The year at the Allagash Wilderness Waterway started out with the winter campground at Chamberlain Bridge full with almost all 48 available sites sold for the entire ice fishing season. Poor ice conditions and lack of snow limited use for the first couple weeks of the season. Those who did venture out were rewarded with excellent catches of native brook trout, togue and whitefish.
As the winter progressed, the book trout fishing slowed, but the togue and whitefish hit well the entire season.
During the winter, Allagash rangers prefabricated four outhouses in the shop at Chamberlain and delivered them by snowmobile as close as possible to the actual campsites where they were needed. They also took advantage of the relatively easy winter access to deliver propane, firewood, and gasoline to our remote ranger camps.
Spring came early to the Allagash, with unusually warm weather during the last two weeks of March. The ice was out on all the waterway headwater lakes by April 17; this was about two weeks earlier than normal.
The spring fishing was nothing short of fabulous for the first three weeks of May on all the lakes and ponds in the waterway, with many brookies being caught in the 18- to-20-inch range.
We eventually filled all of our seasonal and part-time positions and had a full staff by the middle of June. Seasonal staff are the backbone of the waterway operation. They are the primary reason why campsites and facilities are so well taken care of.
The canoe groups started coming in full force during July and August, with youth camps being the largest visitor group by far.
One of the most exciting projects of my tenure on the AWW became a reality in August with the restoration of a 25-foot section of the tramway. This project was almost totally accomplished by volunteers and funded by donations.
Many thanks to volunteers Gary and Melford Pelletier, who headed up the restoration of the Taylor camp, for what they accomplished. Waterway staff took over the effort this season. We spent several days hauling old metal junk from the site, as well as burning wooden debris. Windows and door have been installed on the camp, making it weather-tight for the winter.
The last two weeks of September ushered in some great fall fishing for brook trout. One fat, healthy brookie caught on Long Lake was reported at 24 inches long. Another group that fishes Eagle Lake every fall caught in excess of 100 brook trout, with several in the 18-inch range.
Also in September, Chris Silsbee, ranger at Chamberlain Bridge, attended the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., representing the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. He made many contacts with people who were interested in visiting the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. More than 1.5 million people attended the popular exposition.
We finished the gate replacement at Telos Dam in October. This was a five-year project that could not have been accomplished without the generous support of Cianbro Corp. and their employees.
Each year over the past five years, a gate was removed using a Cianbro crane and equipment. The gate was duplicated and the lifting mechanism refurbished at one of our park shops over the winter. The following year, the new gate was installed and one of the old gates was removed and duplicated. We now have all four gates replaced in the 30-year-old timber crib dam.
Waterway staff replaced 30 feet of outlet culvert at Lock Dam this fall. The old culvert had developed leaks and was eroding the soil on the downstream side of the dam. This project could not have been accomplished without the in-house assistance of the Off Road Vehicle and Public Lands programs of the Division of Parks and Public Lands.
The waterway cost shared the rebuilding of the Bissonette Bridge Road with LandVest, a Maine timberland management company. This road is an authorized access point to the waterway and used almost daily by staff during the summer for portaging gear around Chase Rapids.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail and AWW partnered up to build 1,024 feet of bog bridge on the Indian Stream trail. This trail formerly was a muddy mess and now is a walk in the park; it provides foot access to the south end of Eagle Lake.
Some other noteworthy projects that were accomplished include upgrades to the electrical and plumbing systems at Chamberlain Bridge; rip-rap/stone steps built at the Bissonette Bridge landing; a water flow gauge installed at Allagash Stream; and several miles of boundary line reblazed and painted.
In addition to these projects, the 15-year management plan for the AWW has been moving forward. During the past year, Division of Parks and Public Lands staff have met with stakeholders and held public meetings on the plan. The plan has been revised several times in an effort to meet the concerns raised at these meetings. Hopefully, by the time this column is published, the new plan that will guide management of the waterway over the next 15 years will have been approved by the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
For information on the AWW, go to: maine.gov/doc/parks/ or call 207-941-4014, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Bureau of Parks & Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401
Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.