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Visitors to the 6.5-mile-long Kennebec River Rail Trail mostly stay within sight of the wide river as the paved trail links the state capital of Augusta with the river towns of Hallowell, Farmingdale, and Gardiner. The trail is part of the off-road East Coast Greenway, which will connect Calais, Maine, with Key West, Florida, when it is complete. No motorized use is allowed on the trail, which is plowed of snow in the winter.
The trail shares the corridor with railroad tracks that the Maine Department of Transportation preserved in hopes that trains will one day return. It follows the route of the Kennebec and Portland Railroad, which the state chartered in 1836 and reached Augusta by 1851. The Maine Central Railroad subsequently bought the 63-mile line and provided rail service to communities along the river until 1983. The new owners, Guilford Transportation (later Pan Am Railways), eventually closed the Augusta-Brunswick segment, which the state acquired.
Beginning at a riverside parking lot in Augusta, the trail heads south beneath the US 201/Memorial Drive bridge. The first mile of trail is often crowded with office workers stretching their legs during lunchtime and after work. About 0.7 mile from the trailhead, a side trail heads right to more parking and Capitol Park at the foot of the State Capitol building. The Maine State Museum and State Library are nearby.
At mile 2, measured by 0.25-mile trailside markers, you’ll arrive at the waterfront in Hallowell, once a logging, mill, and shipbuilding center. Parking and restrooms are at a riverfront park that’s home to the farmers market in season. You might be drawn to the colorful Adirondack chairs that overlook the river here, or you can visit antiques stores, art studios, or restaurants along Water Street.
Leaving Hallowell, the trail veers away from the rail corridor for a short distance, then hugs the shoreline of Kennebec River to Farmingdale. At one time polluted by industrial discharges, the river Kennebec—named so by the area’s original inhabitants for its “large body of still water”—has benefited from clean water laws. Removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta in 1999 has helped bring back migratory fish. You may see osprey or bald eagles that feed on the river life.
The trail ends at a shopping center on the north end of Gardiner, a former mill town. About a block south is a vintage Maine Central Railroad depot built in 1911 and used by the railroad into the 1950s. Just a few blocks farther south, you’ll find Gardiner Waterfront Park, a popular event space and put-in for boats, kayaks, and canoes. The future Merrymeeting Trail project is proposed to follow the rail corridor south of here for 32 miles to Brunswick on the coast.
To reach the trailhead in Augusta from I-95, take Exit 109A toward Augusta on US 202/SR11/Western Ave. Go 1.4 miles east on US 202 to the Memorial Circle roundabout, and take the third exit onto Water St. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right into Downtown Parking. The trail begins at the south end of the parking lot.
To reach the trail in Gardiner from I-295, take Exit 51 onto SR 9/SR 126/Cobbossee Ave./Lewiston Road. Go 1.8 miles east, and cross the bridge onto SR 9/SR 126/Water St. Go another 1.1 miles, and stay straight on Water St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Maine Ave. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left into the parking lot. The trailhead is at the north end of the lot.
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