Canoeing Maine’s Wild Allagash River

It would be hard to call the Allagash River a Maine “secret.” Henry David Thoreau canoed the river and immortalized it in The Maine Woods more than 150 years ago, and it’s been protected as a National Wild and Scenic River for almost half a century. But the river’s remote path through Maine’s North Woods means that many people never get to see the waterway for themselves.


In the summer of 2014, L.L.Bean employee Scott E. – manager of the Outdoor Discovery Schools at our West Lebanon, NH, store – got the opportunity to tour the river with Gil Kirkpatrick, a guide who’s run the Allagash more than 100 times. Over the course of a week, they traveled the 92-mile waterway, taking in some of the last undeveloped – and most striking – landscapes in the state.


Scott has shared some journal entries and photos from his trip so others can experience this remote piece of virtually untouched wilderness:


The Allagash Wilderness is a magical place, a canoe tripping paradise that should be on any nature lover’s bucket list. To travel the river alone is one thing, but the honor of going with the 80-year-old master of the Allagash, Gil Kirkpatrick, raises the experience to a sublime level.

Sunset over Maine's Allagash River.

The encroaching push of civilization makes it more difficult to find an honest adventure. The Allagash still exists today as it did 40 years ago. Gil even remembers specific trees that have stood the test of time and hardship.


Gil Kirkpatrick, relaxing in his L.L.Bean Boots.

Gil Kirkpatrick, relaxing in his L.L.Bean Boots.

One thing that makes the Allagash so special is that it is wild yet maintained with the canoe camper in mind. Rangers upkeep comfortable campsites with picnic tables, grassy areas, flat tent sites, ridge poles for a tarp, fire pits and privies. The rest of the waterway has remained untouched – no houses, cabins or camps to be found on a seven-day trip. Cedars, loons, bald eagles and the dependable old moose are the tenders of this land.

Paddling the Allagash River.

When you unplug from technology on the Allagash and instead burden your body with the traditional exercise of paddling, camping and cooking on a fire, your soul begins to align with the land. You rise with the sun and the sparrows’ songs and retire with the buzz of the mosquitoes, when the last piece of firewood has been burned.


Scott and Gil weren’t the only ones on this trip – they were accompanied by four others, including a cameraman who captured the journey on film for New Hampshire Public Television. The episode of “Windows into the Wild,” documenting their incredible experience, can be watched in full on NHPTV’s Web site.

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