Visitor numbers plunge in North Maine Woods

A lot fewer people are visiting and enjoying the lands in the North Maine Woods. That confirms my research when sporting camp owners told me their greatest challenge is the loss of hunters and anglers.

In the last eleven years, visitor days fishing in North Maine Woods have declined from 21,143 to 12,365. Hunting days actually peaked in 1991 at 74,536. In 2017, hunter days totaled only 33,391.
The loss of the deer herd in that region was a key reason for the decline in hunter numbers. I don’t know why angling declined, because that region still offers great fishing.

Overall, visitor days peaked in 2001 at 283,816. In 2017, visitor days totaled 149,482.

I’ve heard a few complaints lately that access fees have gone up, but that was caused entirely by Maine’s increase in the minimum wage. The fees go entirely to the staff at the entrances. A lot of people don’t understand that they contribute nothing to all those roads we drive. The landowners pay for the roads.

We are very lucky to have such great access to those millions of acres of private land.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.