Realty Road – Ashland ME


In January 1934, an ambitious project of opening up the vast forested area of northern Maine by the construction of a 94 mile road connecting Ashland Maine and Lac Frontier Quebec Canada and called the Brann Scenic Highway was launched. By February, there was unanimous endorsement by the towns of Northern Maine and a survey launched by the Civil Works Administration. Governor Louis J. Brann was the honorary chairman and Maine CWA Executive John McDonough was project director. The Bangor Daily News reported that 125 telegrams from business, civic leaders, and individuals were sent in in support of the project. An electric railway was also suggested to be built but that idea was dropped eventually. 1500 men were planned to be employed for 1 1/2 years and $2,500,000 spent. Features of the project meant that 70 lakes were reachable by sportsmen and tourists that formerly could only be reached by airplane in an area of virgin forest as large as the state of Massachusetts.

The road began in Ashland, ran to Lake Rowe, thence to Lake Musquacook, Chamberlain Lake, and finally Lac Frontier and the Quebec high speed highway. The Presque Isle airport was the headquarters and three airplanes were used to ferry survey crews to 6 working camps along the route via the Crymble Aircraft Service. A group of Presque Isle businessmen were the sponsor. 100 men in the survey teams were the advance teams. The starting point was the old American Realty farm near the concrete bridge at Ashland. The American Realty Company (a subsidiary of International Paper) boarding house was fitted as a base camp and landing field. Chief Engineer was Fred McConnell; assistant engineer was Col. M. S. W. Dingwall; Frank Boone was purchasing agent; Miss Alice Todd was stenographer and accountant; Randolph Mulherin and Percy Billings of Bangor were transport pilots. Deep snow 4′ deep and intense cold had to be contended with by the teams. A typical day via the air route was described: “Four engineers leave Presque Isle for Ashland. From there three men are carried to Musquacook Lake, a distance of 62 miles. The plane then flies back to Ashland, picks up two more men and lands them at Rowe Lake which is 42 miles by air. From there the plane flies to its base at Presque Isle, landing there at 11:40. In the afternoon, the plane carries two men and supplies to Ashland. Returning to Presque Isle the plane leaves for Rowe Lake with a load of supplies and is back on the home tarmac at 4:55.” Weather conditions then consisted of 40 mile an hour winds and 5 to 15 degree below zero temperatures. Around Jan. 26, an extension of the road was announced by the CWA along what is today Route 226 and 164 connecting Washburn and Caribou. 15 more men were employed for the extension. Camps were established at Ashland, Rowe Lake, McNally Pond, Muscook Lake, Umsaskis Lake (Allagash River), St. John River and Lac Frontiere. All work was done on snowshoes. Each party consisted of a chief, a transitman, a levelman, a topographer, two chainmen, a rodman, from three to eight axemen, a cook, and a cookee.

Today, the Realty Road is a major artery that traverses the North Maine Woods, Inc. land holdings which cover 3.5 million acres that includes two river corridors, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and the Penobscot River Corridor. North Maine Woods is a private, non-profit organization that manages public use of the private forest lands within the northwestern part of Maine. All of the roads in this region are private and fees are charged. NMW was established by the 30 or more private landowning companies to keep this region open to public use. In the early 1970’s NMW began as an association and assumed the operation of several checkpoints on the perimeter of the area. In 1975 the association changed to a partnership. NMW became a non-profit corporation under Maine law in 1981.

It is not possible to drive the entire route. Around 2002, a spring flood damaged the pillars of the St. Johns River Moody bridge and was dismantled several years after. According to the NMW map, the former road near Lac Frontiere has been abandoned and is only good for a hiking trail.

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Location Info

Realty Road
Ashland, ME 04732

Coordinates: 46.635752, -68.529054

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