Geology makes for ‘the best farmland’

If you’ve wondered why areas of Aroostook County are known for farmlands, following is Olof Nylander’s 1924 writing on the geology of the region.

“The Aroostook limestone is underlying the towns of Limestone, Fort Fairfield, Caribou, Washburn, the greater part of Woodland and the southeast corner of New Sweden, and extends south to Houlton and to the northeast into New Brunswick, and it is the largest area of limestone formation in the eastern part of North America.

“This limestone area has proved to be the best agriculture land in Maine, and when the United States Department of Agriculture made its “Soil Survey of the Aroostook Area” they made the Caribou loam the standard of their classification of the soils of Aroostook.

“The Limestone is a bluish gray color interbedded with grayish layers sometimes slate. The chemical composition is also extremely varied. Some beds are nearly pure lime and others contain only a small percentage. The beds are generally fractured in all directions and the fractures are filled with carbonate of lime.

“The limestone of this area is older than the rock lying either east or west of it; fossils are seldom found as the much crumpled and distorted beds are not favorable to their preservation, so we must call this rock Silurian below the clinton.

“In Caribou, near the north line, between the Van Buren road and New Sweden are several outcrops of a very fine grain sand rock, or quartzite. One of these is in the southeast part of New Sweden and there are three small outcrops in Woodland. This is the oldest rock in Aroostook and underlying the limestones. I have not found any fossils in this rock but it is probably Cambriam (or Ordovician).

“Going in a northwest direction from Caribou to New Sweden the last outcrop of the Aroostook limestone is in Woodland six and one-half miles away and outcropping in the road one-half mile northwest of Caribou stream.”

A self-taught naturalist, Olof Nylander’s curiosity took him throughout Aroostook County where he learned much about the area. Make a visit to the Nylander Museum for the many wonders of The County and beyond. The facility is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and Saturday/Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.

This column is the work of members of the Nylander Museum’s Board of Trustees.

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