Early European settlement of the watershed was northerly up the Cold River valley from Fryeburg, Maine, through Evans Notch and then down Evans Brook to Gilead. Evans Notch and Evans Brook were named for Captain John Evans, who commanded European militia against the indigenous people of the Americas in 1781.
The town of Gilead was incorporated in 1804. The Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad from Portland to Montreal followed the south bank of the Androscoggin River and reached Gilead in 1851. The railroad bridge was the first river crossing durable enough to withstand runoff events from winter storms. Peak runoff events were similarly destructive to attempts to construct water-powered mills adjacent to the river. Construction of the road now known as Maine Highway 113 commenced in 1866.
In 1882, Major Gideon Hastings obtained title to large tracts of timberland and commenced operations of the Hastings Lumber Company.
Wild River Railroad
In 1891 a railroad was built following the present Route 113 from Gilead to Hastings lumber mill on Evans Brook near its confluence with the Wild River. A row of ten houses built along the Wild River for company employees at Hastings became known as "the ten commandments". Rails extended 10 miles (16 km) up the Wild River from Hastings by 1896 with branch lines up tributaries Bull Brook, Blue Brook, Moriah Brook, Cypress Brook, and Spruce Brook. A 1903 wildfire destroyed the unharvested timber in the watershed. The railroad was dismantled in 1904. The lumber company land was purchased for the White Mountain National Forest between 1912 and 1918. Passage of the New England Wilderness Act in December 2006 designated 23,700 acres (9,600 ha) of the watershed as the Wild River Wilderness.
purchased new to replace # 2 - sold to Berlin Mills Railroad in 1904
In the summer and early fall, this river becomes little more than a trickle. However, it does hold native brook trout that eagerly attack small dry flies, much to the delight of fly fishermen that visit. Wild River Trail follows the old railroad grade along the river. A visit in early spring or late fall should be pursued with caution as Route 113 is not maintained in the winter. It is a long way around if you get there and find the road closed. The Appalachian Trail follows the crest of the Carter-Moriah Range along the western boundary of the watershed.
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