June 19, 2018
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Finding that Allagash state of mind

Courtesy of Lani Cochrane
Courtesy of Lani Cochrane
The upper end of Umsaskis Lake on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a good spot to see all kinds of wildlife, including Canada lynx like this one.
By Matthew LaRoche, Special to the BDN

An Allagash Wilderness Waterway canoe expedition truly is a trip back in time. The waterway is much the same today as it was when Henry David Thoreau visited the area 150 years ago. The Allagash headwater lakes are lined with huge white pine and spruce that dominate the shorelines, and the river is subject to the never-ending sound of moving water as it rushes toward the sea. These are just some of the sights and sounds of nature you will experience on an AWW canoe trip.

Bird and animal sightings are a common occurrence as you paddle the waterway. Bald eagles have made a comeback on the waterway in recent years and often are seen swooping down to pluck an unsuspecting fish from its waters.

One of my favorite places to view wildlife is on the upper end of Umsaskis Lake, where the river enters the lake. In the evening, this marshy area comes alive with animals that live near the water: muskrat, mink, otter and the animal everyone wants to see, the majestic moose. If you’re lucky, you might encounter the endangered Canada lynx that have been observed along this section.

As you paddle the AWW, you will notice a peaceful feeling starts to take hold of you on about the second day of your trip. I believe this feeling is the result of being free from the pull of modern day communications technology. There is no cellphone coverage or Internet access in the waterway. In fact, only a couple of English radio stations come in if you use a small portable radio.

I recommend you leave all your electronic gadgets at home or in your vehicle while you are on your canoe trip. Take a break from Facebook and Twitter for a few days, it will do your mind and soul some good.

By day three of an Allagash Wilderness Waterway canoe trip, the rhythm of paddling subconsciously will have taken over your thoughts. When on the river, the constant reading of the watercourse becomes your primary focus. Where is the best channel? Should I go around that boulder on the left or right? Questions like these become the priority decisions of the moment.

If you like to fish, July and August are not the best months to catch native brook trout on the Allagash. But they still can be caught at the mouths of the cold water tributaries and spring holes. A few fresh, pan-size brookies will greatly add to the enjoyment of the trip. Remember to purchase your fishing license before entering the waterway and check the law book as the fishing regulations change on different sections of the waterway. You can purchase your fishing license and view the rules at www.maine.gov/ifw .

It is difficult to describe the tranquil feeling that will come over you as you lie in your tent after a day of paddling. You can listen to the lonely cry of the loon as you coast off to sleep on the shores of one of the waterway lakes or ponds.

The stories that comes from waterway trips are ones that will be repeated again and again. How could you resist sharing the one about the moose that walked through your campsite or how dad fell out of the canoe?

To help you plan your trip, visit www.maine.gov/allagashwildernesswaterway to view the new information and education video on the AWW. A Google Earth that provides a picture and description of every campsite on the waterway link is also available.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

For an information packet or general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, go to: www.maine.gov/allagashwildernesswaterway or call 941-4014; email heidi.j.johnson@maine.gov or write to the Bureau of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.

Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

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