The Old Canada Road
The interpretive panels at stops along the Old Canada Road help travelers understand the history of the area and its ties to Canada. Many of the panels are in both English and French.
- Old Canada Road is a Maine Scenic Byway, and also a National Scenic Byway. It’s one of only 125 routes in the country to garner the distinction.
- The Kennebec and Dead Rivers have defined a significant part of Maine’s geography and history. They were first used by the Wabenaki people, who had a network of adjacent trails. Today, route 201 which shadows the Kennebec River is a major route for commerce between Canada and the United States.
- From the early 1800s until 1976, the Kennebec and Dead River log drives transported logs and pulpwood to sawmills and paper mills. The rivers, once clogged with wood all summer long, now offer endless recreational opportunities.
- In 1813, the first money spent to develop the route came from the Massachusetts Legislature and followed the west side of the Kennebec River to Anson. A portion of the route also known as the Kennebec Road or the “Kennebec Chaudiere” was later moved to the east side of the river starting at The Forks, Maine.
- Between 1813 and 1900 more than a million people immigrated to the manufacturing mills in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Historical Sites on the Byway
The Solon Hotel
Location: Main St in Solon
- October 31, 1893 – Once known as the Caratunk House, a fire destroyed the building. Joel Herbert (Bert) Gray owner and operator of the hotel, rebuilt on the old foundation.
- November 11, 1895 – the grand opening of the New Caratunk House, or Gray’s Tavern. The new hotel contained 30 guest rooms and a large ballroom on the top floor. Gray’s was a popular spot with the lumbermen and logging crews. The hotel advertised chicken dinners served every day and lunches served between regular meals.
- 2022 – The building was recently sold and renovated. See its Facebook page for its entertainment schedule and menu, The Solon Hotel Restaurant & Bar.
The Sterling Inn
Location: Route 201 in Caratunk
- 1816 – Joseph Spaulding Sr., who moved to Caratunk from Embden, opened the inn called The Hotel at Caratunk. It was a stagecoach stop along the Canada Road, the primary trade route connecting Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean. At the time, it had just four guest rooms and no plumbing. Electricity was years away.
- 1836 – Joseph Spaulding Jr. took over the operation of the hotel when his father died and ran it for nine years.
- 1845 – Joseph Clark Jr., a businessman from the Bingham area, bought the hotel from Clark.
- 1910 – Ralph Sterling, a great-grandson of Clark, took over the operation of the hotel with his wife, Leona, and ran it as the Webster Inn, named after Sterling’s grandmother, Abby Clark Webster. Ralph renamed it the Hotel Sterling. Sterling oversaw major renovations to the hotel, including the addition of electricity and indoor plumbing.
- 1934 – Sterling also built Pierce Pond Stream Sporting Camps at nearby Pierce Pond. The camps are not accessible by road from Caratunk. Visitors to the inn were ferried across the Kennebec River and then had to hike more than three miles to the remote camps. The Clark family ran the inn for more than 100 years, with Clark’s son, daughter, and wife at times running the hotel over the next 70 years.
- 1950 – After Ralph Sterling’s death, Leona, her daughter Mildred and her husband, Harold Smith, ran the inn until 1988.
- 1988 –Mildred and her husband, Harold Smith sold the inn to Matt Polstein, a businessman and rafting guide. Polstein developed the property as part of his rafting business, the New England Outdoor Center. He later sold the inn.
- 2012 – Eric Angevine has owned and run the inn since 2012, adding amenities that have improved the inn and made it a year-round respite for visitors and AT hikers.
- 2016 – The Sterling Inn celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The Great Carrying Place
Location: About 10 miles north of Bingham on Rt 201 – historical site with a plaque
The Arnold Expedition Historical Society maintains a trail section along the route of the Portage Trail and has erected trail signs.
The portages up the Kennebec River proved grueling, and the boats frequently leaked, ruining gunpowder and spoiling food supplies. More than a third of the men turned back before reaching the height of land between the Kennebec and Chaudière rivers. where they encountered swampy tangles of lakes and streams. The expedition was even more difficult because of bad weather and inaccurate maps. Troops were inexperienced in handling boats in white water, which led to the destruction of more boats and supplies in the descent to the Saint Lawrence River via the fast-flowing Chaudière.
Nov 13-14, 1775 – Upon reaching the settlements above the Saint Lawrence River. there were 600 starving men left in the group. Arnold was rewarded for his effort in leading the expedition with a promotion to brigadier general.
Bingham Free Meetinghouse
Location: Main St, Bingham
- 1835 – Built
- 1976 – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
In addition to the Bingham Free Meetinghouse, there are several old churches on the Byway that have interesting and unique architectural features.
WWII POW Camp
German POWs were housed in a remote area near Spencer Lake. There’s a memorial plaque commemorating its existence. To find the location, drive about 12 mi onto the Hardscrabble/Spencer Rd which is a left hand about 13 miles north of The Forks and near Parlin Pond. Check this video to help understand its location and what remains of the camp.
Parlin Farm near Parlin Pond
The farm, a Way House in the late 1800s, is 15 miles north of The Forks. It was once owned by the Piel Family (Piels Beer) and has an interesting history.
Old Canada Road Historical Society
Location: 16 Sidney St. in Bingham
Hours: Open to the public on Fridays, 1 – 5 pm
1993 – Founded by a group of regional historians who came together around the work of archaeologists Barry Rodrigue and Alaric Faulkner, and began a survey of the Canada Road during this year.
2009 – About this time, the Society acquired a house in Bingham to use as its home and began a series of renovation projects. Volunteers work to organize and catalog photos, documents, and artifacts.
Learn more about the heritage of the logging industry and the towns that grew up around that industry.
Jackman – Moose River Valley Historical Society
Location: 574 Main St in Jackman
Hours: Open to the public from mid-May – mid-October, Fri, Sat, Sun noon – 4 pm
Contact: Call 207-668-9100
1991 – The museum opened. Originally the Town Hall and built in 1903-1904, the museum provides several exhibits of local interest.
Solon Maine Historical Society
Location: Main St in Solon
Hours: Open to the public on Tuesdays 10 – 2 pm, March – November
Additional Historical Resources for the Old Canada Road and its People
The historical societies on the Byway are also a rich source of New England culture associated with the logging industry and the families who lived here.
Skowhegan History House
Location: Elm St in Skowhegan
Hours: 10-4 pm, Tues-Fri
Margaret Chase Smith Library & Home
Location: 56 Norridgewock Ave in Skowhegan
Hours: Open to the public by reservation