Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
The adventures of Doug, John Robert, Matt, Dan, Len, Bill, Steve, Joe and BuddyH.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is located in Northen Maine.    It is appoximately 92 miles of lakes connected by the Allagash River.    We allowed one day travel in each direction.    This account is divided by the days of adventure.    Distances are miles paddled that day from camp to camp only.

Day 1
July 2, 2008 Wednesday Left Church at 00:30 Arrive Telos ramp 16:00
Mt Carmel to Telos Lake and Boy Scout Camp on Chamberlain Lake. Less than 1 mile

I had the rear seat of the truck to myself for the drive up. I slept most of the way.    I really needed to decompress from work and life.    Len had a murder mystery on tape.    Over 100 chapters.    Though I slept through a lot of the mystery I must have been listening in my sleep.    Every time I awoke I could follow the story.    It lasted almost all of the way to the put in.
After a scenic tour we found the correct road.    Those logging trucks kick up so much dust that it is impossible to drive after they go by.    The dust forces us to stop and hope that anyone behind us also stops.
Telos Check In
Telos Check In Station.
The route parallels the Penobscot River until crossing it at a nice set of rapids.    This warrants a closer look and the correct boat on the next trip up.
We finally arrive at the put in at Telos Lake.    Boats are loaded quickly, vehicles moved.    We see our first loon.    It took dive.    I predicted where it would resurface accurately.    Then explained why.
Distance to the Boy Scout Campsite required less than a mile of paddling but we have already paddled on two lakes, Telos and Chamberlain.    Already new wild flowers were spotted. There are bunch berries in bloom.    My paddling partner was Joe ?.
The campsite was typical of all we will use.    There is a picnic table under a ridge pole.    The ridge pole extends over the fire pit to facilitate cooking in the rain.    A short distanced away is a one holer.    Everything seems in good repair.   
Watched a far away storm and listened to the bull frogs as everyone else turned in for the night.    All I could think of was; I'm HERE!!!
Every where I looked I saw a postcard view.    Finally here, woohooo! I should mention that the first thing Deb and I bought the first year we married was a canoe.    An old beat up aluminum Rich Line with a small hole in it. We bought $3 paddles from Sunny Surplus, RIP.    We got it in the fall and managed one trip down the Gunpowder before it got cold out.    With cold weather and little time to paddle the library books provided the adventure for awhile.    One book spoke of the Allagash River and a pair of locomotives in the "wilderness" of Maine.    That was 1975 and now 33 years later, I'm there.
It is now 21:30 and time to go to sleep.

Heading into Eagle Lake.
Heading_into_Eagle_Lake Day 2
July 3, 2008 Thursday

Boy Scout Campsite on Chamberlain Lake to Thoreau Campsite on Eagle Lake. 14 miles
Everyone is anxious get started and to cross Chamberlain Lake to Lock Dam and portage to Eagle Lake. We start off with a lake that is smooth a glass.    It doesn't take long for the wind to kick up.    The waves soon start to broad side us.    Between the wind and waves the paddling turns into a real struggle.    Not because either are too high but the canoe is not trimmed correctly.    Though most of the gear is right in front of me I am still riding higher than the bow.    With every wave and gust the canoe turns into the wind and I have to fight to get back on course.    I aim for the Iceberg.    The Iceberg is a rock island turned white by the seagull guano.    Just as the Iceberg starts to get close we head off to see the remnants of a paddle wheeler on the east shore.    Not much is left except for the metal drive components.    Shortly we round a point and put the wind to our backs.    We try to use it to ease the paddling as we head for the Lock Dam.    Joe and I continue our army style paddling, left, left, left, right, left. The portage is short so the gear is left in the canoes and all nine grab a canoe and stumble down the hill to the connecting creek.    The creek initially is too shallow to paddle but after the first bend we are back in the boats.    We paddle over a small beaver dam and then enter Eagle Lake.    Len warns us that often moose are seen in this portion of Eagle Lake.    A hen merganser duck and several ducklings swim past.    Yellow pond lilies are all over the place now.    The first eagle is spotted and flies out of site.    A little further in, another eagle is spotted circling just south of Bear Mountain.    We realize that the stump at the waters edge in moving.    Closer now an immature eagle is perched on the stump.    It jumps to the ground and it looks to be eating something at the waters edge.
Thoreau Campsite is on an island and we head for the first one.    Too small to have a spring thus we continue on.    Pillsbury Island is spotted and we head for the campsite.    First order of business is to set up the dining fly over the ridge pole.    Longer paddles are use to support the corners.    A clove hitch is tied with one loop on the T grip and the other on the shaft.    Tents are set up and the search for the spring begins.    Len indicates that the spring is past the privy.    A side trail to the privy becomes a small stream.    Nice clue that the spring is ahead.    The spring has been dammed and roofed.    There was PVC tubing to the spring but no water coming out.    Someone just needed to start the siphon going.    To keep the water level in the spring above the tubing it is tied to a nearby tree.
As we ate our dinner, a hen merganser and ducklings swim by.    Either they swam by several times or there were several groups that went by.
We enjoy our first rain while at camp Thoreau, thank you Dan.    I know we could count on you.    I went fishing and got soaked by another rain after dinner.    The catch was a bunch of chubs and one prize, a 10" brook trout.    Little did I know then that was the catch of the trip.    Caught it on a Big O and oh was I surprised.    Caught one pumpkin seed or sun fish also.
I made the mistake leaning my pack against a fir tree that had been drilled by a wood pecker.    The resulting holes had sap that transferred to my pack, lesson learned.   

Locomotive and Bud
Locomoative_and_Bud Day 3
July 4, 2008 Friday
Left Thoreau Campsite on Eagle Lake to paddle to Pumphandle Campsite on Eagle Lake.    7 miles
We stopped to explore the tram and locomotives I first read about over 30 years ago. We saw our first MOOSE tracks on the trail to the stationary steam engine.    The tracks were fresh. Had they been made the day before, the rain would have damaged them.
Len claimed he could see the camp site from the tram but after much paddling the site was not there.    I guess Len has x-ray vision and the eyes of a hawk because it was on the far side of the overlook.
John Robert and Doug Eber explored a small cove and saw the first MOOSE.
I pointed the door of the tent east to catch the sunrise.    My feet are soggy so I take off the shoes and let them dry.    The overlook trail starts at the back of camp so we head up.    I figured why bother with shoes.    Everyone else had changed into dry boots and now worked to avoid the mud I walked through.    Now they know just how crazy I am.    Actually since there was not multifloral rose, the walk was easier than most in Prettyboy Reservoir and Gunpowder SP.    We walked up the overlook trail for the view, fantastic.    Mt. Katadin was still visible.    This was to be our last view of the mountain that is the northern end of the Appalachian Trail.    Farm Island is in the foreground.    Great pictures in nearly all directions.    Found a new flower, Pale Corydalis, mixed in with the blue berry bushes and reindeer lichens.
After dinner the crew went back to Russell Brook to look for moose.    I went fishing and only caught chubs and a fantastic sunset and moon set.    At least I caught more fish than they saw moose.

Moose and Steve
Cow and calf MOOSE oh, and Steve Day 4
July 5, 2008 Saturday.
Left Pumphandle Campsite on Eagle Lake to paddle to Jaws Campsite on Churchill Lake.
8 miles
While still in Eagle Lake we spotted the first, except for Doug and John Robert, MOOSE which had a calf.    These were about a half mile away and just dots on the shore line.
After paddling into Churchill Lake we got our closest look at MOOSE yet.    As we passed out of the narrows to the lake, two adults and one calf were spotted.    We may have gotten a little close because it was possible to here the cow chewing.    Everyone took many pictures.
On the way to Jaws the Ranger stopped and asked when my license expired and what success I had had.
The scouts catch a big leech.    Matt starts digging for worms and finds a blue spotted salamander.    Matt is digging for worms because at lunch we talked about what the motto be prepared means.    I said it would include eating what you find in a survival situation.    He wanted to know if that included worms.    He finds one and I eat half and hand him the other half.    He can't do it, so he goes hungry.   
As I headed to the outhouse without my camera, Joe was returning from the out house, a MOOSE stopped just 75 feet from Joe.    I stopped and started pointing to Joe and the MOOSE.    Joe did not know what to do so he stared the MOOSE down.    After a few seconds the MOOSE drifted into the woods.    From now on, don't go anywhere without a camera.
I take off to go fishing and as I paddle against the waves and wind a plane lands behind me.    I wasn't sure the plane would stop before chopping me to up with the prop.
I caught a big leech and a few chubs.    I tried using the leech on a spinner but nothing was biting.    As I headed back for dinner I saw a MOOSE in a cove opposite the camp and next to the High Bank Campsite.    There was a sand bar with a few bushes that I felt I could use to block the MOOSE's ability to see me.    I quietly paddled up to the bushes concentrating on the MOOSE.    As the canoe comes to a rest on the sandbar, a second cow MOOSE raised her head from under the water with grasses hanging from her mouth.    Her back was completely underwater and I had not seen her before.    Quickly I push off and put some distance between her and I.    Keeping my distance and in deeper water under me just in case.    I want to be able to get away fast and keep her coming at me faster than I could paddle away.
Early in the morning about 03:00 I hear Len calling Dan, Dan.    Do you hear the wolves and coyotes? What great music to fall asleep to.    And of course the loons add their own music though out the journey.

Allagash Rapids
Allagash_Rapids Day 5
July 6, 2008
Jaws Campsite on Churchill Lake to Jalbert Campsite on Long Lake.
16 miles
MOOSE are seen often on either side of the lakes both morning and evening.    This morning was no different.    While the rest of the crew loaded up, Joe and I start the day by heading towards High Bank Campsite to watch the MOOSE in the same cove that the MOOSE were the evening before.
The lake ends at the Churchill Lake Dam.    We unload the canoes and load up the Ranger's truck.    The gear will be dropped off at the bottom of the Allagash River rapids.    We tour the museum and the dam.    The dam had a fish ladder.    I explained the use of the eddies by the fish as they traveled up the ladder.   
The release was being cut down to 500 cfs from 1000 cfs.
We portage the canoes below the dam and head down the Allagash River for a little white water.    With the level at 500 cuffs the rocks were no problem and easy to paddle.    I was glad it was not the 1000 CFS it was earlier.    That would have washed out the rapids.    For this run Len teamed up with Joe and I took Len's Penobscot down solo.    Thanks Len for the freedom to play.    Another crew provided some entertainment as one canoe failed to keep the big hole up.    The only booty was a throw bag that was returned.    I have enough throw bags anyway plus I had fun trying to sell it back for two dollars.    Too soon the fun was over and we entered the wide bottom land and the river divides creating small islands.    This leads to Umsaskis Lake.    Near Squirrel Mountain, Umsaskis Lake almost imperceptibly changes to Long Lake.    An eagle polite allows us to pass as we paddle by the tree he is in.    As the last canoe passes it heads up stream.
While setting up camp I spotted a yellow and brown Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus (Linnaeus) (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae)) with an ovipositor that was approximately 3 inches long. It spent about 20 minutes exploring a tree stump.   
After camp was set up, I took a short walk into the woods.    It was tough going and found it easier to walk on fallen logs to stay out of the mud.    Rotten logs were often the only choice with the hope that they would not give way under foot.    The more recent fallen logs were often too branched to use.    Other times there was no choice but to get down and dirty in the mud of the forest floor.    The closer to the ground the more covered with moss hiding just how rotten they are.    To add to the fun, visibility was often 50 feet or less.    It seemed that just as it could not get any harder to go further there would be moose tracks that would disappear after a few feet.    What was a moose doing here and how did it get though this tangle of trees?

If only we had not just finished dinner. Bull_Frog and Bud
After dinner as I was about to go head off for some fishing I spotted a bull frog.    I grabbed him as he swam away.    He was missing most of one foot.    I wonder if it was injured or it failed to develop properly.    I found where Grey Brook came in and fought my way past the alder to find an open marsh filled with blue flag and other water loving plants.    There was no way to fish the brook so I headed back.    Fishing yielded only chubs.    The treasure while fishing was a loon that allowed me to get fairly close.    I just wish there was more light for pictures.    Just as I was returning from fishing, the scouts came down to see if they were going to have to send out a search party.

Trust me Bill
Help_me Day 6
July 7, 2008
Jalbert Campsite on Long Lake to Inlet Campsite on Round Pond.
14 miles
We are treated to a lake as smooth as glass again.    There is a light fog rising to a few feet above the water line.
MOOSE are seen often on either side of the lake in morning.    We are so glad to get on the water so early.    We feel sorry for the tardy groups behind us as some of the moose drift into the forest as we pass.    We see our only bull with antlers in velvet.    The antlers were about 6 inches long with the beginnings of the bowl about the size of a hand as I predicted.    It is amazing to think how fast growing and how impressive the antlers will be by fall.   
The lake ends at the Long Lake Dam.    We quickly portage the canoes and fully loaded around the dam and the campers.    There are White Admiral (basilachia athemis) butterflies all over some of the rocks on the back side of the dam.    Once everyone is back in the boats Bill my new partner, guess I wore Joe out, ferry out to the base of the dam to enjoy the rush of water and practice our ferry.    He keeps weakly calling for help.    I tell him I'm there and he only calls for help more, I don't understand.    Poor Bill this is way above what he is used to.   
More MOOSE, cool.
On the advice of the ranger at Round Pond, I paddle back to the head waters of the Round Pond to fish.    He prefers to tell only folks that plan to eat the fish, where to find the brookies.    This is so different from home where we practice catch and release.    We talk about the mercury accumulation in the trout of Savage River back home.    I have to hang tight to leeward bank to avoid being blown across the lake.    I tried tying of to a dead head but they just come along for the ride.    While fishing I saw a beaver and took several pictures including one shot of a tail slap. Saw two eagles, one mature and one immature performing an aerial battle with the immature eagle taking refuge in a tree.    Tried to get pictures but it flew off on my approach.    But behind the alder, wild flowers abound.    The catch of the day was a huge catfish, woohoo! Can you believe it hit a lure, a spinner bait at that.    I had hoped to see moose while fishing but nothing was spotted.
Lunch, 4 pilot biscuits.
Help_me The ranger let us know that the spring is running so Len and Dan grab the beaver staff and the two buckets then head off to fill them with cool spring water.    When they return we take turns filtering the water then make iced tea'.    It sure was nice to slake the thirst with something cool for a change.    I talk about making ice on a trip like this and they think that it would be impossible to have ice here.    I mention evaporative cooling to make ice but keep silent about making ice with a vacuum.    Mean while I manage to find ice nearby.    Well actually the campers next to us offered a bag of ice, they wanted to lighten their load.    You never know what you may find when I'm around.
Matt finds another black pine sawyer beetle (monochamus scutellatus). The beetles have antennae that are about 2 inches long or twice their body length.    I watch as it flies off and is promptly snatched out of the air by a grackle (quiscalis quiscula).    We also find an american toad (bufo americanus) hoping about camp.
I enjoyed a short walk up the hillside behind camp.    Found a new 4 leafed plant with a single stalk with a flower head.    The leaves laid almost flat on the ground and felt smooth and leathery though fragile.    Two of the leaves were smaller and the two adjacent were 4 times larger.    The small leaves were 2-3 inches long and the larger were 6-8 inches long.    Walking through the woods was a little easier than at other areas.    The woods were more open and I was able to move from glade to glade.
After dinner I start banging rocks together.    I've been looking around for material to make tools out off.    The stuff today would be best used by rough shaping and then pecking the finished with grinding.    The spalls come of sharp and jagged but stop abruptly leaving hinges.    Should have brought my antler billets.
The frogs sang us to sleep that night.    And they sang through out the night.    Don't know if I heard them when I woke up to kill the noseeims or their singing woke me up during the night.

Gas powered Lombard
Gas powered_Lombard Day 7
July 8, 2008
Left Inlet Campsite and paddled to Cunliffe Depot Campsite on the Allagash River. 14 miles
The water is smooth as glass again and the tree lined banks are reflected as an almost perfect image.    More MOOSE were spotted as we paddled from camp. They would leave the river as we approached.    The paddling was easy as we traveled with the current.    Several beaver lodges were passed.    As Bill and I paddle we discuss whether the lichen on the trees is killing the tree or taking over a dieing tree.    I need to research this a little.    Is it reindeer moss or something else?
At camp, Len shared the history of the depot and then we walked upstream to look at the two abandoned Lombard log haulers.    One was gas powered and the older was steam powered.    They had skis at the front end and link belts for the drive.    Based on the clutching the gas powered one was skid steer.    The Boiler for the other was a horse shoe tank.    The steam powered one used to have a cabin at the front of the unit to protect the steersman from the hot coals coming from the stack.    The gas powered unit was steered from the rear.   
Tangle of Trees
Tangle of trees After checking out the Lombards, the crew decided to cool off in the river. We practiced swift water walking using paddles, two man and three man techniques.    Also a little rope throwing was done.    Now I need to make a game of this to get the fun level up.
The steep river bank is covered with many wild flowers.    Some seen before but also a few new ones.    Should have brought my field guides along, alas the weight of all the stuff I thought of but did not bring.
I took a walk up the stream and found about a dozen crosscut saws rusting in the stream.    Found trout that had taken up residence in the holes made by fallen trees.    I followed the stream till is divided into many little streams.    On turning around and heading back I found a blazed trail marking two sides of the trees.    The scars were followed until they ended or were no longer found.    Then I spotted a track in the mud.    It seems to be a couple of days old but still clear enough.    Not sure what kind but have a picture.    I suspect a bobcat because the size is about right, has 4 toes and a large pad.    Should have brought some plaster to make a cast.    I spot more new plants, some flowering.    Just prior to returning to camp, a covey of ruffed grouse flushed without my knowledge.    Steve told me about the flush so we listened for a few minutes.    We could hear a grouse calling to reunite with the covey.    I started calling back.    The grouse called back and then flew to a tree nearby.    I dropped to the ground and started to creep through the weeds to get closer all the while calling to the grouse.    I got to within 12 or 15 feet before backing out and letting the grouse return to the covey.
After dinner the killer rabbit hid in it's lair at the edge of camp waiting for an unsuspecting scout to stray too close.
Fly fishing the river using a streamer yielded a couple more chubs but no trout.

Allagash Falls, Yea, don't you see the line to paddle on river left.    Let's do it.
Allagash Falls Day 8
July 9, 2008
Cunliffe Depot Campsite to Allagash Falls Campsite
5 miles
At the top of a tree, an eagle posed spreading it wings for our cameras.    Many pictures were taken by all.
We took the right channel which yielded a more intimate river with beaver lodges on either banks and many critter trails leading to and from the islands.   
In short order we were at the portage around the falls.    We arrived early enough that some of the campers from the night before had not left.    A site was secured after talking with one of these groups.    It just happened to be the first campsite.    Arriving early was for this very reason.    There are only five sites which are highly sought after.    After unloading the gear we move the canoes to the put in and then explore the falls.   
At a height of 40 feet and with this high water flow, the falls are impressive.    I search for a line and find one on the river right side in a narrow separate area and with two significant drops.    This line is more for a creek boat than a canoe.    The Line on the left of the main falls is wicked and may be possible at lower flows.    To the far river left is a possible third line that was not checked out.    The flow there was not nearly as high as with the rest of the falls.    This line can be seen returning to the main flow about 100 feet after the base of the falls.   
We meet a couple that had a canoe quite different that any we had seen on the trip.    It was an 18 foot wood and canvas canoe.    It took them approximately 300 hours to build it.    They had north woods style paddles and a three hand pole for the upstream trips.    Additionally they had two Deluth pack baskets.    Though the boat is wider and longer than the ones we are using, it is a little lighter or the same weight.    Now that is the way to travel.
This last chance for fly fishing yielded a couple more chubs but no more trout.
While fishing, I spot a nice wave with a nice foam pile located mid stream.    I have to try to surf that tomorrow before leaving tomorrow morning.
This was the last night camping by the river.    What music was enjoyed by the rushing water over the falls.

Leaving the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
Leaving Allagash Wilderness Waterway sign
Day 9
July 10, 2008 Thursday
Allagash falls to take out.
13 miles on the river.
The water had risen over the night and we were to enjoy easy paddling.
We loaded all the canoes except one.    John Robert and I took the unloaded canoe out to the wave spotted the evening before.    It was easy to slip in from the eddy to the wave but with an Old Town Discovery 179 it was not easy to stay one.    The bow would bury in the green water and push us off.    Maybe a shorter canoe could stay on.    We quickly loaded the canoe then with Bill in we ferried across the river to wait for everyone else.    By now he was telling me where every rock was.    Many I headed for to get a little push or enjoy the wave.    Poor Bill had to endure other shananagins such as running rapids backwards and well revenge.
Some of the streams we passed were more turbid than the Allagash.    East Twin Brook was adding a substantial amount of muddy water to the flow.
Dan pulls out his water guns and the fun begins.    Water by the bailer full was tossed at each other.    A good soaking was delivered all around.    Poor Bill had to put up with me turning and standing to deliver a good soaking to John Robert.    Dan was sure Bill would soon be swimming with me standing to get my 'revenge'.    Dan was disappointed.
We stopped for a snack and were warned that we almost at the end of the waterway.    Pulling out from the eddy after the snack we crossed the river and almost immediately spotted the dreaded sign.    Everyone stopped for pictures at the sign declaring the end of the waterway.    I grabbed a piece of granite and one of brown sandstone.   
Almost immediately a strange roaring beast was heard then spotted traveling down a gravel path.    Next was a keep out sign and then a cable car across the river.    Evidently we are headed for civilization.    Since we are not going to paddle back up the river we pull over and Dan treats everyone to a milkshake.    Then we paddle another mile to the take out.    We pull the boats out, unload and rinse out the boats.
Finally the transportation arrivesThe definition of Adventure is, a poorly planned or and executed ordinary trip.    Now we have an adventure.    Len looks for his truck and Dan's SUV at the parking area of a local resident.    Not there, phone calls are made to the livery service.    Len reports that the service thought we were not coming off the water for another day and only started to move the vehicles this morning.    An ETA is determined to be 3:00 PM.    Little did anyone know that the truck developed a flat tire when a rock cut through.    Doug borrows my rod and fishes, Matt plays with his CB, others read or napped.    I got bored and started to explore the area.    Found some canada lilies and other new flowers were found and I found some old common mullein.    I drag one back and start to work on fire by friction.    That ended shortly at about 4:00 when Dan's vehicle arrives and picks up Len.    Len and the driver head off to get the truck parked a couple of miles away.
Upon the arrival of both vehicles, the gear is quickly loaded, boats are loaded and we head off to get the flat repaired.    A service station is located and just in time as the mechanic was about to leave.    Len quickly pulled the tire out.    I borrow a jack and jack up the truck.    The attendant gets a breaker bar and socket.    I go to loosen the lugs and discover they are barely tight, maybe only a little more than hand tight.    Shortly the nasty gash in the tire is patched and the tire mounted on the truck.    Luckily the patch seems to hold.
Finally the pizza arrives Off we head to the lodge.    Showers for everyone and shave is had while Len and Dan pick up pizza.
What a horrible night.    Can't get away from the snoring but worst yet was that the loons did not sing us to sleep and the wolves were not heard.

Day 10
July 11, 2008 Friday
Fort Kent to Home
Distance: Too many miles.
We hit the road by 5:30.    We stop to get some breakfast around 8:30.    Everyone enjoys a hardy meal but want to get rolling again.    We stop in Old Town for gas but do not stop at the Old Town Canoe factory.    We slip in a thriller book on tape.    This turns into some wrong turns as we miss a couple of turnoffs.    Lunch was had at Subway as we refill gas tanks and wash the bugs of the windshields.
Drive, drive and drive some more including a detour as they resurface about 10 miles of I-95.    Pizza Hut for dinner as Cracker Barrel was mobbed. Drive, drive and drive some more.
Arrive at the church around 1:30 on July 12, 2008.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway

More photos of the adventure
Campsites Used

You should use your back button to return to the last place visited. If you are unsure how you arrived at this location, flip a coin to see which way gravity is working and head in that direction. Thank you.