Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) 2: Day One

Day One on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)

Allagash River CFS:  811 and dropping
Time:  9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Hours:  9
Miles:  15

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Driving to the put in location on Allagash Stream.

{It seemed like a good idea at the time.}

We originally planned to start our journey with the 2-mile portage on the Carry Trail from the parking area to Allagash Lake. The night before we began to rethink our plan of starting off a major paddling adventure with a 2-mile portage.  Bob recommended that we start on Allagash Stream above the lake. The put-in was right next to the road, so we made the change.

Our start time was later than we had planned as we were at the mercy of the group.  Bob was taking two other people to the same put-in location on Allagash Stream and we had to wait for everyone to get ready to head out.  We were excited to start our adventure and eager to get going!

The drive in was interesting.  There were lots of places the road was flooded, and no one trimmed back the bushes.  Needless to say, the truck was pretty clean from being washed by wet leaves by the time we got there!

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Henry loads up the canoe to begin our Allagash adventure!
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Fellow adventurers out for a day paddle to Allagash Lake.

{Dragging the Allagash Wilderness Waterway}

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
This became a common sight on the Allagash Stream.

Despite the fact that it was raining the water level continued to drop.  When we reached the put in on Allagash Stream we could see it was quite bony. Allagash was reporting 811cfs when we started the day.  For the Allagash, that’s low but still doable.

It didn’t take us long to figure out that this plan wasn’t much better than our original plan. It was great that we didn’t have to carry all of our gear a mile, twice-over.  Instead, we got to walk in the stream and drag the canoe along beside us. Hopefully, you detected a hint of minty-fresh sarcasm there. Either way you sliced it, we were off on our adventure, and happy to be away from our busy, hectic daily lives. Our biggest worry out here was just staying alive.  Piece of cake.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
It gets VERY bony in some places on the Allagash Stream!

{And then the water got deeper.}

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Flatwater on the Allagash Stream.

Finally, we reached a point where the water began to get deeper in the stream.  Consistently, that is.  That usually means one thing- you’re getting close to a larger body of water.  The rain was starting to let up, too.  I started to get more excited for two reasons.  One, we could put a lot more miles under us if we could paddle instead of drag, and two, we were getting closer to the ice caves!

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Allagash Stream leading into the west side of Allagash Pond.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Henry checks the compass and I’m happy to be in deep water! The mouth of Allagash Stream is behind us.

{Ice Caves on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway}


Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
The Ice Cave campsite on Allagash Lake.

We were relieved when we reached Allagash Lake around 11:20.  We had been paddle-dragging Allagash Stream for almost two hours.  Our first stop was the Ice Cave campsite where we would check out the ice caves of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.  The campsite is only a ten-minute paddle from the mouth of the stream.  It’s a nice site, right next to the water.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
The trail to the ice caves.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
The trail gets narrower on the way to the ice caves.

The ice caves are really cool (haha!).  We got the lowdown before the trip that there are actually two ice caves at the campsite, and many people miss the real ice caves. We found them for sure!  It was nice to have cool cave air blowing on us after all of that paddle-draggin down Allagash Stream!

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
This is what you look like after paddle-dragging for 2 hours. The first ice cave is behind us!
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Henry stands in the second ice cave. No, we didn’t go inside, but we debated it! That’s an adventure for another time!
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Here I am holding up a rock in the entrance to the second ice cave.

{And then the sun came.}

By the time we made it back to the canoe from the ice caves the skies had cleared and it was beautiful out.  It was just past noon and time for lunch, so we ate at the Ice Cave campsite.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Henry taking a lunch break at the Ice Cave campsite after visiting the ice caves.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Blue skies ahead!

{Paddling on.}

We left the Ice Cave campsite and started across Allagash Lake.  About halfway across the lake, we heard a plane coming.  Bob had told us he was flying out that day and said he might pass over us.  Sure enough, it was him!  We gave him a wave and paddled on.  The wind was starting to pick up some and it took us about an hour to cross the lake from the Ice Cave campsite to the outlet of Allagash Stream.

{Little Allagash Falls.}

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Little Allagash Falls.

On the other side of Allagash Lake is Little Allagash Falls, the baby sister to the upcoming 40-foot Allagash Falls. There is a nice campsite there and a short portage.  The second half of Allagash Stream wasn’t much better than the first.  More paddle-dragging but not nearly as bad as the first half of Allagash Stream.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
The Little Allagash Falls campsite.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
It’s an easy portage around Little Allagash Falls.

After the portage, we were on our way to a little more canoe-dragging before the river began to open up.  Finally, it came: that moment when around the next corner we could see the vast expanse of water ahead called Chamberlain Lake. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. No more canoe dragging today, and now we were close to where we had planned to set up camp. I hoped no one else had first! If they had, that meant we would have to paddle on until we could find a vacant site.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) Chamberlain Lake
The mouth of Allagash Stream opening up into Chamberlain Lake.

{It’s quite a sight to come into Chamberlain Lake from Allagash Stream.}

One of the first things you will see is what is left of a train trestle that crossed the lake. It was used by the two steam locomotives that are abandoned not far away in the Northern Maine Woods. We passed through the old logs that are still firmly planted in the mud below and made it to the campsite we had planned to stay at:  Crows Nest.  It wasn’t taken!  We were relieved because we were tired and didn’t want to paddle further to a different campsite that was farther away from where we were headed tomorrow.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Part of the abandoned locomotive bridge that crossed over Chamberlain Lake.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
The other side of the locomotive bridge that passes through Chamberlain Lake.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
We made it to Crow’s Nest campsite!
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
A view of the boards in place to keep you out of the swampy water with Henry unpacking on the shore of Chamberlain Lake.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
This is looking towards the campsite area from where I was standing when I took the above photo. Up where the fire pit and table setup are it is high and dry.

The walk from the shore of Chamberlain to the tent site was swampy. It probably wouldn’t have been my first choice had I known, although it was the closest campsite to the portage we were heading to first thing the next morning.  One thing that definitely made up for it was looking at the sunset over the lake with Mt. Katahdin in the distant background from shore.

Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Looking to the northwest from shore where we just paddled from (towards the abandoned locomotive trestle).

We set up camp and got dinner cooking.  We had rice, chicken teriyaki and green beans for dinner.  It was awesome.  The campsite worked out well and was very dry.  We started talking about tomorrow’s adventure and our plans.  We were behind based on our float plan.  Day one of paddling we had planned to reach Pump Handle Campsite, but we hadn’t planned on paddle-dragging the canoe for so long or starting so late. We were confident we would make up the distance and were excited to visit the abandoned locomotives at the portage first thing tomorrow morning.


Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW)
Looking southeast from shore, with Mt. Katahdin (I call it “The Big K”) off in the distance.


Angela Quintal-Snowman
Stay Untamed

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