Submerged History: Exploring Flagstaff Lake’s Underwater Ghost Towns in Maine
Flagstaff Lake in Maine holds a secret not known to the average person beneath its tranquil waters – the actual remnants of submerged towns. The lake itself spans over 20,000 acres and is located near Eustis, about 20 miles north of Rangely.
After visiting a friend’s camp in Eustis, I was sitting by the campfire and told the eerie story of what is underneath the lake. I was skeptical and had to research it on my own. To think a one-time valley turned into an underwater ghost town was fascinating, and turned out to be true.
Before Flagstaff Lake existed, the valley was home to several communities, including the townships of Flagstaff, Bigelow, and Dead River. However, in the 1940s, things changed dramatically with the construction of the Long Falls Dam as part of a hydroelectric project.
Completed in 1950, the dam's purpose was to control the power of the Dead River, creating electricity for the region and essentially drowning an entire valley as a result. Although compensation was provided to property owners to find new homes through a process called eminent domain, many were reluctant to leave their homes and communities behind.
The creation of Flagstaff Lake is as simple as it is mind boggling, it involved flooding the entire valley and submerging the existing communities beneath the new reservoir. The towns that once thrived, complete with homes, businesses, and infrastructure, were lost to the rising waters. While many residents relocated and some buildings were dismantled, not everything could be salvaged before the lake's waters covered the landscape.
Today, the lake’s water levels fluctuate, and at times, you can actually see remnants of the submerged towns during periods of low water. The foundations of houses, the outlines of streets, and even the remains of the town's structures become visible at times, offering a haunting and intriguing look into the history that lies beneath.
Visitors can explore the shoreline during low water periods on their own, as well as signing up for guided tours. I’ve made it a goal to take it to the next step and go scuba diving for a more in-depth tour of what was once Flagstaff Plantation, Bigelow Plantation, and Dead River Plantation.
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