The Tramway Trail itself is a generally flat, fairly straight pathway through mixed woods (hardwood-conifer stands) supporting trees that are, in places, in excess of 200 years old. However, the route the trail takes is most associated with intensive and historic forest harvesting and the moving of timber across watersheds to reach lumber markets.
At the southern (Chamberlain Lake) end, the rusted remains of a steam-powered mechanical tramway system sit amidst the peaceful forest next to Chamberlain Lake. The tramway, established in 1902, was essentially a small railroad pulled by a six thousand foot cable loop. Steel trucks attached to the cable carried logs across a three thousand foot passage between Eagle and Chamberlain Lakes. Remnants of this system can still be seen along the trail, which travels across the land dividing Chamberlain and Eagle Lakes.
The northern end of the trail (at Eagle Lake), is home to a pair of massive locomotives resting permanently a short distance from the shore of Eagle Lake. These locomotives were part of the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad, which in 1926 replaced the tramway as a means of moving timber gathered onto Eagle Lake into the Penobscot River drainage. In addition to the trains, there are numerous other artifacts of a long gone logging era. A short trail spurs off the main tramway route and winds amongst the artifacts on the Eagle Lake end. Leave all artifacts as you find them (see "More Information" below).
Trail work in currently taking place to alleviate muddy conditions in many spots. Gravel is being added to the trail to aid in this effort, though the trail will continue to be a primitive footpath and is not a hard-packed gravel-surfaced trail.
The Tramway Trail area is rich in history. Online an Allagash History highlights the dynamic history of the waterway. There are links for both the Tramway and the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad of particular relevance.
A trip to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW), especially for new visitors, requires advanced planning. The AWW is within the North Maine Woods recreational system: visitors must pass through a checkpoint and pay the required day use or camping fees. Fees associated with visits to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway are transferred to the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
See the Rules and Regulations of the AWW and the waterway definition of a canoe and kayak before hitting the trail. Artifacts within the Restricted Zone are the property of the State and their disturbance, removal, or possession is prohibited except as specifically permitted in writing by the Director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands for research, preservation, or educational purposes.
The forests surrounding the Tramway Trail make up the Chamberlain Lake Ecological Reserve. For more information, see Maine Natural Areas Program's link, Chamberlin.
Winter access to the Tramway Trail is via primitive, largely unmarked snowmobile routes. Call for more information concerning winter use.
Visit Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands online for more information or contact:
Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Allagash Wilderness Waterway
There are two ends to the Tramway Trail, one on Chamberlain Lake and one on Eagle Lake. Access to either end of the Tramway Trail is by water only. The nearest put-in for a canoe or kayak is at Indian Stream in T7 R12 WELS, approximately 6 miles south of the Eagle Lake end of the trail. To the north, Churchill Dam (T10 R12 WELS) is 13 miles from the trail (Eagle Lake end). It is 16 miles up Chamberlain Lake from Chamberlain Bridge (T6 R11) to reach the Tramway Trail's Chamberlain Lake end.
The two ends of the trail are not marked with kiosks, large signs, etc. Recognize that Chamberlain and Eagle are large lakes with wild shorelines; give yourself time to locate the trail heads. From the Chamberlain Lake side, look for the trail beginning where you will find an antique tramway power plant, including massive rusted boilers. From the Eagle Lake side, locate a small recessed piece of shoreline in a wide cove generally facing Hog Island. As of 2011, there is a beaver lodge along the shoreline next to where the trail access begins. Just in from the shore, above a shoreline berm, you will find the trail and the numerous remains of the tramway and Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad.
Locations: Chamberlain end -69.37521 W, 46.32301 N; Eagle Lake end - 69.37871 W, 46.31556 N
Bear in mind that this is a remote region of Maine accessed by a mostly private network of gravel roads. A recent version of the DeLorme Gazeteer is useful as is a North Maine Woods Inc. map. Accessing the Tramway Trail requires travel on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway's watercourse, special rules apply and put-in sites are specific and limited.
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