Southbound traffic creeps along Monday night on U.S. Route 201 south of Jackman. Thousands of eclipse watchers from Maine and other states made the trip to watch the total solar eclipse. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

RANGELEY – It didn’t take long after the post-eclipse sunshine returned Monday afternoon for rural roads in western and northern Maine to fill with bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours.

It took an hour and a half to drive between the Height of Land overlook on Route 17 and downtown Rangeley, normally a lackadaisical 20-minute trip.

Highways and byways in the region were clogged well into the night.

People position themselves Monday at the overlook, foreground, along Route 17 at the Height of Land in Rangeley Township to view the solar eclipse. Others were forced to park beside the highway, left, to wait for the sun and moon to align.  Submitted photo

Route 4 in Turner, for example, was stop-and-go until at least 8:30 p.m., chock full of eclipse viewers hoping to return home to places as far away as New Jersey.

All told, there were clearly tens of thousands of people on the road, far beyond the normal traffic counts in the area.

The Maine Department of Transportation said in a Facebook post that western parts of the state “experienced traffic that was between 10 and 20 times normal levels.”


North of Bangor, it said, the volume was more like “10 to 12 times normal levels.”

Law enforcement personnel were deployed at some busy intersections between the area of totality, where the moon completely blocked the sun, and the Maine Turnpike.

They tried to keep traffic flowing. But there were so many cars and trucks that their efforts helped only a little.

It was obvious to everybody on the road that there was simply far more traffic than the thinly populated region could handle.

Lisa Mejorado, customer service manager for the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, was happy to see them all after what she described as “a slow winter” for a community that depends on year-round tourism.

She said she’d never seen so many people in Rangeley, filling restaurants and shops while they waited to gawk at the first total eclipse in Maine since 1963.

At Height for Land, the overlook’s parking was full soon after sunrise and people began parking along the side of Route 17 for at least a mile as they staked out a spot to eyeball the sun.

Social media was flooded with similar photographs from rural highways throughout the Rangeley-Greeneville-Jackman area of western Maine. Anywhere people could find a place to pull over, they did.

In Rangeley, every available parking spot was snatched by midmorning, but people found ways to squeeze in here and there all day. It didn’t appear that authorities were too worried about enforcing parking restrictions.

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