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By: Robert Janis

Northern Outdoors

Maine Resort Provides Access to 1,300 Miles of Trails

Imagine a lodge that caters to ATV recreationists like a ski lodge caters to skiers. That can explain the Forks Resort Center in Maine. It is located on Route 201, Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway known locally as “Moose Alley.” It goes all the way up into Canada. Adjacent to the Kennebec River, it is a 2-1/2 hour drive north of Portland, Maine and about 1-1/2 hours from Augusta, the state capital. Also, it has access to the State of Maine’s more than 13,000 miles of trails used by snowmobilers in the winter and 6,000 miles of trails used by ATV’ers in the spring, summer, and fall.

History of Forks Resort

Northern Outdoors (www.northernoutdoors.com) constructed and owns the Forks Resort. “Northern Outdoors started as a whitewater rafting company,” explained Russell Walters, president of the company. “We recognized that although we had fabulous rivers, people weren’t going to come just to whitewater raft and then go home. We needed to provide lodging, entertainment, food, and more. So we built the Forks Resort.”

Opened in 1983, the Forks Resort caters to whitewater rafters in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter. The region is steeped in logging history. For example, the Kennebec River was one of the last rivers in the U.S. to be used for log drives. The area has also attracted people for hunting, fishing, and hiking. Much of the land is owned by large paper companies and other private landowners who make the land available for recreation under an “Open Lands” Policy.
Initially, it was snowmobilers who took advantage of the 13,000 miles of trails known as the Maine “Interconnecting Trail System” (ITS). Walters explained that Northern Outdoors constructed a spur that connects the Fork Resort to the ITS in the mid-1980s. “We’ve been catering to snowmobilers for more than 20 years,” he said.

Recently, the resort has been working with local landowners to make the snowmobile trail spur accessible to ATV’ers during ATV season. Over the last 18 months Northern Outdoors has been “testing the waters” offering the lodge as a base for ATV’ers who want to use access to more than 6,000 miles of Maine’s developing ATV trail system during the spring, summer, and fall. According to Walters, the region is very rural with a number of very small towns that include Greenville, Rockwood, and Jackman. “The lodge is typically used by riders who ride one-day loops and also as a start and end point for three- or four-day ATV group rides that connect the local towns of Greenville, Rockwood, Jackman, and The Forks,” said Walters.

The company promotes the lodge to the ATV community in a number of ways. First, it gets a clientele of snowmobilers who also ride ATVs. “There is a significant crossover of snowmobilers and ATV’ers,” said Walters. “In many cases, people who have stayed at the Forks ride snowmobiles on the trails in the winter. Now they are coming to ride their ATVs on the trails in the summer. They help spread the news through word of mouth.” Second, the lodge promotes its ATV business all year round with posts on its website and e-newsletters. Walters has also been in contact with ATV Maine, the state’s ATV association. In fact, the group held an annual meeting there in October of this year.

Currently, the resort does not rent ATVs. “It is something we are looking at, and we expect to offer it in the not-too-distant future,” said Walters. Northern Outdoors rents snowmobiles.  It also offers a guide service which is being used by ATV’ers. “The majority of our staff are whitewater guides and recreational guides,” Walters said. “In addition, a number of our snowmobile guides are local residents who explore the area on their own. So our guides can take ATV’ers on day trips into the back woods.”

Accommodations

The Forks Resort has a full time staff of 30 people which increases to 130 to 150 people during the peak months of summer. It offers campsites within a short walk from the lodge for $10 all the way to deluxe family cabins that include televisions, Jacuzzis, and fully-furnished kitchens and outdoor barbecues so guests can cook their own meals. “Lodging is available at a number of different prices for a number of different experiences,” said Walters.

There is also a swimming pool, restaurant, brewery and pub. In addition, there is entertainment on the weekends. “The entertainment includes solo guitarists and local bands,” said Walters. “The weekends are more for adults and party groups and during the weekdays we cater to a family crowd,” said Walters.

According to Walters, the resort offers group discounts, which has attracted a large number of snowmobile clubs in the winter. “We believe that the group discounts will attract ATV clubs,” he said. The rate includes one free lodging for every 15 people who book. Walters suggests that you check the resort’s website to learn more about special pricing.

“We get a lot of people who want to do more than one activity,” concluded Walters. “For example, you can tie your ATV’ing to whitewater rafting or a hike on the Appalachian Trail.”

For more information visit the website at: www.northernoutdoors.com.


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