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Rivers and Lakes

spacer The LandarrowValley Landscape
Valley Landscape


The church of Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel soars over the village of Lille, Maine.
The Valley landscape is comprised of a variety of spaces that have been shaped by people over time. Some of the spaces, such as farmland, forest land, and industrial land, have economic characteristics. Many have ecological or natural characteristics, such as wetlands, lakes, or wooded slopes. Other spaces are symbolic, expressing shared values. For example, throughout the Valley, Catholic churches rise above the surrounding buildings of each town, thus amplifying the focal role of religion in daily life. Connection to religion is further expressed in the landscape by numerous public and private shrines and grottoes.

Some spaces have resulted from everyday actions by individuals, like plowing a field, cutting a woodlot, or tearing down a twin barn. Still other spaces in the Valley were planned through deliberate political or governmental action. The siting of church buildings has often been a political decision. Historically, the governments of Great Britain and then the United States imposed a political landscape that is still evident. Other governmental or planned spaces are also evident in the Valley, such as U.S. Route 1 or the Fort Kent blockhouse.

Upper Saint John Valley viewed from the Charette Road, Fort Kent, Maine, October 1940.The Upper St. John Valley is a distinctive entity: long-time residents of Maine, some a day's drive away, know the area simply as "the Valley." The river valley is a compact landform characterized by the line of the St. John River flowing between highlands that rise approximately 400-600 feet above the valley floor. The bounds of "the Valley," however, are defined more by cultural ties than by topography. The local concept of the Valley extends up to 15 miles south from the river to the "back settlements" on the highlands. These settlements include Daigle, Sinclair, St. Agatha, and Lavertu Settlement where the agricultural use of Valley land is evident in the valley, such as in the sweeping potato fields. Woodlands surround and define the existing fields, often reaching to the shores of the St. John River or, in the back settlements, to lake shores. The alternating forests and fields accentuate the long linear lots. Woody seedlings are invading the former agricultural land along the river which, if unchecked, will grow into forests.

Barrels of hand-picked potatoes are picked up by truck at the J.A. & R. Farm in St. Francis, 1995.  Photographer, Paula Lerner, 2003.

Ribbons of roads and railroads embrace the St. John River, restricting both Railroad and highway intersect at the corner of Maine and Market streets in Fort Kent.visual and physical access. U.S. Route 1 parallels the river, and connects the three Valley commercial centers of Van Buren, Madawaska, and Fort Kent, along with other river settlements. The U.S. highway reaches its northern terminus in Fort Kent. Abandoned potato warehouses and an abandoned starch factory along the railroad lines are reminders of the area's former agricultural heyday.

The climate of the Upper St. John Valley is characterized by short, cool summers and long, cold winters. Temperatures vary widely within the larger area of the river basin. However, average summer temperatures range between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while winter temperatures reach below 0 degrees Fahrenheit about 50 days each year. More than 100 inches of snow fall annually.

Barrels of hand-picked potatoes are picked up by truck at the J.A. & R. Farm in St. Francis, 1995.  Photographer, Paula Lerner,   2003.
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