June 24, 2018
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Allagash Lake and Stream trip a gem

By Matthew LaRoche Superintendent, Special to the BDN

There is a little known three-to-five day canoe trip within the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) that includes some of the most remote and pristine sections of the famous waterway. This trip starts at Allagash Lake and ends at the thoroughfare between Chamberlain and Telos lakes.

Allagash Lake, arguably the jewel of the headwater lakes in the AWW, can be accessed at the northeast corner of the lake via Johnson Pond and Stream or Upper Allagash Stream, currently very difficult due to a beaver dam flooding the road. The southeast corner of the lake can be accessed via the 1- mile, well-maintained carry trail. A bicycle-wheel canoe carrier can make this carry much easier. See page 55 of the “Maine Atlas & Gazetteer” published by DeLorme for details.

You will experience the unforgettable quiet and solitude of a large lake that is restricted to no motorized equipment of any kind and canoes only without outboard motors. It may take a day or two, but you soon will feel the stress of this fast-paced modern world we live in being replaced by the peace and tranquility of the natural world.

While at Allagash Lake, you should visit the Ice Caves directly behind the campsite bearing that name. These caves are a unique natural area and extensive. If you like exploring caves, I recommend that you bring a buddy, flashlight, rope, and a hard hat.

If you have time, the view from the abandoned fire tower atop Allagash Mountain is well worth the 1.5-mile trek up the maintained hiking trail.

You will leave the placid waters of Allagash Lake at the northeast corner of the lake at the remains of an old log driving dam. A lively 3-mile canoe ride down the stream will bring you to Little Round Pond, one of my favorite spots on the waterway. I highly endorse spending the night at this location in the heart of the most remote section of the waterway. Enjoy the sound of Little Allagash Falls, the moose feeding across from the campsite, and the fish rising on the pond.

The scenic 12-foot drop at Little Allagash Falls is a must portage on river left starting at the campsite. Another mile or so brings you to an optional portage around some ledge drops just above and at the bridge over the stream.

Canoeing on a narrow, winding, fast-moving stream is exciting in that you just don’t know what obstacle you are going to encounter around the next bend. Sweeper or strainers are a hazard you need to watch out for; they can be especially dangerous on a small stream when there is no where to go around them. My brother, Mark, and I were canoeing Munsungan Stream a few years ago when we came around a bend and saw a large yellow birch tree leaning across the stream. I told Mark that I thought we could go under the tree on river right.

“We should carry around it,” he warned.

“I think we can go under it,” I replied. “Duck!”

The next thing I knew Mark grabbed a branch on the tree and we were over in a split second. I lost my well-stocked fishing vest and broke my fly rod as a result of that little incident.

Lesson learned. If you can’t agree with your partner, back paddle or stop until you both agree on the course of action.

After a couple miles of slower moving water, you will pass the remnants of the old railroad trestle that was once part of the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad. You have now entered Chamberlain Lake.

A visit to the Tramway Historic District at the northeast corner of Chamberlain Lake is a must for those interested in the rich logging history of the Maine Northwoods. The tramway was built in 1903 to transport logs, and the railroad was built in 1926 to transport pulp wood to the Penobscot watershed. These engineering marvels will be the subject of future articles about the Allagash in the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.”

It is a 16-mile paddle down Chamberlain Lake to the Ranger Station at Chamberlain Bridge. The beauty of paddling south on Chamberlain — instead of paddling north as do most canoeists who are paddling the traditional Allagash River trip — is that the prevailing northwest wind will be at your back.

An optional overnight stay at Nugent’s Camps, halfway down Chamberlain Lake, is a nice finishing touch to a canoe trip you will remember for a lifetime. For information on Nugent’s Camps see their website at, www.nugentscamps.com or call them at 944-5991.

Your vehicle shuttle is much easier on an Allagash Stream trip than on the traditional Allagash River trip. If you are accessing the AWW from the south or east you will be passing by Chamberlain Bridge on your way to Allagash Lake. Therefore, with a little planning, a self-vehicle shuttle is possible without much extra effort. If you don’t have time to shuttle your own vehicle, www.northmainewoods.org has a list of outfitters that will transport you back to your vehicle for a reasonable fee.

The down side of an Allagash Stream trip is that water flows are not as consistent as on the Allagash River trip. There is no dam at Allagash Lake to maintain the flow in the stream. I have heard it said that the water in Allagash Stream is always too high or too low. Interested parties should call the AWW dispatch center at 207-435-7963 for current conditions on Allagash Stream.

You will find an ample supply of clean, well-maintained campsites along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Please help our staff keep them clean by: carrying out all trash, extinguishing your campfire, and adhering to all AWW rules and regulations.

For more information on the AWW, go to: www.maine.gov/doc/parks/ or call 207-941-4014, email heidi.j.johnson@main.gov or write to the Bureau of Parks & Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401

Waterway notes: AWW rules were amended on April 28, 2010. The rule change defines a kayak and allows kayaks to be used on the waterway anywhere that canoes are allowed. Kayaks will be allowed as long as the width does not exceed 25 percent of the length. A new hand-carry canoe launch has been constructed at Henderson Brook Bridge. Waterway rangers benefited from a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grant for technology in the AWW. GPS units, digital cameras, and two satellite phones will be purchased.

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