Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Joined
Dec 1, 2012
Messages
389
Location
Altoona, Pennsylvania
I'm trying to determine where to go this Spring, and I think I'm down to BWCA or the Allagash in Maine (I would plan on doing the full 90+ mile trip). These are two completely different style trips, but I'm assured good water flow in Minnesota. I've never paddled in Maine, but have the AMC paddling guide that I received a couple of years ago. Yesterday, I ordered the Allagash Waterway Maps North/South, the Maine Gazetteer, and two Allagash books by Gilpatrick. While I've looked at the AMC guide many different times, it is hard to use if you've never been to the area and don't have maps. The major issue that has kept me away from Maine paddling over the last couple of years has been the variable flow of the major paddling destinations I've read about. The tricky part seems to be knowing a safe time frame for comitting to the drive North. I could pick at most a two week timeframe and be prepared to head out based on weather conditions.

It seems that ice out would be a good time to hit the Allagash provided there is a good snow pack by Spring thaw. As long as the water is soft, I don't care how cold it is (within reason for a week long trip) or if there's snow on the ground. My concern is that there's enough water so I don't have to wade/drag sections. I would also like to avoid the bulk of the biting black flies.

So for those who live or paddle the region much, I have three questions that maybe some members could provide input on.

1) Is there a week in May or early June that would generally be a "sweet spot" for good water levels and minimum bugs?

2) While the waterway seems pretty straight forward, is there other data beyond the materials I ordered that one might recommend?

3) I would use an outfitter for shuttle service, are there any that members would recommend?

Thanks for any input. I started cooking and dehydrating meals this weekend for a trip I haven't even began really planning yet this year. I have some other options maybe, but I generally don't take Summer trips to avoid lots of people, and waiting until late September/October would be fairly torturous on my soul.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,386
Location
Raymond, ME
There are two reliable outfitters at least. I have used both.. There may be more
Sean Lizotte http://allagashguideservice.com/
Norm L'Italien http://www.mainerec.com/pellcamp.shtml

Gil's books are excellent. While on the river you really don't want to miss the history. De Lorme makes a wonderful map of the Allagash for canoeing. It's cheap($8 and in every Hannaford grocery store around here), but I suspect that you now don't need it.

Currently the snowpack is running around five feet. Ice out normally is not till mid May. In May and June the water levels are excellent with a good snowpack winter. But the river CAN be dangerous if it flows high. Its gone to 20000 cfs and at that level is lethal. Normally above 3000 is too pushy and it is difficult to stop. 1500 cfs is wonderful

Last May with a ick snow year the river still flowed hot and heavy and did not drop below 3000 cfs till late in May. This year the water flow could be higher.

This is historical data from last year; not sure if the link will work for you.
http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/...12-05-01&end_date=2012-06-01&site_no=01011000

The main USGS waterflow site for the Allagash

http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=01011000

I have done summer trips too in July. It used to be crowded back when it was a new park. Visitation is a mere fraction of what it used to be forty years ago.

Do use a shuttle..in the Spring, some of the roads are not yet hardened sufficiently to be graded. However if you want Chamberlain Bridge is on a good road that gets use all winter..It is possible to drive to the put in and have the outfitter shuttle your car. But at that time of the year that thought merits a good conversation with the driver. BTW..you will have to backtrack a little to Telos Dam

The big challenge in June in Maine is not the bugs, but the high winds. Chamberlain is oriented NW SE and the winds just funnel in either of those. Consider it like paddling a Lake Erie.. Allow some extra wind days..and start paddling the lakes at sunup. Getting up at three AM is not a big deal when sunrise is at four. Chamberlain is 17 miles long and two feet wide and very prone to kick up waves way higher than the bow of your boat.

What you have read applies to dragging and hauling sometimes in September and October..though there has been plenty of times the Allagash runs good and hard then too.

Bring a large tarp. All of the tables are set with ridgepoles that are high up to support your tarp, but a nine foot square tarp will give you as much coverage as a hanky as it has to be hung high.
 
Joined
Dec 1, 2012
Messages
389
Location
Altoona, Pennsylvania
Thanks Yellowcanoe.

I appreciate the information and will check in with one of these outfitters when I've determined more. I will read up on some material and set a min-max water level for the trip. I think the USGS link is one of the ones that is linked on the American Whitewater site for Maine Rivers. I have a boat load of experience with paddling OC-1 on whitewater, but I realize that I will be limited to Class II with a wooden prospector and dog aboard. Thanks for including flow information, that is sometimes the hardest information to assimilate. But I wouldn't be going on and Allagash trip for a white water experience anyway, I do that all year round on weekends. I'm looking forward to a camping style trip and checking out the history of my surroundings.

Barry
 
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