Why "Down" East?
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". If you'll buy that, you'll buy anything...
Lighthouses To Which You Can Get
There are several lighthouses in this area but the only way you'll be able to see them is to go by boat. Captain Barna Norton of West Jonesport conducts lighthouse tours. There are two well-known international lighthouses, however, that you can drive to, picnic at and be stunned by the natural beauty.
One of these lighthouses is at West Quoddy Head. Does it make sense that the Easternmost point of land in the United States is at West Quoddy Head in South Lubec? But it is.
This red and white-striped lighthouse, built in 1807, sits atop a 90-foot cliff and from this promontory you can see the
islands of Grand Manan and Campobello, New Brunswick, Canada. Grand Manan, 16 miles long and with a population of 3,000, used to belong to the United States but we swapped it for Moose Island on which Eastport is built. You can thank Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton for that.
The lighthouse is the feature attraction at West Quoddy Head State Park, a 400-acre park which offers some outstanding hiking trails and beaches to comb. There are picnic tables and barbecue stands and rest rooms.
The other lighthouse in the area is at East Quoddy Head on the island of Campobello. Go across the Roosevelt Memorial Bridge from Lubec to the island, drive nine miles to the far end of the island, keep going even after the paved road turns to a narrow dirt road and follow this to its end at the lighthouse. If the tide is out you can walk across the rocky floor of a narrow passage to the island the lighthouse is on.
Watch yourself or you could be caught by the incoming tide The scenery is simply spectacular. It's another great spot for beachcombing and picnicking on the beach and rocky outcroppings.
Obviously, there are two ways you can watch whales sporting about in the ocean: you can watch from the shore or you can pay someone to take you out in a boat.
Fortunately for people who don't like rolling swells, there are a couple of good vantage points to view these mammoth mammals. They are at East Quoddy Head on Campobello and West Quoddy Head in Lubec. You're more likely to see them close into shore at East Quoddy.
Whales come to the Bay of Fundy in the summer because the food is plentiful. According to Tim Beatty, author of "Whales of The Bay of Fundy", a handy pocket guide to whale watching available in local bookstores, "The high tides (of the Bay of Fundy) constantly flushing in and out of the Bay keep the water stirred up. This constant mixing is ideal for the growth of the goods that attract whales."
The most commonly sighted in this southern part of the Bay of Fundy include the Harbor Porpoise, averaging about five feet; the Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, eight feet; the Right Whale, 46 feet; the Minke Whale, 26 feet; the Humpback Whale, 40 feet and the local monster, the Finback Whale
which averages 65 feet. In weight, the whales average about a ton per foot.
Whales will often feed over a very large area, according to author Beatty. At some point it may appear that they are heading away. In fact, they are often merely beginning a large circle. Stick around because they will most always return.
Although it's not much different than dozens of other seacoast settlements with its weirs, wharf’s and weather-torn smokehouses, one of our favorite villages is Bailey's Mistake.
It wasn't very funny at the time, but ever since Captain Bailey made his famous mistake 125 years ago one generation or the other has been getting quite a chuckle out of the incident. In fact, even the staid and terribly proper Coast and Geodetic Survey of the U.S. Department of Commerce is going along with the gag on its maps of the area.
The section of coast in question is located about seven miles west of Lubec and was settled in the early 1800's by John and Hiram Balch who were soon followed by such families as the McFaddens, Tuckers, Condons, Cheneys, Kelleys, Andrews and Allens.
The place was tagged "Trescott," incorporated in 1827 and the natives were busying themselves in lumbering, farming, fishing and shipbuilding, although they never managed to build a lasting reputation in this last enterprise; the only large boat ever constructed here carried coal during the War of 1812 and was sunk by the British shortly after it went into action.
Around 1830 the thing that was to set this typical bit of Maine coastline off from the rest of Trescott and, in fact, from the rest of any normally-named villages, happened one stormy night.
A self-assured, confident and experienced skipper named Bailey was making his way down the coast from Boston in a four-masted schooner. The fog swirled so thickly it became impossible to see from mast to mast. The ship edged cautiously through what Bailey thought was the Lubec Narrows and, sad to relate, ground to a rending, shuddering and utterly complete halt astride what is now called, you guessed it,
Bailey's Ledge. The ship wasn't nearly as badly damaged as Bailey's reputation when it was found out that, despite diligent use of the sextant and compass, he had made a seven-mile error in his coastwise navigation.
When the skies cleared the next morning Bailey and his crew could see that their ship lay in the center of a mile-wide bay at the end of which was a tiny settlement of houses, a couple of shipbuilding docks, a lumber mill and a few farms.
Aft of the schooner were some narrows formed by two jutting headlands and not by, as Bailey had apparently thought, the Lubec peninsula and Campobello Island.
The story goes that Captain Bailey and some members of his crew, reluctant to return to Boston and face the music in the home office, took his cargo of lumber off the ship, built some homes right here in Washington County and settled down.
A Famous Staircase
The Thomas Ruggles House, preserved in its original state by the Ruggles House Society and located in Columbia Falls on Route 1, was constructed after a design by Aaron Sherman of Duxbury, Mass. The house was built for Judge Thomas Ruggles, a wealthy lumber dealer, store owner, postmaster, captain of the militia and Justice of the Court of Sessions. Features of the house are its intricately carved flutings and beadings and delicate garlands of tiny flowers and a flying staircase, a masterpiece for which the house is especially famous. It's open daily for inspection.
There are three golf courses in the international area and just because all three are only nine holes long doesn't mean they are pushovers.
The one in Roque Bluffs, called Great Cove Golf Course, is about six miles from Machias. This nine-holer is about 1,700 yards long-but you can lose just as many balls as if you were playing a regulation 3,500-yard nine hole course. Tricky dog-legs, unforgiving water holes and a couple of blind par-threes can leave you shaking at the end of a round, so hit the snack bar for relief.
Drive across the FDR Bridge from Lubec to Campobello Island and stand in awe of the Herring Cove Golf Course. Manicured is the word to describe this hilly, watery, woodsy course. Fairways that cinch in the middle like a woman's corset, Alpine-like hills that stretch out of sight on your drive, and water holes that were designed by Poseiden make you want to come back to try to tame it. You won't, but you'll have a great time both on the course and in the fully licensed restaurant.
The St. Croix Country Club in Calais right on Route 1 doesn't have water holes, but it does have out of sight holes, narrow fairways, simple-looking par-threes that will start you stuttering and all the amenities that a clubhouse can offer.
Here's a one-day international ferry boat ride that you'll enjoy (the schedules are on this page). These are scow-type ferries that you can drive or walk onto from the beach.
You can leave from Eastport and 25 minutes later you are nosing onto the landing on Deer Island, New Brunswick, Canada, after having skirted the second largest whirlpool in the world. It's called the "Old Sow" because of all the smaller whirlpools or "piglets" that are constantly being created. The whirlpool's vortex is sometimes as much as six feet below the level of the surrounding water. There is a beautiful picnicking and camping site on Deer Island just where you land.
Take time to explore the colorful, neat-as-a-pin fishing villages on the island and then drive aboard another ferry that will take you from Deer Island to Campobello Island. This was President Roosevelt's summer escape and an international park with his 34-room cottage as the centerpiece is an exciting place to visit (see Campobello section). The park has a "natural area" with hiking trails, beaches to comb and
picnics to picnic. Take a run to the far end of the island to have your breath taken away by the sight of East Quoddy Head lighthouse and a view of dozens of islands.
Having done all this, drive across the bridge to Lubec, a quaint fishing town, cook supper on one of the grills available at West Quoddy Head State Park and have someone take your picture at the easternmost point of the United States. This is where the rockbound coast of Maine begins. Now you can make your way back to where you started. Marvelous.
There are a dozen chunks of red granite set beside Route 1 way downeast in Washington County. These moss-backed milestones, starting in the border city of Calais and terminating 12 miles away in the little town of Robbinston, were set out around 1870 by James Shepherd Pike, a Calais lumberman whose varied career included being an author, editor, journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, a strong supporter of President Lincoln and the abolitionist movement and later serving as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands.
Pike, who bought a spacious summer residence on the shores of the St. Croix River in Robbinston, had some outstanding pacing horses which he liked to time as he commuted between his summer home and Calais. He had 12 red granite stones cut in a local quarry and tied a rag to one of his carriage wheels. A farmhand perched on the rear of his carriage counted the number of times the rag whirled by and, since
Pike had measured the circumference of the wheel he also knew when a mile had passed. Each stone, set on the right of the road heading upriver, had the distance in miles chiseled into its three-foot-high face.
Today there are no haughty pacers being clocked along Route 1 but, as far as we know, this is the only place in Maine where residents can pinpoint their homes by saying, "I live just past the eighth milestone" and this is the only section of highway in the state where the mileage markers were installed a quarter of a century before the gasoline buggy was ever dreamed of.
You’re standing on the same latitude as southern France and northern China but you’re still in Washington County, Maine. Where are you? You could be standing in the town of Perry next to the red granite stone that marks the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole. The State, recognizing back in 1896 that something unique in Maine was worth mentioning, has created a pull-off picnic spot on Route 1 between Perry and Robbinston.
Other locations on the 45th parallel besides France and China include Nova Scotia, northern Italy, Yugoslavia, Romania, the Black Sea, Russia and Turkestan. Then you cross Mongolia one steppe at a time, hit the very northern tip of Japan, jump across the Pacific Ocean and re-enter the United States about halfway between Portland and Salem, Oregon.
From there the 45th parallel runs through Ottawa, Ontario, northern Vermont and New Hampshire and back into Perry, Maine (pop. 737) and you, if you haven’t moved.
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.