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September 2005

Paddling’s Greatest Getaways

16 wild ways to find backcountry solitude and big-time scenery. All this, and you can bring the ice chest, too.


Best of The Maine Woods

Paddle, portage, and camp along the wild Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

The Allagash is to paddlers what the John Muir Trail is to hikers: a must-do journey that any motivated camper can make. In both places, the scenery is world-class, and the main challenge is time, not difficulty. You’ll want at least a week to cover the Allagash’s 92 miles; allow a few more days as a cushion for weather and rest.

The waterway is a classic Northeast canoe trail linking lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and portages. In the fall, the North Woods catches fire with the reds and golds of maple, beech, and other hardwoods, while fir and spruce dominate the vast evergreen forests. You’ll hear zany loon laughter, see bald eagles and moose and bears, and-if you’re lucky and quiet-perhaps spot elusive locals such as the lynx or fisher. Spend nights in secluded camps where solitude is guaranteed; the state of Maine has installed more than 80 designated sites along the route. Most of the paddling is flatwater, but novices will be tested at the Class II Chase Rapids at mile 38. Allow plenty of time to savor Allagash Falls, then portage your boat and gear 200 yards around the drop. The only other portages are a couple of short walks around dams.

Get there Put in at Chamberlain Lake (take Pinkham Rd. from Ashland); take out at Allagash Village on ME 11. Rentals and shuttles:

Season September and October; summer is possible, but buggy

Difficulty Moderate. It’s mostly flatwater (with some Class I-II paddling), but the route is long and remote.

Contact Maine Parks, (207) 941-4014; North Maine Woods, (207) 435-6213;

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