MAINE WHITEWATER WEEK
Whitewater playboating, paddling, poling, even kayaking! For these five days of pure fun we operate out of our remote wilderness camp on Basin Pond in Monroe, Maine. We set up here, camp, eat and sleep in one spot, making life easy. For paddling we head out each day to a different river, or section of a river.
We've paddled & poled the Marsh Stream, the Machias River, the Union River, the Kenduskeag Stream, and the Souadabscook - and there are many others to choose from (the Sheepscot, St. George, Carrabassett, Sandy, Narraquagus....) depending on the water level - and thrill level. This is a great opportunity to learn, brush up on skills, or go for the gusto. No one is too inexperienced or too talented to have a great time. There will be lots of instruction and opportunites to try everything from poling to solo play boating.
To top this off we enjoy the end of the day with a campfire and good ol' Maine cuisine, yes, that's lobster, clams, baked fish and roasted corn. Not too mention Lisa's fancy baked goods - done right before your eyes.
Come join us for one, two, three, four, or best of all, all five days!
Lisa on the Souadabscook
Photos by Dane, Earl, Tom, Todd & Keith
SAINT CROIX RIVER
The St. Croix - the ideal river to begin your whitewater canoe tripping experience and the perfect one to learn the art of canoe poling. The river forms the eastern boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, and is classified as a Canadian Heritage River, meaning that no further development will take place on either shore.
To paddle just the river portion, one would launch at one of several sites in Vanceboro, Maine. From here to a point on Grand Falls Flowage, referred to as "Kellyland," is one of the best four-day, three-night canoe trips in all of Maine. This section is approximately 35 miles long, so more or less time could be taken depending on your group's desires. The campsites are strategically located, well maintained and have picnic tables and toilet boxes for camper convenience.
The river could not be better laid out, even if designed by an engineer. Starting in Vanceboro, it has a flatwater section, which leads into quickwater, followed by easy, intermittent, open Class ll rapids. It is also an excellent river to learn the use of a setting pole, as it is shallow through all the rapids. As the river continues, the intensity of the rapids increase; perfect, as it allows the paddler the time to start honing up on their skills in preparation for more challenging sections to come. Little Falls is always an adrenaline rush. Pull out on river right above the rapid and walk down to have a look. The noise is loud and a choice has to be made - do we unload and carry everything, just carry the gear and run empty canoes, or just run it? There are always factors to be taken into consideration - what the weather is like, water temperature, water level and your skill. At most levels they look worse than they really are, and once you run it, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about - that is, if you've read it right! If you have a guide along, they will show you the route and you'll see just how easy and fun it can be.
Beyond Little Falls the rapids run to a Class ll and are longer, with a few more rocks to dodge, sharpening one's skills and keeping you on your toes, or should I say knees. Between each of the rapids there are sections of quick and flat water to give you a break.
The trip can be shortened by a day by taking out at Loon Bay. This section finishes off with Canoose Ledges, which can easily be scouted along the left bank. Beyond lay several miles of flatwater and then a paddle across the flowage created by the dam at Kellyland, the take-out point
Photos by Susan Warner & MikePatterson
ALLAGASH WILDERNESS WATERWAY
When one thinks of canoeing in Maine, the first place that comes to mind is the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. It was established by the Maine legislature in 1966 to preserve this wilderness area for our future generations' recreational use. In addition, in 1970 the Waterway was named to the Federal National Wild and Scenic River system. The Allagash can provide the paddler with everything desired. If a flatwater trip is the call, then a four to five day run starting at Chamberlain Bridge at the south end of Chamberlain Lake and paddling north to Churchill Dam at the outlet of Churchill Lake is a good choice. If river running is desired, then a five to six day trip from Churchill Dam to Allagash Village will suit the bill. The river portion alone is approximately 60 miles long and begins with the nine mile Chase Rapids, a sharp Class ll run. There are several short lakes, many easier Class ll sections, long quickwater pieces and two mandatory but easy portages, one at Long Lake Dam and one at Allagash Falls. If you're looking for the best of both worlds, then spend eight days or more on the entire waterway and cover the whole 90+ miles.
The campsites on the waterway are well maintained, with campfire pits, picnic tables (with ridgepoles for covering with tarps) and clean privies. Even though it is thought of as a wilderness area, there are rangers around and they know where everyone is. This is a good thing as the safety factor is a comforting feeling for some folk. This is an excellent family or group trip; party size is strictly limited to a maximum of 12.
A Break on the Allagash, photo by Shauna Patterson
Little Falls, photo by Lutz Lange
SAINT JOHN RIVER
The Granddaddy of Maine's rivers and my favorite wilderness trip in Maine. On Saint John the Baptist's Day in 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed into the mouth of this river at the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, giving the river its name. The St. John is the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi. It winds its way through several headwater lakes and on for 100+ miles of forests, beautiful rolling hills and open valleys. (Large tracts of the land are owned by The Nature Conservancy.) It parallels the Maine/Quebec border then turns east and forms the northern border of Maine, continuing on through New Brunswick to the ocean. This free flowing river is generally canoeable from ice-out in late April or early May through June, all depending on snow melt and spring rains.
The Wilds of Maine offers a seven-day/six-night canoe camping trip on the historic St. John from Baker Lake to Allagash Village. We meet our guests and drive the Golden Road to Baker Lake. Camping that night at the lake, on Day 1 we begin our 125-mile northward journey on a narrow river lined with fir and spruce. The gradient is exceptionally steady, from 1200 feet elevation at the lake to 600 feet at Allagash Village. There are no portages, and the shallow, clear water affords an excellent opportunity to learn the art of canoe poling. The rapids are primarily Class 1 and ll.
All of the campsites are well maintained by the North Maine Woods Association and University of Maine volunteers. In some places we explore the fields for historical remains of logging camps and their supporting farms. On Day 7 we take out at Allagash Village where our vehicles will be waiting.
Rainbow, photo by Dan & Ann Dubbel
Poling at Sunset, photo by Mike Patterson
The Machias River provides a remote and challenging canoe camping experience. The river's headwaters are the series of the Machias Lakes (First through Fifth) in eastern Maine. This is a free-flowing river since the last of a series of dams was removed in 1974.
The Machias has a long history of logging and mills. By the late 1700's, the village of Machias exported a variety of lumber products, many going by sea to Britain. Machias means "bad little falls" in reference to the falls in the village where the river flows into the tidewater.
Due to the many access points, trips of varying duration are possible. My favorite is over six days, putting in at Third Machias Lake and taking out in the village of Machias. This trip provides good Class l-ll whitewater with a couple of Class lll rapids that may be lined or portaged - a good paddler with years of experience will know when to carry and when to canoe. For example, the rapids between Third and Second Machias Lakes, "Long Rapids," is one of those. Later on, there are other ones to be scouted and decisions to be made. They go by the name Carrick Pitch (often mistakenly referred to as "Carrot Pitch"), Airline Rapids, Little Falls, the Wigwams, Lower Holmes Falls, Grand Falls and the falls at the Whitneyville Bridge. You may just decide to run some of these, but Upper Holmes is a mandatory carry.
The campsites are primitive with no formal facilities. The fishing varies from bass to brook trout, and the scenery is fantastic. It's not unusual to be sung to sleep by loons or coyotes.
John Poling the Machias, photo by Shauna Patterson
The Moose River is mostly flatwater with a few very short, easy rapids. There is one portage, however, it s at one of our campsites and can therefore be done casually. This is a great family or group trip for kids, i.e., Boy Scouts/Girl Scout/Kids Camps. This is a four day, three night trip.
The Moose River runs through the northwestern mountains (primarily under 2000 feet elevation) along the Maine-Quebec border and is reached by driving to the town of Jackman. It is the mildest of all the Maine rivers, and a good way to start wilderness canoeing. The whole trip makes a nice five-day beginner's trip. It is probably the most popular one in Maine for first time paddling groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts. Likewise it makes a fabulous family outing.
There are a couple of points that the paddler can choose to start the trip. For the traditional "Bow Trip" one would both put in and take out at the boat launch on Attean Pond. Paddling from here across to the west shore of Attean, a mile long portage is required to get to the east shore of Holeb Pond, where you then paddle to the outlet stream. The second choice is to launch on the west shore of Holeb Pond and paddle to the outlet (this requires that your vehicle be shuttled to the take-out, which is the boat launch on Attean). From either starting point, the outlet stream of Holeb Pond runs into the Moose River, which essentially circles Attean Mountain and runs back into Attean Pond, and with a couple of hours paddling across Attean you are back at the boat launch.
I personally favor the put-in at Holeb Pond, avoiding the long portage, and camp the first night at one of the sites on the Pond. This gives a group a chance to practice their strokes and develop teamwork for the rest of the trip. It also sets you up for the right duration for the next day's paddle to Holeb Falls, a mandatory portage. There is a clearly signed side route that leads around a significant portion of the upper section of the falls, keeping the portage (which is roughly 300 yards) to a minimum. The campsite at the Falls is spectacular, with swimming in the rapids at the base, so a night here should be planned. Over the course of the river, there are many short but tricky little rips, some of which should be scouted before running. The next day's paddle from Holeb Falls brings you to Attean Falls - a short portage for most, a technical run for the adventurist - and the best campsite. You could paddle on out to the Attean Pond landing the next morning, but there are several more campsites on the pond, with the option to take a two mile hike up Sally Mountain which gives great views of the entire Moose River region. All the campsites are well maintained by volunteers, have outhouses and there are no fees.
EAST BRANCH OF THE PENOBSCOT
The east branch of the Penobscot River is located in the heart of Maine and to the east of the infamous Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin. A combination trip of canoeing and hiking in this area could keep the outdoor adventurist busy for days, even weeks.
Historically, the native Indians of Maine used this river as an avenue to the forests and mountains for hunting and fishing. Later it was a primary route to bring logs from northern Maine to the mills and ships in the Bangor area.
For the present day paddler, the lure of the river and the sound of waterfalls will send you back in time. Waterflow is usually more consistent than many rivers in Maine as there is a dam at the south end of Grand Lake Matagamon, a good starting point for a three to five day canoe trip.
This trip, more than some, requires close scrutiny of maps as there is a minimum of four mandatory portages, and more at high water levels. There are two good take-out points, depending on the days available for paddling: take-out at the Whetstone Falls for a three-day trip and at Grindstone Falls for a five-day trip. The first three days contains at least four portages. These are at likely named locations, i.e., Haskell Rock Pitch, Pond Pitch, Grand Pitch and Hulling Machine, none of which are well marked for the unsuspecting traveler; again, pay attention to the maps! Carrys may be required at Stair Falls and Whetstone Falls, which, while they sound more ominous than pitches, are actually Class ll+-lll rapids. The pitches range from 10 to 20 foot drops, not even runnable by today's "hair boaters," well, at least, that's my opinion.
The river, after you resign yourself to carrying several times a day, is a classic. The scenery, clear water, overhanging trees, potential wildlife sightings, eagles flying overhead and the sense of paddling down ancestral trails can be overwhelming. The campsites are remote with no man made facilities and are sometimes non-existent, thereby causing one to choose a sandbar island. There are a few scattered camps and road bridge crossings along the way to keep you aware of the day and age in which you are paddling. Otherwise it would be easy to melt into your surroundings and pretend that you are David Henry Thoreau. I'll be Joe Polis.
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