RUMFORD, Maine -- Pit stops are mere leg stretchers. For those traveling western Maine, say between the challenges of Sunday River and Sugarloaf, there is the Rumford Information Center, which makes for more than a two-minute break with its towering lumberjack, water wheel, Edmund Muskie Memorial, iron sculptures, waterfall, and requesite maps, promotional brochures, and restrooms.
On a Route 2 curve and the banks of the Androscoggin River, the small patch of land behind the center is a fine vantage point to take in Penacook Falls, billed as the longest descending falls east of Niagara. The water flows past the red bricks of the MeadWestvaco paper mill and under the green, steel-arched Morse bridge to downtown.
A group of black iron sculptures of early Native American inhabitants share the shoreline. A fish roasts over a spit, a mother and son are together, and a chief sits. They are the work of selectman Gene Boivin, who also created the wooden waterwheel that turns in summer. In winter, it's a crusty walk down to the shores over the unmaintained, handicapped-accessible walkway. In summer, it's picnic time and a prime spot for the Fourth of July fireworks.
Muskie, the late governor, US senator, presidential aspirant, and secretary of state in the Carter administration, was born in Rumford on March 28, 1914. A polished black granite memorial, complete with his portrait, notes his achievements.
An ax-carrying, bearded Paul Bunyan calls the center home, too. He used to live across the street at a hardware store, but when it closed, the Puiia family donated it to the town. Inside the center, which opened in July 2000, is a showcase constructed by local volunteers and displaying minerals from the River Valley Mineral Museum. A nearly 100-year-old marble bust of the late industrialist Hugh Chisholm, who once was a part of several area businesses, is in a corner. There's always the guest book, recording visits by people who live as close as neighboring Mexico, Maine, and as far away as Ireland. And one from a bespectacled funny guy named Drew Carey.