Difficulty: Easy to challenging, depending on what campsites you select. Some campsites require longer paddles than others, and some require portaging (carrying your canoe and gear over land to reach the next body of water).
How to get there: From the traffic light at the center of downtown Greenville, drive north on Lily Bay Road (around the east side of Moosehead Lake) for 19 miles to Kokadjo. Pass Kokadjo Trading Post and Convenience Store, then bear left where the pavement ends. Drive 1.6 miles, then bear right at the sign for Medawisla Lodge. Continue on this road for approximately 6 miles to reach the lodge. Staff at the lodge can direct you to the campsite you reserved, or you can consult the many maps located at the lodge and on the AMC website, outdoors.org. Note that the roads beyond Kokadjo are not paved, and are subject to washouts and potholes. Roads may not be passable by cars with low clearance. Limit your speed to 25 mph, and yield to logging trucks.
Information: Owned and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club, a handful of primitive campsites are located on a chain of ponds along the Roach River east of Moosehead Lake. Each equipped with a fire ring, privy, tent pad and picnic table, these sites are a perfect getaway for campers looking for a secluded, peaceful camping experience.
The campsites are located near Medawisla Lodge, one of AMC’s three wilderness lodges in the region. Each wilderness lodge offers rental cabins, and the guests can enjoy home-cooked meals in a communal dining area. So if you’re looking for a more sheltered and catered camping experience, these lodges might be a good choice for you.
Primitive camping is typically defined as camping without access to running water, electricity or other modern conveniences. The remoteness of these campsites vary, with some accessible by road while others are only accessible by water or trail.
On the ponds near the Roach River, AMC maintains six paddle-to campsites and three drive-in campsites, scattered along the shores of Second Roach Pond, Trout Pond, Third Roach Pond and Fourth Roach Pond. They’re free for people to use at a first come, first served basis.
If paddling to a site, bring your own canoe. While AMC-owned canoes are sometimes located on canoe racks by the water, they aren’t technically loaner canoes and may be locked up.
To date, AMC has purchased and permanently conserved about 70,000 acres of forest land in the 100-Mile Wilderness region, on which they’ve built more than 120 miles of trails and opened three wilderness lodges: Medawisla, Little Lyford and Gorman Chairback.
In addition to maintaining campsites near Roach River, AMC maintains campsites farther south, closer to Little Lyford and Gorman Chairback lodges. The rules for staying at these campsites are entirely different. They are by reservation only, and staying at them is $12 per person, per night.
To reserve one of these campsites, call the Katahdin Ironworks Checkpoint office at 207-965-8135. Payment for the site will be made at whatever gate you pass through when driving to the site: Katahdin Ironworks Gate or Hedgehog Gate. Also, you’ll need to pay an additional fee to pass through the gate — $10 for Maine residents and $15 for nonresidents. Cash or check.
For more information about AMC trails, lodging and campsites, visit outdoors.org or call the Greenville AMC office at 207-695-3085.
Personal note: I think we were on Plan D (or maybe a bit farther down the alphabet) when we discovered AMC’s remote campsites on Labor Day weekend. Originally, my husband Derek and I had planned to canoe to one of the state-owned campsites located on a few different islands in Moosehead Lake. That was Plan A. But when we arrived at the shore of Maine’s largest body of water, we were greeted with white caps.
“No way we’re paddling in that,” Derek said.
He was right. Tipping our canoe while carrying our dog, Oreo, and all our camping gear would be a disaster. So we consulted our Delorme atlas and changed course. Navigating the vast network of logging roads east of Moosehead, we visited several packed campsites before we found the seclusion we were looking for on AMC land.
After parking at the trailhead, we lugged out camping gear down the wide 0.1-mile, Roach River Headwaters Trail to Trout Pond in Shawtown Township. Along the way, I stopped to photograph a number of bright orange, spotted mushrooms. But I was careful not to touch them, as they’re quite poisonous.
The campsite on Trout Pond, marked with a yellow sign, was just a short canoe trip — 5 minutes, perhaps — from the boat launch. After a frustrating day, we found the ideal spot to relax. That night we cooked hot dogs over a campfire (we purchased wood in Greenville on the way), and we played UNO on the picnic table by the light of a lantern. Oreo, wrapped in a fleece blanket, presided over the game.
The next morning, Oreo wiggled out of my sleeping bag to pace around the tent. Unzipping the front flap, I followed him outside to watch the sunrise over the trees and a loon swim through the fog. Later that morning, we went for a paddle all the way around Trout Pond, which is entirely undeveloped. We then packed up and hit the road to hike up a nearby mountain — a tale for another day.
Related: 1-minute hike: Ice Pond Preserve in Hancock