A mutual friend introduced McKeil to Robbins, and the two dreamed up a project based on their shared interest: a documentary about the sunken steamboats and an oral history effort to preserve stories of their glory days. With the help of a slew of locals – including former steamboat workers and residents who remember the tail end of the lake’s vacation era – they recently completed Sunken Steamboats of Moosehead Lake, which they are currently submitting to film festivals.
“The steamboats are symbolic of a time when our region was prosperous and bustling with activity,” said McKeil. “The local population was almost twice what it is today, and families thrived serving the various needs of the hospitality and lumber industries.”
Today, there may not be any 500-room resorts in the area, but tourism is still alive. Folks these days come to enjoy the simplicity of going to “camp” (local slang for taking up residence at what others may know as a cabin, cottage or lake house). They check into one of the historical inns and perhaps book a moose-spotting tour or seaplane ride – or board the Kate for a cruise, as I did.
Hopefully, they also find the chance to talk to locals, who can share stories of the area’s rich past, both above and below the water. “The Katahdin, as the last remaining steamboat, reminds us of who we are as a community,” McKeil said. “She provides a sense of constancy and assurance that, with perseverance, our region can return to prosperity.”
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