The Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Without a doubt, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway rates as one of the grandest wilderness areas east of the Mississippi. Its mystique draws canoeists from all over America and the world. First roamed by native Abnaki Indians in search of food and furs, then in the 1800's by lumbermen in search of virgin timber for logs and pulpwood, it is today visited by the adventurist paddler seeking a deep wilderness experience.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is rich in historical points of interest from those by-gone eras. It abounds in wildlife of every description, from the majestic Moose to the ubiquitous White-throated Sparrow. Extending some 98 miles end-to-end, the Waterway offers the canoer both lake and river paddling environments.

Most trips begin at the southeastern end of Telos lake and then proceed northward to Allagash village on the Canadian border. Access onto the Waterway is possible at about the "half-way" point for parties without sufficient time to complete the entire trip. Either the southern half, which is mostly lakes, or the northern half, which is mostly river, can be selected. It is also possible for the route to be extended to a total of 125 miles by a side trip upstream to pristine and beautiful Allagash Lake. It is here that, after spending two days traveling upstream to get here, we shall surely spend one of our lay-over days swimming and relaxing on white sand beaches, exploring the Allagash ice caves, and climbing Allagash mountain to view the scenic panorama.

"Pongokwahemook", an Indian name meaning "woodpecker place" and today called Eagle lake, is another most interesting spot on the Allagash. We usually plan to pitch out tents at Thoreau campsite on Pillsbury island, the northernmost point reached by Henry David Thoreau in his expedition of 1853. It is from this base encampment that we launch our exploration of the "Tramway" that connects Eagle lake with Chamberlain lake and of the old locomotives that ran between Eagle and Umbazooksus lakes in the early 1900's lumbering era. A strange sight indeed to see these 90 and 100 ton locomotives sitting alone in this vast wilderness.

By now everyone's paddling skills have become finely tuned and in a day or so we'll be running the canoes down famous Chase Rapids, a beautiful and exciting run of nearly 5 miles ending at Umsaskis lake. As the river enters Umsaskis lake it meanders through an attractive marsh where moose are often seen feeding on the plant life. Canada geese often stop over here also on their great migrations up and down the Atlantic fly-way.

We will soon cross the last pond on the Waterway and spend the next few days being carried along by the current through easy rapids as the Allagash river descends toward the Saint John. Trout fishing at the mouths of the many brooks and streams we'll paddle by offer hours of enjoyment to those who wish to wet a fly and fill the supper plate with fresh "Brookies".

Our tents will be pitched for the last time at the site of the most awesome spectacle on the river; 40 foot high Allagash Falls, a thundering, boiling cauldron of power and beauty. If you're lucky, perhaps in the morning you'll glimpse the Indian maiden standing in the mist at the top of the falls only to see her plummet into the seething maelstrom below as she does once every year on the anniversary of her death (according to ancient Indian legend).

Fourteen river miles below, and the Allagash delivers us back into civilization and your Wilderness River Adventure will become a treasured memory.

Special Note:Trips on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway incur an additional camping fee levied by the State of Maine of $5.50 per night per person.


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