Maine's Great North Woods
Maine’s Great North Woods is a land where mighty rivers are born, the forest seems tractless, and where more deer and moose roam today than 100 years ago. It is a place the great nature writer Henry David Thoreau would still recognize today, although he would find it greatly changed.
Gone are the sprawling lumber camps peopled by hard-working loggers who spent months at a time felling and moving timber by river to the hungry mills to the South. In their place today heavy equipment allows just a handful of people to process as much wood in a day as a dozen men could do in a week a century ago. In their air-conditioned cabs these machine operators look out on a forest much different than that visited by Thoreau. Granted, the mix of species of trees remain the same – although mechanized harvesting and planned replanting have resulted in wide areas of a single species, most the same age. This groomed monoculture seems out of place in the lush, chaotic landscape that characterizes wilder areas.
Most of Maine’s woods have been cut two or even three times now. In some areas, massive clear-cuts shock even those who understand the economic and silvacultural reasons behind the practice. Some argue clear-cutting amounts to land control by large, multi-national corporations concerned only with short-term profits. Others argue the cuts were needed to salvage trees ravaged by disease that would have only rotted anyway. The debate over the practice has been raging for years in Maine and will undoubtedly continue long into the future.
Still, it is the paper and lumber companies that drive the economic engines of the Great North Woods. They are the ones who put in the roads enjoyed by mountain bikers, campers, canoers, fishermen and hunters most with little or no fees. And while no traditional working lumber camps remain (clusters of cabins and campers do, however), lakeside sporting camps continue the frontier traditions of catering to visitors. These camps, known as “sports,” are serviced by Registered Maine Guides eager to show not only where the trophy trout or deer can be found, but also where less consumptive recreational pursuits such as mountain biking, canoeing, photography and hiking can best be enjoyed.
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