Before the arrival of the first Acadian settlers in about 1784, the Upper St. John River valley was home to Native Peoples, in particular to the Wulustukieg or Maliseet (Malecite) Nation, a branch of the Algonquin peoples. The very name Madawaska is from the Maliseet's Algonquin language: "madawes"—porcupine, "kak"—place, or Land of the Porcupine.
French Acadians settled here in 1785 after being forced to flee Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island because they refused to pledge allegiance to the British Crown. You can see the Acadian Cross Historic Shrine, a 14-foot marble cross that represents the first cross erected in 1785 by the first Acadians settlers who set foot in the valley after canoeing up the St. John River. The cross represents their gratitude for their safe haven and a land of their own. And, across the river, the lights of Edmundston, New Brunswick.
The Tante Blanche Museum— a 1970s log building named for Marguerite Blanche Thibodeau Cyr in honor of her heroic deeds during the 1797 famine — is where you can learn more about the history and heritage of the town's settlers.
Today, the town possesses a thriving potato industry, and local children are excused from school during harvest time to help with the work. The majority of Madawaska’s residents are of Acadian descent, and French is still spoken here—with a little Quebecois and English thrown into the mix. This unique blend of languages is termed “Valley French.”
If you’re into motorcycling, visit Madawaska’s Four Corners Park – the first park dedicated to long-distance motorcycling.