Dive into Maine history and tradition

Maine sporting camps and wilderness lodges are a tradition dating back to the mid-1800s, when lodging facilities first began catering to hunters and fishermen from "the big city." In the 160 years between then and now, there have been a lot of changes to the industry. Want to see for yourself? Click on any heading below to expand for history, photos, old brochures, and other documents. Click the heading again to collapse it.

Even history is a work in progress. Do you have a tidbit of sporting camp information or memoribilia we should add? Let us know!


1850s

1856: Maine's first sporting camp

The Kineo Hotel in Greenville begins advertising for recreational hunters and fishermen.


1860s

1865: Wilson's on Moosehead opens

After the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865, Henry I. Wilson returned from the Civil War and decided that he wanted to move north, away from the city, in search of an untroubled frontier. Henry bought a house on the north end of the Moosehead Lake, but soon after filled the position of dam operator on the East Outlet. (The position was said to be cursed because the last three dam operators had either drowned or been killed operating the mill, but after surviving four years in the Civil War, Henry wasn't afraid of a little curse!)

Upon taking the job, Henry floated his two-story house from the north end of the lake down onto the property. The house stood for nearly 140 years and was the front part of the hotel, which was facing the lake.


1870s

1880s

1880: Logging at Bulldog Camps

The camps were originally established in the 1880s by H.P. McKenney who ran them as a logging camp for many years; they are also the site of McKenney's famous log sluice, which was built to run his logs from Bulldog to the Dead River. A wooden dam was constructed at the outlet in order to hold the water back until it was needed for the drive in the spring. There was much speculation as to whether or not his sluice would actually work, but in the spring of 1900, the first load of logs were guided into the sluice with success. The remnants of the old dam and sluice can still be found at the outlet of the pond.


1886: Red River Camps begins construction

The Whitman and Chatman families begin building a cabin on Island Pond in Township 15, Range 9.


1889: Eagle Lake Sporting Camps built

A shipping tycoon from New York City built the Eagle Lake Sporting Camps around 1889. The location, at the outlet of the Square Lake / Eagle Lake thoroughfare, provided access to world-class landlocked salmon fishing, abundant wildlife, and privacy. Constructed from large tamarack logs and positioned facing the prevailing winds, the cabins stayed cool in the summer and the breezes also helped keep the mosquitos away.

The Saul Michaud family, bankers from Fort Kent, acquired the property around the turn of the century and operated it as a commercial sporting camp for almost 60 years. The family expanded the operation to over 25 buildings and kept livestock and poultry on the property to serve its guests. Many visitors to the camps today talk about how their grandparents and aunts and uncles worked as guides, cooks and maintenance staff.


1890s

1890: Libby Camps opens

Libby Camps opened for business on the Allagash River in 1900. Libby's had a string of camps along the Aroostook to access the Allagash from their hotel in Oxbow using the rivers, streams, and trails.


1900s

1901: Spencer Pond Camps built

Spencer Pond Camps were built in 1901 at the base of Little Spencer Mountain on the shore of Kokadjeweemgwasebemsis (Penobscot for "little kettle-shaped mountain lake") by a young Maine Guide, Mose Duty. Mose is long-since deceased, but rumor has it that his spirit still resides at the camps. There are several stories of him haunting the cabins; he is a helpful, harmless spirit with a twist of humor, but stories tell that some guests left early when his antics (opening doors, rocking in the rocking chair, locking guests out of the main lodge he originally built...) became too much for them.


1905: Libby's Camps expand

In 1905, C.C. Libby and his sons Ike and Will bought out their neighbor Will Atkins who had made a name for himself as the largest sporting camp operation in Northern Maine. Home camps on Millinocket Lake, branch camps on Millimagasset and Munsungan, and the many outpost camps of Atkins were added to the Libby's own camps on the Allagash, bringing the total to 50 camps in 3 counties.


1908: Bulldog Camps opens commercially

Logging operations on Enchanted Pond cease, and Bulldog camps immediately opens to sportsmen.


1910s

1912: Bosebuck Lodge built

Shortly after the Aziscohos Lake was formed by dam construction in 1912, Roland Ripley (son of Percy Ripley, the first caretaker of the Aziscohos Dam) asked for permission to build a camp at the head of the new lake, but the landowners denied his request. Roland instead built his camp on what was then public land known as Lynchtown. He later transferred ownership of this camp to Fawn Littlehale, who built a second camp and began the first commercial sporting camp operations under the name of "Bosebuck Lodge."


1917: Umcolcus Camps built

The Umcolcus Sporting Camps originated around 1917, when Walter Swett leased the land from owner George B. Dunn. Swett was a guide and owned camps for several years, often referred to as "Swett's Umcolcus Camps," located at the headwaters of the Umcolcus Stream.


1918: Bosebuck Lodge transferred ownership

In 1918, F. Perley Flint bought a one half interest in Bosebuck Lodge, and together he and Fawn Littlehale ran the camp for a year. Perley took sole ownership of Bosebuck Lodge in 1919 and operated the camp until his death in 1951.


1919: Umcolcus Camps divided

In 1919, Walter Swett sub-leased the site of the current Umcolcus Sporting Camps (which already included two log cabins on the Umcolcus Stream) to Walter D. Hinds, in order to build a camp for Charles M. Schwab, the youngest president of US Steel. As a condition of the lease, Almon Currier, grandfather of current owner Al Currier, was to be employed as the caretaker of the property for as long as he desired to do so.

Lumberjacks and Native Americans began in March and worked until June to build the camp. At its completion, the camp was the only one of its kind in the state, featuring hot and cold water and an indoor bathroom. It also had three sleeping rooms, a large kitchen, and a living room with a thirty-ton stone fireplace, made with stone harvested from Umcolcus stream. The camp also featured a separate guides' camp with room for ten guides and an ice house that held 250 cakes.

Sadly, the pressures of World War I dictated that Schwab, who headed the wartime ship-building effort, never got to hunt from, or even visit, the camp.


1920s

1922: Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey visits Umcolcus Sporting Camps

Jack Dempsey, world heavyweight champion, visited Umcolcus Sporting Camps around 1922. After Dempsey's visit, Naomi Currier, Almon's daughter, annotated the dining room chair he sat in; it became a display piece for many years.


1925: Umcolcus Sporting Camps destroyed by lightning strike

Around 1925, the main camp, kitchen, and dining room of Umcolcus Sporting Camps were completely destroyed by a lightning strike. The second large camp survived, however, and became the main camp for many years. In 1926, Walter D. Hinds transferred the camps to Almon Currier, who ran them until declining health forced him to discontinue their operation in the late 1940s.


1926: Red River Camps opens commercially

The Chatman and Whitman families sell Red River Camps to the McNally brothers, who open them as a commercial sporting camp.


1930s

1932: Red River Camps changes ownership

The McNally brothers sold the Red River Camps to Dr. AC Christie, a dentist from Washington, DC.


1938: Libby's Camps rebuilds

In 1938, the Libby Family almost lost all of the camps due to deaths, lack of wills, and a struggling economy. Elsie and Allie Libby, the third generation, had to start from scratch with three cabins on Millinocket Lake.


1940s

1942: Mose Duty of Spencer Pond Camps passes away, and Lilian follows the cow to town

Ray O'Donnell, Greenville's first bush pilot, had an agreement with Mose Duty that he would watch below as he went over Spencer Pond cabins; if a white sheet was put out on the lawn, it meant trouble, and Ray would land to see what was needed. In 1942, Ray saw the sheet, and when he landed, found that Mose was ill. (Here, history differs; either he'd cut himself on the leg and it infected, or he had the flu.) Ray flew Mose back to the Greenville hospital. Meanwhile, Mose's wife Lillian, who was almost totally blind, tied a tin cup to her apron, fetched the cow they had at the time, and walked out of the camps on a trail around the west side of the pond, hanging onto the cow's tail for direction. She forded two streams before turning south to cross Spencer Stream itself, probably on the dam, and followed the trail to Kokad-jo, some 10 miles away, milking the cow for sustenance along the way. She finally got to Kokad-jo, where she left the cow and got a ride with the RFD mail man to Greenville. After a long several days, she made it in time to be with Mose when he died.

Several years later, Liliane sold the cabins to George and Louise Dulac, and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Thompson. The two women were sisters and had been born on the farm next to Mose.


1948: Red River Camps changes ownership

Dr. AC Christie sold the Red River Camps to Herschel Currie, a Portage resident and railroad section hand.


1948: Spencer Pond Camps opens commercially

After a long battle with the Oxford Paper Company to let them open commerically, George and Anne Dulac established Spencer Pond Cabins as a sporting camp for the first time. The camp had three cabins to rent and a sleeping cabin for overflow, as well as a small owners' cabin (which was the original trappers' cabin and guest cottage).


1950s

1951: Bosebuck Lodge passes to the next generation

F. Perley Flint's daughter Marguerite took ownership of the camps upon Perley's death and ran the facility until 1964, when she sold the camps to the Baron family.


1957: Bulldog Camps changes ownership

Bulldog camps changed owners several times until 1957, when a couple by the name of Ruel & Hazel Orf bought the camps and breathed new life into them, offering the traditional American Plan along with boat rentals, guide service, and float plane fly-in service.


1960s

1960: Warden's Camp on Enchanted Pond

The only other camp on Enchanted Pond, known as the “Warden’s Camp,” was built in 1960 by the chief pilot for the Maine Warden Service. The camp was purchased by Bulldog Camps in 2009 and is now rented out along with the six cabins at the main camp on the north shore.


1962: Red River Camps changes ownership

Herschel Currie sold the Red River Camps to Wilfred "Sleepy" Atkins, a 25-year veteran of the Warden Service and son of Will Atkins, a legendary Aroostook County guide.


1964: Bosebuck Lodge changes ownership

Marguerite Flint sold Bosebuck Lodge to the Baron family.


1967: Red River Camps changes ownership

In 1967, Wilfred "Sleepy" Atkins sold the Red River Camps to Gene Bovard of Ellsworth, Maine.


1969: Spencer Pond Camps changes ownership

In the fall of 1969, Anne and Chick Howe met with the George and Louise Dulac, who were selling Spencer Pond Camps. To Louise's surprise, their little dog made friends with Anne, and later in the winter, Louise telephoned Anne to say that, since the dog liked her, the Dulacs would sell the cabins to the Howes. Anne and Chick ran Spencer Pond Camps for the next 25 years and even raised a baby moose named Bully there.


1970s

1973: Bulldog Camps loses main lodge

The main lodge at Bulldog Camps burned down in the autumn of 1973, shortly after a change in ownership. For the next few decades, the cabins were available to rent on the housekeeping plan only.


1976: Libby's Camps passes to the next generation

In 1976, Elsie Libby sold Libby's Camps to her youngest son, Matt, and his wife Ellen. The couple, along with their children Matt J and Alison, grew the camps to ten guest cabins on Millinocket Lake and ten outposts cabins on remote waters.


1979: Red River Camps changes ownership

In 1979, Pete and Chris Norris sold the Red River Camps to Mike and Rhonda Brophy.


1980s

1990s

1994: Spencer Pond Camps changes ownership

After 25 years of intense building and work, including raising a baby Moose at the camps, Chick and Anne Howe decided to retire for health reasons and financed the cabins to Jill Martel and Bob Croce.


1997: Bosebuck Lodge changes ownership

The camp is incorporated as Bosebuck Mountain Lodge and purchased by several stockholders. Bosebuck has grown from a single cabin to a main lodge that houses the office, a fully-equipped kitchen, a dining room, and a sitting room; twelve guest cabins; a laundry building; a garage; and staff and owners' cabins.


2000s

2004: Wilson's on Moosehead loses hotel

The main hotel at Wilson's on Moosehead (Henry Wilson's original 2-story house) was deemed irreparable, and a controlled burn was used to remove it from the property.


2005: Bulldog Camps changes ownership

Darren Savage bought Bulldog in 2005 and spent the next several years restoring it to it’s current state. One of the original 19th century cabins was converted into a new lodge, and guests can once again enjoy three home-cooked meals daily on the traditional American Plan. All of the cabins were renovated with new roofs, porches, wood stoves, propane heaters, and full bathrooms with hot running water. A road was built down into the camps that were previously only accessible via 4x4 trail, hiking trail, or float plane.


2008: Red River Camps loses main lodge

Lightning struck the main lodge of the Red River Camps, completely destroying it. Construction began on the new lodge in August.


2009: Red River Camps passes to the next generation

Red River Camps passes to Jen Brophy.


2010s

2010: Spencer Pond Camps passes back to the Howe family

In 2010, Anne and Chick Howe's granddaughter Christine Howe, along with her husband Dana Black and their two young daughters, leased the camps and brought them back under "Howe" family management, following in Anne's footsteps (and under her tutelage). Christine was often at the camps as a child and her grandfather's shadow during several of the cabin additions, as well as during the construction of the Moose and Skip Wiley cabins.


2013: Libby's Camps passes to the next generation

Fifth generation owners Matt J and Jessica Libby take over Libby's Camps.


2016: Mt. Chase Lodge passes to the next generation

Second generation owners Lindsay and Mike Downing take over Mt Chase Lodge.