Telos Dam and Cut (Canal)

In the 1830s Amos Roberts and the Strickland Brothers bought Township 6, Range 11, a piece of land that contains the drainages into two major watersheds; Webster Lake, a headwater of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, and Telos Lake which in its natural state is a headwater of the Allagash River. In order to get logs harvested from the area around Telos and Chamberlain Lakes down to the West Branch and thus into Bangor where American interests could profit, these owners needed to devise a way to move the logs from Telos over to Webster Lake.

In 1838 they engaged Shepard Boody to devise a way to get Chamberlain Lake to flow against its natural current, down into Telos Lake, then on to the West Branch basin. Boody proposed the raising of waters in Chamberlain Lake via a dam and then the digging of a canal across the space between Telos and Webster Lakes. This area included a ravine that dropped approximately 47 feet into Webster Lake. By fall 1841 the two dams were in place and a canal ten to fifteen feet wide and one to six feet deep stretched from Telos to Chamberlain Lake. It was thereafter known as the Telos Cut.

Built in 1841 for the landowners of T6-R11, the Telos Dam worked in conjunction with the canal and a dam at the outlet of Chamberlain Lake to redirect the flow of water in Chamberlain and Telos lakes south toward the Penobscot River basin where American interests could control the lumber that moved along it. This was contrary to its natural flow that took lumber north toward the St. John River basin and waters controlled by Canadian interests.

The dam enabled its owners to control the flow into the canal and thus collect a toll per 1,000 board feet of lumber from any landowner along these lakes who wanted to drive their logs to Bangor mills and markets. However, it also made them dependent on the ability of the Chamberlain Lake dam to retain enough water in Telos Lake to force the move southward against its natural northward flow. This led to a series of controversies involving owners of the Telos Dam and Cut and the owners of the Chamberlain Lake Dam.

The dams at Telos have been repaired or rebuilt many times. The last crude log dam was replaced in 1924 by a timber crib dam. Sections of the dam have been replaced numerous times since then. Currently, it is a timber crib structure rebuilt in the 1980’s, by its then-owner the East Branch Improvement Company, with non-native materials and earthen abutments incorporating steel sheet piling cutoff walls.

Telos and Lock Dams and their associated structures were acquired by DPPL in 2000 in order to continue management of water levels consistent with the Waterway’s management objectives and to prevent changed or expanded private use of the associated buildings in a manner inconsistent with the Waterway’s management objectives. The dams are maintained and managed by DPPL as part of the Waterway. DPPL has no plans for these dams, except to improve their condition and maintain them, nor does DPPL intend to change the flow regimes from those currently in effect. It is anticipated that some of the buildings at the dam sites that are in poor repair and have no historical significance will be removed.