Maine: An Encyclopedia


Location Map for Mattawamkeag

Location Map for Mattawamkeag

Year Population
1970 988
1980 1,000
1990 830
2000 825
2010 687
Mattawamkeag Population Chart 1820-2010

Population Trend 1820-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 45:33:02
W. Latitude 68:18:46
Maine House District 141
Maine Senate District 5
Congress District 2
Area sq. mi. (total) 39.5
Area sq. mi. (land) 38.9
Population/sq.mi. (land) 18.4
County: Penobscot

Total=land+water; Land=land only
sign: Welcome to Mattawamkeag (2012)


[mat-ah-WAHM-keg] is a town in Penobscot County, incorporated on February 14, 1860 from Mattawamkeag Plantation on the site of an ancient Indian village.

The Mattawamkeag River, on which the town is located as it enters the Penobscot, is the largest eastern tributary of the Penobscot. The junction of the two rivers is marked by a gravel bar at the entrance to the Mattawamkeag, whose Indian name is often translated as “a river with many rocks at its mouth” or a similar phrase.

Mattawamkeag River nearing the Penobscot (2001)

Mattawamkeag River nearing the Penobscot (2001)

Railroad Tracks and Mill (2001)

Railroad Tracks and Mill (’01)

The area experienced early traffic on the river. A traveler arrived from St. John in 1624; English captive John Gyles was brought up the river in 1689.

Before 1812 a mill had been built, but it was burned by the Indians in that year.

The first settler, a Colonel Stanley, built a house in 1829, the year that the military road to Houlton had reached Mattawamkeag.

Henry David Thoreau, on his way to climbing Mount Katahdin, visited the area in 1847 and explored the areas frequented by Indians in earlier times.

Mattawamkeag Town Office (2012)

Town Office (2012) @

Downtown Mattawamkeag (2012)

Downtown (2012) @

Post Office and Masons (2012)

Post Office & Masons (’12) @

Route 2 in Mattawamkeag (2012)

Rt. 2, Mattawamkeag (2012) @

United Church of Christ (2012)

United Church of Christ (’12)@

In 1878, young Theodore Roosevelt boarded the train at a small depot on his way to meet William Sewall in Island Falls. George Varney’s observations in the 1880’s are as follows:

The “Gordon Falls” extend for a considerable distance a long the Mattawamkeag, which, at this point, crosses the southern line of the town from different times. On the stream are a board, shingle, and lath mill, with planer. There are other manufactures common to country villages. The principal centre of business is near the mouth of the Mattawamkeag at the station on the European and American Railway, which here turns eastward along the north bank of the river. . . .

The town-hall is a neat, two-story, wooden building, having a school-room and dining-hall on the first floor. The Indians tell of a village and burial-place of their own on the north bank of the Mattawamkeag, near the present village; and some sonte-axes, arrow-heads and other relics have been found there.

Wilderness Park Road (2012)

Wilderness Park Road (2012)

Entering from Route 2 South (2012)

Entering Town from the North on Rt. 2 (2012) @

Today, a 1,000 acre Wilderness Park is situated between the two rivers with campsites, fishing, swimming and hiking available.  The entrance is down the Park Road at N 45° 31’ 23.7” W 68° 16’ 17.8”. Nearby the Mattawamkeag River rages through a gorge featuring Class IV rapids.

The Mattawamkeag River is the longest river in Maine with effectively no regulation of its flow by dams. The river drains slightly over 1500 square miles, and the large basin size and high percentage of wetlands in the basin provides moderate flows even in the summer months. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a stream gauge just below Lower Gordon Falls. Upper [N 45° 30’ 15.2” W 68° 17’ 48.9”] and Lower Gordon Falls [N 45° 30’ 18.4” W 68° 17’ 58”] on the River in Mattawamkeag and Winn are an excellent place to view several stretches of Maine whitewater rapids and examine water-worn potholes in the bedrock.

By law, the Mattawamkeag River from the Kingman-Mattawamkeag boundary to its confluence with the Penobscot River is defined as a Class AA river, the highest water quality classification for a river in Maine. The stretch of the Mattawamkeag River from Kingman to Mattawamkeag is rated as Class II – IV for canoeists and kayakers . The most difficult stretch is through Slewgundy Heater [N 45° 30’ 55.5” W 68° 17’ 2.2”] upstream from Gordon Falls.

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Select Board-Administrator.

Additional resources

Chadbourne, Ava Harriet. Maine Place Names and The Peopling of its Towns.

Maine Geological Survey. “Gordon Falls on the Mattawamkeag River: Red Rocks and White water.” September 2006. (accessed May 14, 2016)

Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. 1886. pp. 356-357.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Smith, George W., Homestead, Main Street Mattawamkeag

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This entry was last modified: September 11, 2017 06:04 PM

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