RICHARDSONTOWN TOWNSHIP – For 160 years the dam at Upper Dam pool watched over casting anglers pursuing salmon and brook trout.
That’s about to change when the weathered, metal structure comes down in the coming months and is replaced by a modern, more efficient dam.
The entire look of this famous, far-flung fishing hole will be lost.
But two weeks ago, with large metal beams lying beside the pastoral, ancient pool in preparation for construction, fishermen were all about, well, the fishing.
“It’s remote and wild and the fishing is good, that’s why I come here. Change always happens. We lost the Old Man in the Mountain. We thought he’d be there our whole lives and then one day he rumbled down,” said Art Colvin of Freeport in between casts, referring to the former geological structure in New Hampshire.
From Rangeley in the wilds of Maine, Upper Dam pool is another 40 minutes into the western woodlands. The turn off Route 16 heads down another 5-mile stretch of dirt road. Then you walk the final half-mile down a hill past the gate, but it’s worth it.
Old camps line the road in and the field that spreads out next to the fishing pool, a short stretch that connects Mooselookmeguntic to Richardson Lake.
The landscape is nothing but green fields, wildflowers and undeveloped shoreline flanked by thick pine forest. But the fishermen who journey here don’t come for the views.
Fishermen’s questions about the pool’s future mostly focus on the old piers that jut out from the dam. Anglers have stood on them to cast into the turbulent water for a good 150 years.
Since the dam was built by the Union Water Power Company in the early 1850s, raising the water in Mooselookmeguntic Lake by 6 feet, the dam has been loved for the fishery it created, and the fishing access it provided.
“That’s the real tradition,” said David Smith of Washington as he looked at a half-dozen anglers fishing the piers.
“That’s been there for 150 years, those piers. I do both, I wade and fish off the piers. It’s too crowded right now. But the fishing there is great.”
State biologists and NextEra Energy, the company that owns the dam, said both will remain — the fishing pools and some kind of pier-like structure.
“There may be subtle changes, but I anticipate anglers will adapt and perhaps even enjoy the new challenge,” said Dave Boucher, state regional fisheries biologist in western Maine, of the fishery once the new dam is completed.
The only suggestion Boucher made was a replacement for the piers.
And while fishing piers are not part of the design, there will be a structure put in front of the dam that will serve the same purpose, said Steve Stengel with NextEra in Juno Beach, Fla.
“It won’t be the same. We do plan to have provisions for access along the base of the new structure,” Stengel said.
Meanwhile, some longtime fans of Upper Dam are pleased about the new dam.
Dick Anderson, founder of the International Appalachian Trail and a Maine conservationist from way back, was there fishing two weeks ago. He last fished Upper Dam 10 years ago, and said it looked just the same.
However, Anderson said harnessing the river for power is more important than preserving a bit of history.
“It’s a tremendous source of natural energy. This water runs through several dams on the way to the sea. It’s justified by the fact you’re storing rain water, and all this water is used to produce electricity,” Anderson said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: