AUGUSTA, Maine — Park rangers on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway are reporting deteriorating ice and snow conditions on the Allagash headwater lakes and on nearby trails.
Allagash wilderness rangers have stopped traveling on the ice because of the unsafe conditions after warming weather, and they are advising fishermen to stay home until open water fishing starts on April 1, according to AWW Superintendent Matt LaRoche.
“Last week, we had a fish house partially break through the ice on Round Pond because of the poor conditions, which are really dangerous,” LaRoche said. “The owner of the fish house was able to retrieve the building before it sank with the help of the Maine Warden Service and some fishermen who were staying at the winter campground at Chamberlain Bridge.
“We want everyone to be careful,” he stressed.
LaRoche said that the warm temperatures last week melted most of the snowpack, causing the lakes to rise and the ice to break away from lake shores.
“We have had to open our dams at Telos and Churchill because of the heavy spring runoff,” he said. “This is something we do not like to do until after the close of ice fishing season. The increased current from the dams being opened erodes the ice in the thoroughfares and in other areas. People need to stay away from any place where there is moving water.”
LaRoche said the lake elevation came up 3 feet last week on Eagle and Churchill lakes.
“The rangers were running around most of last week adjusting gates at Telos and Churchill dams to keep up with the rising water,” the superintendent said. “We usually do not see this type of runoff until late April.”
Approximately 10 inches of ice remain on most of the lakes, but there is basically no snow on trails used to reach the lakes and there are strips of open water to cross to get onto the ice pack, LaRoche said.
“We really don’t want people up here riding around on snowmobiles with these types of ice and snow conditions,” LaRoche said. “An Allagash ice fishing trip could turn into a tragedy in a matter of seconds — we don’t want that to happen.”
For specific advice on ice conditions and areas to avoid, visitors should check with the AWW ranger at Chamberlain Bridge or call the dispatch center in Ashland 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 435-7963, ext. 1.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a 92-mile-long ribbon of lakes, ponds, streams and river that winds through the heart of northern Maine’s vast commercial forest. The waterway became the first state-administered river to be designated by the United States Department of Interior as a component of the federal Wild and Scenic River Program.
For information about the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, visit www.parksandlands.com.