Maine Edward Kent in 1839.
For original blockhouse defense, the one in is all that’s standing. The Fort Kent blockhouse defense is the last fort that remains built during the tensions between the US and Canada. But one dismantled, rebuilt in 1976 in Fort Fairfield Maine is around to tour and learn from the past. Like Fort Kent, Fort Fairfield’s block house defense an early fortification used to define the Aroostook County line before a treaty determined it once and for all. More on Fort Fairfield, Maine, another town in Northern Maine’s Aroostook County.
Today the Fort Kent Outdoor Center for Winter Olympic level competitions, the Can-Am dog sled races and more make this beginning of US RT 1 Maine town popular. There is a University of Maine branch in Fort Kent too that helps round out the local community flavor of this bilingual community in Aroostook County.
Madawaska Maine is the northernmost town in New England and another of the jewels of the St John River Valley.
Over 83% of the population of Madawaska speak French. Edmunston New Brunswick is the sister town across the bridge spanning the St John River.
Production of paper, the knee deep in forested sections of Maine location is the perfect combination. Historically, electric power provided from hydro facility at the St John River dam in Madawaska ran the paper making mill.
The St John River also provided a highway for pulp logs to float on during the journey to the paper mill.
Twin Rivers, formerly Fraser Paper uses trailer trucks and rail service instead of the log drives on the river to protect the waterway resource.
Mother Nature’s river h20 used in the paper making process that is still tapped for the initial stages of pulp processing in Madawaska Maine. But then the product is piped a mile under pressure across the St John River to the 2nd phase paper making plant operation across the border in Edmunston New Brunswick Canada.
She’s the longest river in Atlantic Canada, one of the biggest drainage basins on the eastern sea coast tapping into roughly 21,000 square miles for a watershed.
She’s not a skimpy dinky stretch of water, the St John River Valley is 418 miles long. ( On the Canadian side of things, that’s 673 kilometers. Thank you Canada for putting metric into practice that the US has been a tad slow adopting.) The St John River empties into the Atlantic Ocean in what is called the Bay of Fundy. The St John River flows south along the western side of the New Brunswick province.
The St John River makes up most of the water border line between New Brunswick Canada and the state of Maine.
Putting the moving current to work, the St John River is harnessed in several places. It turns the generator, spins the turbine water wheels on many
Canadian hydro electric dams. One of the New Brunswick Canadian hydro dams on the St John River in Grand Falls is pretty impressive.
Your St John River Valley region is roughly 15,000 bilingual Maine residents connected by bridges and DNA to approximately 30,000 Canadian population.
Rich French Acadian culture extends back and forth across the St John River between Maine and Quebec, the New Brunswick Canadian provinces.
Since 911, increased immigration, customs, border patrol protection has increased. The presence of added security employment numbers and expanded facilities to carry out their mission contributes greatly to the local economy. Like tourism for fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, etc, it runs strong on both sides of the International boundary.
The river in Grand Falls drops 75 feet in places around the ledge rock outcroppings and creates a mist, a rushing flow of rapid water noise along with the spectacular view.
Witnessed it over and over every time on of my two boys played away hockey games on Grand Falls arena ice.
When you live in Maine or Canada, the back and forth travel happens a lot.
Being a Maine border town with Canada has many perks. Would you try the zip line across Grand Falls New Brunswick Canada ? I won’t call you chicken if you say pass. In Maine, we head into Canada just to hit a new movie flick release, or to watch a sporting event. Often to go out to eat and get a change of scenery. The signs along the Trans Canada are in French and English. The distances in metric kilometers and miles, pick your number.
Also on snow sled trips up ITS 83, the old B&A railroad bed makes getting up to the St John River Valley faster by ice rocket than car. Signage to warn of a bridge or roadway ahead, sharp corner, where to get gas, eats, lodging. That’s all along the groomed snow sled trails of Northern Maine.
Staying at the Gateway Motel in Madawaska, wandering from Jackie’s to the Wonderbar and eating breakfast at Rock’s or Rosette’s Diner.
Maybe getting a taxi to go over to St Rose Quebec. The seafood at Lakeview Restaurant on Long Lake is tasty along with the waterfront setting. Two trails make it safe and the hill terrain add to the scenery you take in on trail stops up in the St John River Valley. The local law enforcement allow the use of side streets and roadways to get you around the Valley towns. This area of Maine especially is very snowmobile friendly like the people who welcome you to the area.
Also, after a hockey game in Plaster Rock New Brunswick being that far north, why not spend the night.
The four kids and I would pull into the Edmunston for down hill skiing at Mont Farlagne, New Brunswick Canada. Neat family size mountain and low cost lift tickets with the stronger dollar discount figured in. Mont Farlagne ski area is just across from the Aroostook County border.
With sixteen counties, Aroostook is by far the best fed for acreage.
Nothing skimpy or crowded in Aroostook County, the land is wooded, fertile farms, lots of crystal clean waterways. Huge farm fields, vast timber in unorganized townships all the way west to the Quebec border.
And few people but way way more friendly. The St John River Valley is more than a collection of border towns with the Quebec and New Brunswick Canadian provinces.
There’s a Judge Daigle that interacts with everyone else in town with down to Earth ease. Regardless of their income and with respect and humor, the locals get along. You don’t sense the pecking order of who’s better or worse that some snarky areas of the country have to deal with today. From the snobby and how they treat all the others they call low life’s.
Bright colors, the housing in Northern Maine is not just white clapboards with black shutters.
Snappy dressers too and a little more style conscious. In Maine growing up, two of the four channels were Canadian. So we would get beamed into the living room using the roof top antenna or rabbit ears Canadian brand grocery items. There was a furrier on the Canadian side pushing the mink stoles and coats.
Communication is English and French. In the St John River Valley (percentage) of people are bilingual or speak French. More on the Acadian chapter of Maine history to explain what happened and why.
The St John River is clear, cold, rapid and slow all mixed into one.
You might consider taking a drive along Eastern Canada’s longest river waterway. Cross border Maine and Canada travel is common and memorable along what is called the Fiddlehead Drive.
Earlier blog posts on Prince Edward Island, a trip to Halifax Nova Scotia are examples of what is so close to Maine living this handy to Canada.
Let’s end the myth once and for all that I don’t know who actually started… it is not dangerous living this close to Canada. My Dad’s mom was 100% Canadian with strong family Burt’s Corner New Brunswick ties with “over home” relatives.
Land grants, early census figures, church records, maps and more at this St John River Valley information link.
Plus more on the Maine towns in the St John River Valley of St Francis. Also on Van Buren Maine to make it all about Vacationland. Okay, one more, bring in the details on Frenchville Maine, another Valley town on the St John River banks.
If you have never lived this close to another country, believe me I get it. Imaginations about what it must be like often provide the myths that could not be further from the truth of living in Northern Maine. Especially in the protected, off the beaten path location of the Northern most region of Aroostook County where you see Canada across the St John River.
Heading up RT 11, the back way utilized more by log trucks, is the backdoor way to get up into the St John River Valley.
Up US RT 1 that ends in Ft Kent is another route or to cover miles quickly, head across the border. Everyone is friendly and clearing the immigration / customs inspection is quick and easy unless there is a holiday line.
Next, roll up the driver’s side window after the questions about where you going, anything to declare and is everyone a citizen and from where. Push the gas pedal down and climb on the Trans Canada highway from US RT 2 in say Houlton. Point your vehicle north. Then in under two hours up mosey over with hang a left maneuver.
For your crown of Maine follow the St John River Valley curve application.
Keeping eagle eyed for a bridge to cross. Everything you see across the St John River? That’s Canada. Faster times, less slowing down to obey speed traps in small Aroostook County towns is avoided on the Trans Canada Highway. Mais qui. C’est bon. (Okay, I’ll stick to English… sorry.) Or come by boat, snow sled or ATV woods trail to the St John River Valley.