Two Rivers Conservation Area
Bold Coast communities are protective of the natural resources crucial to their way of life. Downtown Machias is the convening point for four conservation properties, all located on what were once critical transportation routes that carried resources that built, and sustain, Bold Coast’s hard-working, hard-playing, nature-based culture.
Middle River Park includes 2 miles of trails winding through fields and forests with panoramic views of Middle River. Settlers used the property for salt hay production; it later became pasture for draft horses and cattle supporting St. Regis Paper Company’s logging operations. Several picnic tables on a grassy hill provide a spot for Byway travelers to enjoy lunch while overlooking the river and tidal floodplains. Two boat launches provide access to Middle River and Machias Bay.
Entering Middle River Park requires crossing the Down East Sunrise Trail beside a former train station, one of 5 remaining from the Washington County Railroad. “Station 1898” is a visitor information center, now fully restored and on the National Register of Historic Places. The Down East Sunrise Trail, an 87-mile multi-use trail on the decommissioned Calais Branch Railroad Corridor, once carried trains loaded with freight and visitors to Calais and Eastport, and departed with fish and timber. Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt traveled this line en route to their summer retreat on Campobello Island. The Sunrise Trail is the longest contiguous off-road section of the East Coast Greenway, a bicycle route connecting communities between Key West, Florida and Calais.
The Sunrise Trail also connects Middle River Park with Machias River Preserve’s 5.5 miles of trails along the Machias River. Remnants of structures that guided water and logs downriver are visible from the trail, evidence of the river’s role in a prolific logging industry. Preserve access in Whitneyville, dubbed “the town that trees built,” crosses a former railroad bridge with views over the mighty Machias. Although river-drives ended in the 1970’s, logging is still an important part of life on the Bold Coast.
Intrepid Byway travelers can paddle the wild and scenic Machias River Corridor, a 76-mile back-country canoe trip from Fifth Machias Lake to downtown Machias. Primitive campsites and vehicle access points are located along the route, allowing exploration of all or part of the Corridor.
The Machias River supports Maine’s greatest self-sustaining population of wild Atlantic salmon. Birdwatching abounds on the inland lakes identified by American Bird Conservancy as a Globally Important Bird Area, where at least 180 species of birds have been documented, including 23 warblers. Over 6,000 acres, including 252 miles of river and contributing lakes and streams, are forever protected for recreation and wildlife through a monumental effort involving numerous public and private entities.
Hours of operations: All land trails are open year-round.
Skill Level: All land trails are easy. Machias River includes several class III ledge-drop rapids