Archives for posts with tag: Allagash canoe trips

Here is my latest blog entry for Old Town Canoe.  Visit Canoe the Wild for our 2019 summer canoe trip schedule

December 20, 2018
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THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CANOE CAMPING

As I am writing this blog entry, the power went out due to a wind storm so I grabbed a book, a lantern and landed on the couch and was half way through a good read when the power snapped back on. It was while the power was out, I realized just how dependent I have become on electronic devices and the internet. Having put in over 80 tech free days this past season on rivers and in the woods. I was reminded why people are looking for these same meaningful experiences. Experiences that are back to the basics, free of distractions and include meaningful time with friends and family and when I say friends, I mean friends in person, not the electronic kind of friend via social media. Most people are looking for an authentic wilderness experience that is not over the top when it comes to being physically demanding and canoe camping can be a great fit. Over the past few summers, I have seen a good increase in those taking part in canoe camping trips, many for the first time! I often have young families that take part in our 3 or 4 day canoe trips on the St. Croix River and Allagash as part of their overall summer vacation while in the northeast. The feedback I receive overwhelmingly is the kids enjoyed the canoe camping part of their vacation the most and the reason being, they were engaged every step of the way, engaged with family members and friends, engaged hands on with paddling, setting up camp, building a fire, swimming, catching a frog, fishing for the first time and the list goes on. It’s like people are rediscovering the outdoors again after a decade or two of too much screen time. What makes canoe camping so appealing, is anyone can do it. While there are some physically demanding canoe trips that require a high level of skill, there are many canoe trips well suited for the novice and first timer. You don’t need to be an athlete in order to take part. I had a grandmother from Texas in her 70s in the bow of my canoe during my last Allagash canoe trip, it was her first canoe trip and she loved it! When planning for a canoe camping trip, here are a few things that you’ll want to consider.

KNOW THYSELF: WHAT IS YOUR CANOE SKILL LEVEL AND ADVENTURE?

When taking part in a guided canoe trip, the guide takes care of all the logistics which usually includes all necessary camping gear, canoes, meals, transportation to and from the river and knowledge of the canoe route and how much time to build in to the daily schedule to get to the next campsite with extra time built in if necessary. First timers are put at ease knowing all the details are taken careful and critical decision making is handled by the guides. But not all can afford a guided canoe trip and others prefer to go on their own. Having good camping and canoeing skills, knowledge of your intended trip, and good judgement are important.

When planning your own canoe camping trip, the internet has a wealth of information to help you with the planning and trip preparation process. Things to consider include your group/families’ skill level and physical abilities? Level of difficulty of the desired trip. Is it a flat-water trip on lakes or an easy flowing river? A trip with some whitewater canoeing with lively water and perhaps a few class II rapids or a solid class II-III whitewater canoeing adventure with lots of lively rapids that require solid paddling skills in moving water?

How many days are needed including travel to and from the canoe/camping trip? How much and what types of gear will I need? How to keep gear and clothing dry and secure within the canoes? What are the best times to go, spring, summer or fall? How to plan and pack for the right season? I have awakened to snow on the ground and ice in the water pail while guiding Allagash canoe trips in late May and paddled in Snow Squalls in early June on the St. John River.

CANOE CAMPING TRIPS

When planning your trip, you’ll want to know what is available for campsites? Are picnic tables and a fire pit provided? Are campfires allowed and is a fire permit required or will you need to bring a cooking stove? Are advanced reservations necessary? Is there a fee charged for camping and accessing the river or is it on a first come first serve basis? Are outhouses available or is it just pristine camping where you’ll have to dig a cat hole?

Getting There

Can you drive to the launch location or will you need to hire a transport or shuttle service to bring you in? When taking your own vehicle, do you have the right vehicle for the type of road system to get to and from? For example, Maine’s Allagash River trip can involve driving over 100 miles on dirt roads and 10 ply rated tires with 2 good spares and tools to change are recommended. Travel over freshly grated roads and your chances of a flat tire just increased. Many hire a transport service to take them into their launch location, while others pay to have their vehicle moved to trip’s end.  More remote canoe trips may involve flying into the head waters with a float plane which can add significant cost to the trip.  We do trips in northern Quebec that require taking along extra cans of fuel so we can make it back out at trip’s end.

Here is a list of popular river trips of varying degrees of difficulty and duration.

  • The Buffalo National River, Arkansas
  • Green River, Utah
  • Northern Forest Canoe Trail in New England
  • The Everglades National Park
  • Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine

Let’s take a closer look.

Floating the Buffalo National River, Arkansas

The Buffalo River flows freely for 151 miles offering floats of varying degrees of difficulty and varies from month to month depending upon rainfall. March through June is the typical time for floating the upper Buffalo River.  One of the most popular sections of river is a day float from Steel Creek to Kyles Landing, a distance of 8 miles and can be done in 4-5 hours. This float meanders through the heart of the Ponca Wilderness past towering bluffs, side canyons, and remnants of early settlers. Popular one night and two day trips begin in Woolum and end in Gilbert, 29 miles downstream, two night and three day trips from Grinder’s Ferry to Dillard’s Ferry , 25.7 miles. Campgrounds are available Near Steel Creek and Lyles Landing.   More information here: https://www.nps.gov/buff/index.htm

 

The Green River, Utah

The Green River offers a great back country flat water canoeing adventure, with great scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. It is a fantastic trip for families with younger children and no rapids to worry about.  Less busy than the Colorado, with numerous put in and takeout locations, the trip can be 3 days up to two weeks.

With two main sections; Labyrinth Canyon, the upper section is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Stillwater Canyon is the lower section in Canyonlands National Park.

Labyrinth Canyon is more popular with groups desiring shorter trips and those on a tighter budget. You can launch at Green River State Park and spot a shuttle car at Ruby Ranch or Mineral Bottom for the take-out. The BLM permit is free, but Green River and Ruby Ranch charge nominal fees to use their boat ramps.

Stillwater Canyon is more remote with the only take-out option of hiring a jet boat shuttle from the Confluence to bring you back upstream to Moab on the Colorado River. The NPS also charges permit fees of $30/permit + $30/person. This section is most popular with experienced canoers and those who want to see Canyonlands from the river. A permit is required for all overnight flat-water trips in Canyonlands. More information here: https://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/flatwater.htm

 

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail 

For the canoe camper looking for an extended canoe trip experience, the NFCT is a 740-mile canoeing trail in the northeastern United States and Canada. The trip begins at Old Forge in the Adirondacks of New York and ends in Fort Kent, northern Maine. The trail also passes through the states and provinces of VermontQuebec, and New Hampshire.

Liken to the Appalachian Trail, both are long-distance trails that people will use for day trips or short overnight trips. Many of those who paddle the entire trail will do so in sections. Many sections of the trail are physically demanding with lengthy portages and require a high level of skill to complete.

The trail follows traditional travel routes used by Native American, settlers and guides. It is the longest inland water trail in the nation. It consists of the following:

23 rivers and streams

59 lakes and ponds

45 communities

65 portages (70-plus miles)

For more information about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, visit:  https://www.northernforestcanoetrail.org/

 

Everglades National Park, Florida

The Everglades National Park offers many paddling opportunities to explore the natural beauty of this park through freshwater marsh, mangrove forests, and the open waters of Florida Bay!

Canoe and kayak trips range from a few hours to several days depending on length and complexity of the trail. You can bring your own canoe or kayak and launch from several locations around the park or rentals are available at the Flamingo Marina or Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Alternatively, you could hire a permitted guide who will outfit your trip and lead your adventure.

For multi-day trips in Florida Bay and the 10,000 Islands or along the 99 mile wilderness waterway require careful planning, but are well worth the experience. Day Canoe & Kayak Trips include Flamingo’s Canoe TrailsThese trails (located 38 miles south of the main park entrance in homestead) range from beginner to advanced and can be accessed from launch areas in the Flamingo Marina or along the main park road as you approach Flamingo. Nine Mile Pond: This is a favorite canoe/kayak location easily accessible off the main park road just before you enter the Flamingo district of the park. Hell’s Bay – This is a favorite of those wanting to paddle through the mangroves – a bit buggy during the summer season – otherwise a challenging trail but quite popular. Also accessible off the main park road south of the Homestead Entrance. Gulf Coast Paddling Guide – This area of the park is on Florida’s west coast, accessible through Everglades City.

Best Times to Camp in the Everglades National Park

Winter is the best season to go. Summers are hot, muggy, and mosquitoes are plentiful.

Feeding wildlife anywhere in the park is prohibited. Use caution around campsites where alligators or other wildlife may have been fed or gained access to human food. If wildlife associate humans with food, they may exhibit more assertive behaviors.

For more information and to plan your Everglades canoe or Kayak trip: https://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/canoe-and-kayak-trails.htm

 

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway

The upper most section of the Northern Forest Canoe Trip, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a state park and Maine’s only designated wild and Scenic River.  The Allagash is Maine’s best-known canoe trip and has attracted paddler’s for more than a century. Henry David Thoreau ventured into this region more than 150 years ago by traveling into the Allagash via the Mud Pond Carry from the West Penobscot watershed. Allagash canoe trips are popular with families, scouts, teens, summer camps, as well as adult and youth groups. With its easy flowing river sections and its moderate whitewater on Chase Stream Rapids. It’s one of the few eastern rivers that can be paddled for a week or longer without coming into contact with modern civilization.

Wildlife Viewing opportunities, if you’re hoping to encounter wildlife, the Allagash is where you want to be. It has consistently been Maine’s best canoe trip for spotting wildlife, including moose and eagles. With numerous put in and take out locations, outings can be planned from four to ten days or longer.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is not a place for the inexperienced person. Lack of experience and poor judgment can lead to considerable discomfort and being submerged in cold water especially early and late in the season can be fatal in a matter of minutes. There are numerous Maine guides and outfitters (Canoe the Wild) that can make your experience safe and memorable. More information here about the Allagash Wilderness Waterway: https://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/water_activities/aww-river-conditions.shtml

CANOE CAMPING GEAR YOU’LL WANT TO PACK

It is important to know what types of camping gear and clothing you will need for your desired trip and dates. While an early or late trip on the Northern Forest Canoe Trial may involve freezing temperatures, during the summer months temperatures may reach into the upper 90s.  What makes canoe camping so attractive is the room you’ll have for gear and food. When guiding canoe trips on the Allagash and St. Croix river, I bring two large coolers along, the size that fits long ways between the gunnels. One cooler is for frozen foods including breakfast, lunch and dinner meats and fish while the other cooler contains mostly fresh produce and dairy. The larger the group, the more canoes that you can spread around community gear to. It is important to bring your gear in waterproof bags, barrels or trip boxes and properly securing them in your canoe in the event of an upset. Soft packs of various sizes are a great choice as they waterproof your gear and are easy to stow. You’ll want a detailed camping checklist of personal clothing including base and insulating layers of wool and synthetics for warmth, and outer layers for shielding yourself from the sun, wind and rain. Foot ware should provide protection for your feet, have good tread to avoid slipping and falling on rocks. Other items needed include Nestling pots, cooking and eating utensils, camp stove with extra fuel, free standing compact sleeping tents, a group tarp with nylon cords, and a well-stocked first aid kit are necessary items on your trip.  A type III life jacket is recommended and Old Town canoe offers numerous style type III life jackets .

Here is a sample list I provide my canoe guests when packing for a typical week-long canoe trip. Personal gear lists will vary based on seasons, location, type of trip (flat or whitewater) and duration.

Canoe Trip Personal Gear List (7 days, Spring, summer and fall)

  • Dry Bag for your personal clothing and sleeping bag (115 liter)
  • Dry Bag to use as a day bag (20 or 30 liter)
  • Sleeping Pad (closed cell or self-inflating)
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Sleeping Bag (20 degree F.  bag or warmer, compact and packable)
  • Quality rain coat & rain pants
  • 2 Warm synthetic or wool tops for cool weather.
  • Long underwear (top & bottom lightweight, synthetic or polypropylene are best)
  • Knit or felt hat in case of cold or rainy weather
  • Heavy duty Crocks for around the campsite
  • Hiking boots for around the campsite and short hikes (This pair you will never want to wear on the river so as to prevent having both pairs of shoes getting wet!)
  • 1 pair of river shoes for canoeing and wading WITH GOOD TRACTION AND PROPER FITTING (Old sneakers with smart wool socks or similar)
  • 2 quick drying pants (synthetic is best, no jeans as they don’t dry well when wet)
  • 3-4 pair wool socks (synthetic or wool is best…smart wool)
  • 2 pair cotton socks
  • 3-4 pair underwear (at least 2 are synthetic)
  • 4 undershirts (at least two are synthetic)
  • 1 quick drying long sleeve shirt light in color (bugs and sun). Avoid navy blue, brown and black colors…these colors attract bugs. Note: bugs should not be bad during July and August unless it has been rainy followed by warm weather.
  • 1 compact towel
  • 1 pair shorts
  • Swim suit
  • Hat with visor (sun)
  • Sunblock
  • 1 bandanna
  • Small flashlight or headlamp (extra batteries)
  • Personal toiletries: toothpaste & brush, deodorant.
  • Several gallon size ziploc bags to organize stuff in
  • Pocket knife or one that you wear in a sheath on your belt
  • 2-Wide mouth personal water bottles (quart size or similar, stainless steel, plastic or Lexan…no glass)

OPTIONAL GEAR LIST

  • ( ) Fishing gear ( ) camera ( ) lip balm ( ) lotion ( ) Medications ( ) spare eye glasses ( ) bug net ( ) Paddling gloves ( ) extra set of base layer with heavy wool socks and knit hat for sleeping in

Sample Master Gear Check List

  • Canoes
  • Paddles
  • Rescue Throw Bag
  • Z Drag kit (all trips beyond fat water trips)
  • Kitchen Box (with separate list)
  • Food Boxes or barrels
  • Tents
  • Tarp
  • Folding Chairs
  • Dish Wash Kit
  • Fry Pan
  • Drinking water
  • Roll up table
  • Grate
  • Grill
  • Axe
  • Saw
  • Camp Shovel
  • Toilet Paper
  • Life-jackets
  • Tool Repair kit and spare parts
  • Bailers
  • Lashing Straps/cords
  • Water Filtration & Spare filter
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sleeping Pads
  • Large River Bags
  • Day Bag
  • Paperwork (Maps & permits)
  • Camera in hard case
  • Cooler
  • Frozen water jugs or block ice
  • In Reach Sat. Communicator
  • Meals (separate list)

Note: Bringing fresh foods in a cooler allows you to eat quite well. Our Canoe the Wild trip meals include fresh fruits, vegetables, slaw mixes, fish and meats. For trips with lengthy portages, lighten the load by leaving the bulky hard sided cooler at home and plan a menu with more dried and dehydrated foods. Another option is to bring a soft pack cooler with shoulder carrying straps for the portage trail. Freeze all steaks, fish, meats for sauces, breakfast and sandwich meats and you’ll eat quite well. Depending on the time of year and temperatures, don’t plan on more than 2 or 3 days with the soft pack as your ice will melt much quicker than a hard-sided cooler.

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Day canoe trip on the St. Croix River with East Grand school students. Check out our 2019 schedule for St. Croix, Allagash and Bonaventure River canoe trips!  Trips are fully outfitted and guided.

Six day Allagash Canoe Trip from Churchill Lake to Allagash Village, 62 miles. Great trip for spotting wildlife, fishing and just getting away from it all! No previous canoeing or camping experience is necessary. Seasoned Registered Maine Guides take care of all the logistics, meals, and provide instruction as needed.  All gear is provided, all you will need is a sleeping bag and a few changes of clothing. Contact Canoe the Wild to plan your 2017 Allagash canoe trip from four days.

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Canoeing the Wild with Friends
by Tony Mason.

As we stood on the rocks at the side of the Cascapedia in Quebec, we viewed two sharp drops in the rapids. Our guide, Dave Conley pointed them out.
“You can avoid them by staying to the left. If you get into that top one broadside you may never get out!”
“You mean we could die?” I said.
Everyone laughed, somewhat nervously.
After paddling down the river for two days we had heard the load sound of the upcoming rapids so Dave had recommended that we walk down to the bend in the river to scout the obstacles. Our group consisted of four friends from Amherst College classes of 1964 and 1965, plus the son and son in law of Bob Krughoff, and Michael, a friend of Dave’s who was a teacher at Lawrence School attended by both my children years back, and Vance who was Dave’s assistant. Bob had proposed the trip after receiving strong urging from his children. When he arrived he was disappointed that Dave had planned starting further down the Bonaventure River instead of starting at the top of the gorge.
“The river is as high as I have seen it” Dave warned when we first arrived at our campsite on the coast of the Gaspe. “ I have gone down this river 14 times and I know the risks.”
He then repeated about six times that the river was near record high due to recent rains.
Bob had not arrived at that point because he had to wait for his luggage which had not made the transfer at the airport. The rest of us readily agreed with Dave who projected a sense of competence and wisdom. We then learned after starting to paddle that Bob had mastered only the J-stroke. This was not particularly helpful when trying to “eddy out” on the riverbank. Consequently in the early going Bob’s boat would come in without turning, ramming another canoe or the shore. Luckily he had his son-in-law Denjar in the bow who quickly learned how to control the canoe so their performance improved.
However, when we reached the class 3 rapids with the heavy drops Bob nervously tried practicing other techniques. After scouting the river we walked back to our canoes and began descending the river one at a time. Dave started first, as usual standing in the canoe controlling the direction with a pole. He made it look easy. This somewhat lifted the confidence for the rest of us. Next went Vance, a recent college grad on the way to Ohio State in chemical engineering, who Dave had hired to help with the trip. Vance extremely skilled in the canoe, assisted with every aspect of the trip. Those of us remaining watched from up the river as he rounded the bend, passed the high waves without difficulty. Next came Larry Dewitt using his strong strokes and darting technique characteristic of his winning style on the soccer field at Amherst. He also was successful. Then it was Bob and Denjar. We watched as they disappeared around the bend but then there was a long delay before Dave gave the signal for the next canoe, We learned that Denjar made a heroic effort while Bob was doing some variation of his J- stroke as they hit a rock, spun around backwards and then tipped over. Alex Krughoff, Bob’s son, was in the bow as he and I guided the “Nimrod” safely down the passage. Alex had coined the name for our canoe. Both of us weighed over 200 lbs causing less freeboard and the momentum of an aircraft carrier. Michael, who had brought is own canoe and plenty of experience looked like a pro as he threaded his way. Then Chuck using his calm deli berate technique passed through the waves with a resolute expression on his face.
After that excitement we pulled over to the side of the river to have lunch. Dave and Vance set up the usual table covered with assortments of cold cuts, peanut butter, lettuce, tomatoes, and a choice of bread or a pita wrap, as well as watermelon, grapes and cookies.. As always we ate well. Dave had supplied two coolers and several sealed barrels which each produced magical items such as fresh wild salmon, choice steaks, and pork loin which he would cook on a large iron frying pan over the fire. With each day we would all marvel about all the meticulous preparations for the trip.
One night sitting around the campfire Dave remarked how the woods gave him a spiritual sense. He respected the wild life and enjoyed taking photographs with his fine camera with a telescopic lens. Larry had a similar camera at home which lead to long discussions between them about the pros and cons of camera equipment.
Michael and I never won a cribbage game. Having played with my parents, Dave had given me a refresher on the rules and then soundly defeated me in a game. Then a round of team contests ensued. Michael and I first lost to the Krughoffs¸ then to Dave and Vance who again proved his competence in all things. He also knew many obscure facts about canoeing and chemicals. By the end of the trip when ever some question arose we would say “ask Vance”.
After Bob and Denjar had flipped their canoe the rest of us felt quite smug, until the next day when Alex and I hit some large standing waves. With the first one we took on water, with the second more water leaving only a few inches of freeboard. Then we began to tip. We both yelled simultaneously “The Nimrod is going down!”. We were able to get near the shore before submerging, but since the current was strong I was starting to float downstream. Suddenly Vance’s canoe appeared along side us for the rescue.
On the lower part of the river we saw two eagles-one sitting just above the large nest high in the tree. We did not see a moose but one night I pitched my tent just a few feet from some old moose tracks in the sand. I was awakened during the night by a loud “crack” sound. I peeked out of the tent, could it be a moose? Then it happened a few times more. I surmised it must have been fish jumping but next morning Dave told me it was a beaver telling us to keep our distance. The next day we paddled down to our final take out point near the mouth of the river. During the trip we had shared the woods with the wildlife as well as sharing many stories with each other. For more information about river trips in Maine and Canada with Dave Conley visit Canoe the Wild.com

Trip Highlights from 2015. River trips including the Allagash canoe trip, St. Croix River, Cascapedia, NE Mistassibi river trip, Liard River Trip, Yukon Canada and Penobscot Rivers. also a few pictures from a moose photography outing and moose hunting wall tent base camps in the North Maine Woods. My 2016 schedule Maine canoe trips includes 3 day, 4 day and longer trips on Maine  and Canadian rivers. Most canoe trips are for the beginner, and no extreme workouts or conditioning required before you trip. An active life style including walking and stretching for a few weeks prior to the trip is helpful. Canoe trips are fully outfitted and guided. More information is available at Canoe the Wild.com

Allagash canoe trips are for all ages and for those with little or no experience. This trip was six days and five nights from just below Chase Stream Rips to Allagash Village. Swim, fish, view moose,eagles and loons, learn to handle a canoe, meet and make new friends and eat great meals cooked over the open fire. Discover why Maine is a top summer vacation destination and why the Allagash wilderness Waterway is the most famous river for canoe trips east of the Mississippi. Contact Maine Guide Dave Conley to discuss your next adventure and summer vacation plans during the 2016 summer season.

Coast Guard Buddies from the graduating Academy class of 1976 came to Maine for a long Memorial Day weekend Allagash Canoe trip with Canoe the Wild. Assisting was Josh of the East Grand High School Outdoor education program and Malcolm of Ashland.