If you don’t have time to take a week-long canoe trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, you have other options. A trip from Umsaskis to Michaud Farm will take you through some of the wildest and most scenic section of the waterway. This adventure covers 10 miles of lake and 25 miles of river and can be paddled in four days relatively easily.
Umsaskis Lake is easy to get to by taking the American Realty Road, due west of Ashland, about fifty miles. There is a nice hand-carry canoe launch next to the ranger station and a 10-vehicle parking lot located a short distance from the launch area. This section of the waterway is restricted to canoes and kayaks only.
Outboard motors are allowed, provided that they do not exceed 10 horsepower. If you are traveling from southern Maine, or from out of state, you will probably be tired by the time you get to Umsaskis and not want to paddle very far the first day.
If that is the case, there are several very nice water-access campsites located within a short paddle of the canoe launch.
On day two, you will have to cover about 18 miles. It would be wise to get going early in the morning before the wind comes up on Long Lake. Long Lake is a long, narrow lake with plenty of nice sandy beaches and rolling hills in the background.
There is an abundance of wildlife in this area, and moose sightings are the norm, not the exception. Lynx sightings are not uncommon on this section of the waterway. If you’re lucky, maybe you will get a look at one.
The halfway point on day two is Long Lake Dam. There is a nice campsite on river right, up on the earthen fill of the old dam. This is a great place to stop for a rest and eat lunch. The waterway recommends that you portage around the remnants of the old dam, but, depending on the water level, you may be able to line your canoes down through the drop on river left. Scout this drop before deciding what to do and err on the side of caution!
The river from Long Lake Dam to Round Pond is an outstanding stretch of waterway to paddle. This section of river has what I call “character.” It moves along at a gentle pace but requires constant attention to stay in the channel and away from the rocks. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for wildlife — you will see plenty.
After passing under Henderson Brook Bridge, it is just a short distance to Round Pond. There are several campsites to choose from on Round Pond. The lesser used sites are on the right as you enter the pond. These sites are out of the direct line of travel for canoeists and offer a better opportunity for solitude for those seeking that experience.
Jalbert’s Sporting Camps are located on a prominent point directly across from the inlet at Round Pond. An overnight at the camps may be arranged by calling Norman Marquis at 207-834-5974.
Day three starts with a lively run through Round Pond Rips; these are easy class 1 rapids and quick-water. A two-mile paddle through Musquacook Deadwater will bring you to Five Finger Brook and a group of campsites bearing that name. This is a good place to take a break or have lunch. From here to Michaud Farm, the river widens, and it is a little harder to read. There are several sandbars that you may need to drag your canoe over at low water.
There are several campsites to choose from in the Michaud Farm area. My personal favorite is Cunliffe Depot, located on river right about two miles upstream from the Farm. This site was once a busy logging camp; the two Lombard log haulers located just upstream from the campsite are testament to those bygone days of men working in the woods with crosscut saws and double bit axes.
The last day of the trip begins with a two-mile paddle to Michaud Farm and the end of a short but memorable journey down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Now that you have experienced a short trip on the waterway, I’m sure you will be back for more.
Hopefully, you have made arrangements for your vehicle to be shuttled from Umsaskis to Michaud Farm. Outfitters that provide these services are listed at: www.northmainewoods.org/.
For general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, go to: www.maine.gov/doc/parks/; call 207-941-4014; email email@example.com; or write to the Division of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Division of Parks and Public Lands.
Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.