I recently read a wonderful poem by Maine poet Tom Sexton at the Maine State Library’s webpage sharing weekly poems by Maine poets. The poet describes the significance of a now abandoned homestead’s granite stoop. This phenomenon of abandoned homesteads, lost cellar holes, and graveyards hemmed in by forest is not uncommon in Maine. While there are numerous State Parks and Public Lands where this natural and human history can be explored, one that comes quickly to mind is the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner, Maine.
The Riverlands as it is sometimes referred to is Maine’s newest state park with 2,675-acres and 12 miles of river frontage on the Androscoggin River. It is primarily a trail-based park offering hiking, mountain biking, ATV riding, and winter activities including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ungroomed cross-country skiing. Hunting is popular in the park as well. Boat launches outside of the park off the Center Bridge Road in Turner and near Cherry Pond in Green (hand-carry) offer access to the section of the river known as Gulf Island Pond (the river here has been impounded by Gulf Island Dam since 1927).
In addition to providing a notable swath of open space and wildlife habitat just north of the urban communities of Lewiston and Auburn, the park encompasses multiple old homesteads where foundations still exist amidst pleasant woods. The Homestead hiking trail is a great way to discover some of the historic foundations while the Androscoggin Greenway provides a water-based route to explore these same locations.
The homestead foundations along the Androscoggin provide tangible places to experience some of the intangible reverence the poet Tom Sexton writes about is his poem, The Granite Stoop. While the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park is not the only place to experience this history, it is an ideal place to observe and feel the interplay of human and natural history.