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The Barrens Actually Turn Blue

Washington County, responsible for more than 90 percent of the nation's blueberry crop, is the world's largest producer. The glacially formed "barrens", vast rolling plains of sandy soil, are perfect for raising wild, lowbush blueberries. Thus, the growing, harvesting and processing of the blueberry is a major industry in Washington County. Nearly a quarter million acres of barrens yield an average of 30 million pounds of blueberries annually, all of which are canned within the county.

The barrens are a stark, wild, almost surreal landscape, a smooth undulating carpet of blueberry plants, rhodora, tea-berry and bracken with only an occasional lonely pine or great glacial boulder to break the horizon. In June the barrens are speckled with the white blossoms and on a nice summer's day the air is thick with the fragrance of ripening berries and sun-warmed laurel.

The actual harvest takes place in August. Local families, as well as Micmac Indians from New Brunswick, rake berries from dawn to day's end since the entire crop has to be harvested by the first frost. At this time the delicate blueberry dies and the scrub growth of the barrens turn into a blaze of deep golds, greens, purple and russet.

Although blueberry land is prevalent throughout the, county, the largest stretches of barrens can be found off Route 1 in Cherryfield, Deblois, Columbia Falls, Epping, Centerville and Jonesboro. Wesley and Crawford on Route 9 also have vast barrens.

The Blueberry Barrens

The glacial deposits are perfect for raising wild, lowbush blueberries and Washington County’s crop is the world’s largest and finest. Growing, harvesting and processing the blueberry is a major industry – from 200,000 acres of barrens about 15 million pounds of blueberries are harvested and canned each year.

To reach the barrens by car take Route 193 out of Cherryfield or off the Airline in Beddington and go to Deblois. Or swing north off Route 1 in Harrington, Columbia Falls or Jonesboro. There are also big stretches of barrens alongside Route 9 in Wesley and Crawford.

Here, in a lonely, wild country a smoothly rolling carpet of blueberry plants, rhodora, teaberry and bracken covers the ground.

Only an occasional lonely pine or glowering gray glacial boulder breaks the horizon line. On a nice day the fragrance of ripening berries and sun-warmed laurel is almost overwhelming.

Baked or Boiled, They're the Best

Although there are some stores on Route 1 that sell fresh, live lobster, you can make a pleasurable job of looking for lobsters by taking some of the roads off Route 1.

At the Four Corners complex in Columbia take the road to Addison and keep going eight miles to South Addison at Eastern Harbor. Beauty abounds and you're back into the age of honest simplicity. Hit there mid-afternoon and you can get your lobsters right off the boat.

The Co-op in West Jonesport at this end of the Beals Bridge and Woodwards Wharf on Beals are two more places. The Co-op store at the end of a pier at Bucks Harbor is the setting for some breathtaking views of boats riding at their moorings. The village of Cutler, a most favored haunt for recreational sailors, has lobsters to offer.

You know, they call Route 1 the "coastal route" but you won't see much of the coast if you stick to that piece of asphalt. You really get to know Washington County, its unspoiled beauty and its nice people, if you get off Route 1 and take these "side" roads discussed above.

Get a good map (DeLorme of Freeport puts out an excellent, greatly detailed book of maps) and plot your own course. Washington County Maine - Washington County - A Look At Downeast Maine

A Little Washington County History - At Machias the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought - a land and sea action which resulted in the British schooner "Margaretta" being captured by the American residents with the loss of only one man on the American side. The captain of the British craft died that night in the Burnham Tavern, a well-preserved example of a colonial inn now open to visitors. The oldest building east of Bangor, it's maintained by the local D.A.R.

Everyone Loves Blueberries - Washington County, responsible for more than 90 percent of the nation's blueberry crop, is the world's largest producer. The glacially formed "barrens", vast rolling plains of sandy soil, are perfect for raising wild, lowbush blueberries. Thus, the growing, harvesting and processing of the blueberry is a major industry in Washington County. Nearly a quarter million acres of barrens yield an average of 30 million pounds of blueberries annually, all of which are canned within the county.

Sport Hunting in Washington County - The face of this land is a succession of valleys with ridges between, stretching from the Narraguagus to the St. Croix and beyond. The rivers that drain the valleys are born of spring-fed lakes and ponds that lie embossed in the highlands to the north, hidden away in the forests of pine and spruce, of balsam fir and hemlock. These are the haunts of the whitetail deer, the black bear and the moose, and this is the land where they are sought by the hundreds of hunters who venture forth come fall.

Native American Indian History - Although the earliest European settlers found Indians of the great Algonquin stock throughout Maine, evidence unearthed and correlated in the last fifty years has firmly established the belief that these Algonquin tribes had been preceded by an earlier, different group of men who are called Pre-Algonquin or Red Paint People. Red Paint People have been so named because each of their ancient graves contains from less than two quarts to a bushel of brilliant ocher, usually red but occasionally yellow or brown. The burial with the bodies of ocher (a mineral from which paint may be made) and stone implements, which are unlike Indian implements, distinguishes these people.

Natural Wonders - TIDES: The greatest rise and fall of tides on the shores of the continental United States occur along the Washington County coast. The tall pilings at Jonesport, Lubec and Eastport attest to the gigantic fluctuations of the ocean's level where 18-foot variations are average. Actually, the greatest tides occur way up the St. Croix River at Calais where the average is 20 feet. At certain times of the year, however, the water level will vary 28 feet every six hours or close to one inch every minute!

Beaches And Tidal Pools - No visit to Washington County would be complete without the thrill of discovering the beauty of the beaches and rocky cliffs that form the boundary between the pounding sea and the land. This narrow band between the low and high water mark is a world of its own populated with plant and animal life peculiarly adapted to living part of each day submerged by the ocean water and the rest of the time exposed to the drying sun and wind. The scene is an ever changing one as each tide slowly rearranges the pattern of the rocks, the sand and the residue from the sea.

Campobello Island - Campobello Island, N.B. is nine miles long and about three miles wide. It has two fishing villages, Welshpool and Wilson's Beach, both of them home port to many colorful vessels which go out many miles to catch fish. After you go through customs and get a friendly nod you'll climb a hill. When you get to the top, stop and turn around so you can take in the view of Lubec, Maine across the "Narrows", where, according to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the strongest tidal currents on the east coast flow --around 12 knots or 15 miles an hour.

Ten Exciting Places To Enjoy Yourself Absolutely Free - There are several excellent facilities in Washington County which are open to the public at no charge. All that is asked is that visitors leave the areas clean and unspoiled. Depending on the location of the site, provisions have been made so that people of all ages may enjoy picnicking, tenting, boat launching ramps, fishing, hiking and swimming.

Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge - The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, an area comprising 28,686 acres, was established in 1937 for the protection, study, perpetuation and management of certain species of wildlife, particularly waterfowl and other migratory birds, in the area. Moosehorn is the only one of more than 540 national wildlife refuges that is devoted to the study and management of the American woodcock.

Five Great Places To Hike - If you're looking for some interesting hiking trails, you've come to the right place. Here are five locations you might want to try some of these.

Washington County Wildflowers - From the time the first Mayflower blooms between the patches of melting snow on the sunny hillsides until late in the fall the great natural lands of Washington County are filled with hundreds of varieties of wild flowers and greens. Plants have structures and abilities which suit them for living in particular environments and therefore each distinct area of seashore, woods, fields and roadsides brings forth its own individual bouquet.

Points Of Interest - When the phrase Down East came into common usage is unknown but some historians feel the description goes into the early 1600's. It is rather a puzzling phrase but as you can see from examining a map, the coast of Maine does go east but, at the same time, it runs northward too, or up. However, what early explorers quickly found out was that the prevailing winds blew from the southwest, as they do today. Therefore, they most frequently sailed with, or down the wind, as they moved to the eastward. Thence, Down East.

The Glaciers Did It - A million or more years ago the world grew very cold. Great sheets of ice formed over the northern lands, retreated, grew again, drew back and for the third time advanced far south of what is now Maine. As recently as 15,000 years ago there were tongues of the huge glaciers extending into Washington County.

The Communities Of Washington County - St. Croix Island, set about midway between the United States and Canada in the beautiful St. Croix River, was the scene of the first white settlement in the New World north of St. Augustine, Fla. It was here, in 1604, that Samuel Champlain and his fellow French explorer, Sieur de Monts, led a band of about 100 soldiers and traders and spent the winter. It was from this island that Champlain explored the coast of New England as far south as Cape Cod.

Boat Launch Sites - Washington County has some pretty good boat launching ramps on lakes and the salt water. Here is a fairly complete list of the fresh water launching sites.

Salt Water Fishing - A salt water sports fisherman, to borrow author Kenneth Roberts' words; "has always with him the clean, salt tang of the sea, the roar of waves on the ledges, the fatalistic scrutiny of clownish seagulls and is never annoyed by mosquitoes, black flies, midges or horseflies." A description which should knock fresh water fishing into a cocked hat, but won't. Nevertheless, salt water fishing in the county can offer every member of the family some wonderful thrills whether you cast from a ledge or wharf or dangle a line from one of the charter boats that ply from Red Beach, Jonesport, Cutler or Eastport. The fish to be caught include flounder, sculpin, cod, pollock, smelt, mackerel, halibut, sea bass or "stripers" and tuna, although tuna are very rare. In fishing for flounders, we notice that the most successful fishermen use worms, either the garden or sand variety; this keeps the bait from being eaten by the sculpins.

State Parks - Washington County offers several nice public parks including the ones listed on this page.

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