Allagash River, ME
TRIP LOG: Submitted by Kevin French, August 27, 2007
This trip started as a Family reunion trip but slowly downgraded to nine relatives having a great time and about 20 others missing out on a super 67 mile river trip.
The last week in June of this year, my son, grandson and I made the
400+ mile trip up to Fort Kent, ME to meet the geographically separated 1/4 of the family. My cousin Scott grew up on the river, and my aunt was known as ‘The Crazy Lady who took kids down the river’. We spent Sunday getting reacquainted and packing the food for the trip. The plan was that each of the adults would prep for one evening meal and that breakfast and lunch would be up the the individuals. Of the nine going, only Scott had done the river before. We all gathered at my aunts house on the St John river, (US/Canadian Border) on Sunday night for a 0400 wake up and departure for Pelletier’s Campground and the outfitter we were using for the trip. http://www.mainerec.com/pellcamp.shtml We had loaded the 4 canoes and 1 kayak on his trailer the night before. Scott, as a boy had grown up across the street from the outfitter and worked for him for several seasons.
We loaded the van about 0500 for the 75 mile trip to the put in, below Chase Rapids at the former Bissonnette Bridge. Most of had not been on an multi-day river trip so we passed on the Class 3 Chase Rapids at the outlet of Churchhill Lake. I followed in my truck to the bridge at the jct of the Allagash and the St John. A little old lady uses her lawn as a parking lot for canoers at $2/day. We arrived at the put-in around 0900 and took the mandatory group picture.
I was sent ahead in the kayak to secure a spot at Chisholm Brk campsite four miles downstream. Lots of Quick-water and maybe a couple Class 1 rapids in that stretch of the river. About 1100 the rest of the group made it down to the campsite. We made camp quickly and then started fishing, swimming and paddling in the back water. My grandson, Derek caught 19 fish that afternoon 3 of which were trout big enough to eat.
Supper that night was Hamburgs, Hot dogs and trout. During the afternoon I had taken a paddle around some of the islands and realized this would be a prime spot for an evening paddle to see moose. We had spotted a pair on the drive in but that evening we saw six more, three at close range, a big boy at about 200′ and 2 more much farther down the lake for a grand total of 8 that day. 4 miles done on day 1.
Day 2 we got up again at 0400 as we had 3 lakes to cross and wanted to try to get a start before the wind started. Didn’t work. The wind was blowing straight in on us as we entered Umsaskis Lake with 6-8″ swells. We stopping to check in at the Ranger Station in the ‘Thoroughfare’, between Umsaskis and Long Lake. My son made the comment, ‘Hey the wind let up!’. About 30 seconds later it started to rain. THANKS Josh! The crossing of Long lake was long but without the wind now went easily with 2 more moose sightings. We arrived at Long Lake Dam shortly after noon and set in the prime spot with a grand view of the dam. If you’re not staying at the Long Lake Dam Campsite the dam can be lined on the left side of the river or there is a short portage on the right side, thorough the campsite. We made a try at lining the kayak, it wasn’t pretty.
The lining of the dam is by far the easiest way to get over this dam. Although tempting the dam should not be run as there are old bolts sticking up out of the submerged wood. We found two interesting groups of butterflies one on each side of the river. Tonight supper was chicken sishkabobs, another trout and a few fresh water muscles in Garlic and butter. Day 3, after 2 days of 0400 wake ups we let the group sleep in this morning and those of us who did get up early prepped a great breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes.
We had a great paddle down to Round Pond and got our first look at the river sloping down away from us. This was where the trip really took off. We spent most of Day 1 drive in, Day 2 spent on the lakes, now we were in the river and it was moving faster. My grandson (8 yrs old) was having a ball and work hard in the bow of his dad’s canoe.
After leaving Round Pond we went thorough some Class 1 rips, bigger and longer then than the ones up stream. Turning a corner we found another moose, We had Loons fishing between the boats, and a large flock of geese.
We spent the night at Five fingers Brk North. Supper tonight was suppose to be Spaghetti with hamburg but the meat was still frozen solid so we subbed in some left over chicken from the night before. When we packed the cooler the morning we left we started with a layer of sawdust then frozen packs more sawdust day 3s meal more sawdust frozen packs, saw dust, day 2s meal. We filled all the voids with saw dust and for that reason 3 days into the trip we still had food that was frozen solid. After supper I brought a ‘Magnesium fire starter and gave a quick class to Bobbie, one of the 15 year olds on the trip. He spent an hour trying to start a fire beating the flint out of the first stone and a good job on the second one. He gave up and my grandson picked up the stick, 10 minutes later had a fire going. Smoked by an 8 year Old! 17-18 miles done on Day 3.
Day 4 was a nice paddle dow to another check in at Michaud Farm. We were relaxing having only another 3-4 mile to go to get to Allagash Falls where we planned to stay, when the dark clouds started to build. We loaded and paddled quickly toward the falls. About half way there it started to pour, but no lightning so we kept going. The rain let up about the time we came upon the Falls warning sign. Landing at the upper landing most of the group went site seeing. There is a 1/3 of a mile portage around the 40′ falls, much of which can be eliminated by going to the Lower Landing. The lower landing is just above the top of the falls and is not recommended for landing because of that and you have to approach it from mid river to get around the rock at the landing. Bobbie and I started lining the kayak to the lower landing. We found the rest of the group there as we arrived. On the walk up the portage path we decided to tie two canoes together and line the pair down at once. this work great especially with my son in the bow of the lead canoe keeping it off the many rocks. The last two canoes went even easier.
We took the last of the four site at the falls. After setting up the tents everyone took off for more sightseeing and fishing at the falls while I cooked Garlic Clam Linguine from Cliff Jacobson’s recipe. As stated in the book it was a big hit with no leftovers. The recipe is for 8 I added an additional can of clams, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and extra cheese and we still could have eaten more, so either double the recipe or find something to serve with it. After supper it was back to the falls
Another 17-18 miles done on Day 4
Day 5 more eggs and bacon. Another note here. We coated the eggs in Vaseline and did not refrigerate them. Reports from one fellow on another board states he keeps eggs this way for a month without spoilage. He doesn’t know how long he can keep them, that’s as long as he’s had eggs while at sea before running out. After breakfast we finished the portage. Loading below the falls I took the kayak as far up the river to get some pictures of the falls.
Day 5s trip out was fill with water fights and individuals finding their own routes down the river. My grandson spotted a Bald Eagle just as it took to the air, followed by another moose. Around 1000 the wind picked up and was blowing UP the river, There was no place to get out of it, the hills were funneling the wind up the river at every turn. The last real thrill of the river was Twin Brk Rapids. A class 2 rapids with lots of waves to plow thorough. Lots of votes to line back up and do them again.
Form here there’s a lot of quick water and a few class 1 rapids to the take out at the route 161 bridge. $2/boat landing fee and it was $2/day parking fee for my truck. Bobbie swam the river to the store to call my aunt to bring up the second vehicle to take us out. 13 miles done on day 5 for a total of 67+/-
It was a great first run of the Allagash and we’re going back for another run next year. We saw a total of 18 moose, 20 Loons, a couple dozen Canadian Geese in that one grouping, a Bald Eagle, a Beaver and 2 deer on the trip. Very few bugs. We used ‘Bug Coils’ only on the third night and they worked great.
The river is a very easy one to do for anyone who can steer a canoe. I’m a flatwater person as was a lot of the group. The biggest difficulty I had was the sitting for 5 days/67 miles. Navigating the river is the tougher part. Where the water runs there is usually only one boating channel. Finding that channel takes a bit of skill which can be learned fairly quickly, and Scott did a great job of it. The only penalty is running aground. 67 miles of river and while we were ON the river, we only saw 3 other groups that pass us and we were able to used all the campsites Scott had plan to use.
Things I’ll do different next year will be; to go a bit farther on days 1 and 2. Do at least one of the lakes the 1st day, weather permitting, with a goal of 2 day ending at Round Pond. This will give you a lot of the same backwater area that you will miss by not staying at Chisholm Brk and make day 3 an easier paddle. The last tip I’m sure most of you know and that would be the importance of taking one or TWO lunch breaks. This was a problem on day 3,4, and 5. We had such short paddles on day 1 and 2 we got into the habit of just pulling over for a snack and paid for it in the afternoon.
Fees: $40/person transportation fee to start at Church Hill Pd
$ 8/person for the paper company for use of the roads
$18/ day for canoe rental $90 for the five days
$ 5/night camping fee $20 for the 4 nights
$68 total in fees, or $216 total for 2 with the rental of a canoe.
$32 for a 7 day out of state fishing license.
For maps we used Maps #12 and 13 from the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
For river discriptions we use Gil Gilpatrick’s ‘The Allagash Guide’ and the expanded book ‘Allagash’ that also include the logging history of the area.
Copyright © 2007