Canal Path-Georges Highland Path
Searsmont, ME 04973
This 2.5-mile loop trail traces the historic Georges River Canal and features interpretive displays and a self-guided tour of the sustainable forestry practices of Robbins Lumber. The part of the canal you are about to visit offers both an interesting bit of history and an intriguing mystery. The Georges River Canal was one of the earliest to be built in the United States. Charles Barrett began the first section, from tidewater to Sennebec Lake in Appleton, in 1793 and General Henry Knox of Thomaston later completed it in the 1790’s. The canal lasted only a few years before falling into ruins. A second and more ambitious effort to harness the river for commerce was begun in the mid-1840’s with the goal of building dams, bypass canals and locks that would reach all the way to Stevens Pond in Liberty. The builders came up a bit short, but did manage to reach Quantabacook Lake in Searsmont. It is remnants of a section of that 1840’s attempt that are located along this stretch of the river. In its natural state the Georges River is a rollicking swift-water stream much of the way from Searsmont to North Appleton. In order to make it passable for boats and barges going upstream as well as down, it was necessary to build dams to quiet the riffles and provide sufficient depth to float the commercial craft. Canals with locks were then built to lift and lower the boats around the dams. One mile downriver from the Ghent Bridge, a canal channel (known as the Robbins Section today) was dug up the west side of the Georges with four locks needed to overcome the fall of the river. Approximately one hundred yards below the Ghent Bridge, the canal shifted to the east side of the river with additional locks to bypass a dam, the remains of which can be seen a short distance above the bridge. The canal dam was about one hundred feet upstream of remnants of a newer dam that powered a sawmill. The mill dam, removed just a few years ago, was built long after the canal dam was discontinued. Now, the river flows free again—times change! The mystery is this: the Robbins Section of the canal follows in a straight line for half a mile up the west side of the river—and then stops, some 10 or 12 feet in elevation above the river. Because there is no visible sign in this area of a man-made channel, there must have been a dam where the canal ends. Yet, there is no sign of one. Typically, piles of rocks can be seen where a dam was located (note the two dam locations above the Ghent Bridge), but nothing unusual indicates the “mystery dam” location. An illustration of what the dam might have looked like is on display at the head of the Robbins Section of the canal.