Byway Region & History
The Old Canada Road was originally a major trade route and immigration trail from Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean. The first money spent to develop the road came from the Massachusetts Legislature in 1813. The original Old Canada Road went down the west side of the Kennebec River to Anson. The Kennebec River defined a significant part of Maine, both in its geography and in its history. The river provided a major transportation route, first for Indians and later for colonists. During the American Revolutionary War, Benedict Arnold led American troops up the Kennebec in large open canoes (called bateau), for an ill fated assault on Quebec City. Later the river carried logs to the mills as late as the 1970s.
The Old Canada Road, a portion of which is also known as the “ Kennebec Chaudiere” was later moved to the east side of the river starting at The Forks, Maine. Shadowing the river, Route 201 became an overland route to Quebec, conveying commerce and immigration in both directions. Between 1813 and 1859, more than 500,000 people immigrated to the manufacturing mills in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Today the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway, roughly follows the old route from Solon to the Canadian border. With the road traveling along the Kennebec River, Wyman Lake and on through The Forks area, where the Dead and Kennebec Rivers converge, the traveler can experience endless scenic views of amazing waterways and spectacular mountainous vistas. North of The Forks, the road passes through forest lands with ample opportunities for wildlife sightings. Rest stops and way stations are embellished with informational kiosks and historic markers and includes scenic pullouts, such as Attean Overlook and Lake Parlin. North of Jackman, Maine, the road to the Canadian Border is again in the mountains and part of the great north woods working forest.
The Old Canada Road Scenic Byway is a corridor that seems specifically designed for people who love and appreciate the outdoors. The tourism amenities offered here add a touch of modern polish to the traditionally rustic nature of the area. Quaint villages along the way provide lodging, eating, outfitting and guiding services for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.
Along with being a Maine Scenic Byway, Old Canada Road is also a National Scenic Byway, making it one of only 125 routes in the country to garner the distinction.