Paddle Maine’s Moose Loop & Bow Trip

Moose Loop / Bow Trip Locations
DeLorme: Map 39, B4 / B2
GPS: 45.588436, -70.260067 / 45.594141, -70.427169

Heading out from Attean Pond Landing.
Heading out from Attean Pond Landing.

An adventure for all ages

The Moose Loop / Bow Trip adventure was my first real canoe trip experience. We were planning to paddle the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in August and I wanted to get some experience paddling before taking on the AWW challenge so we headed out to Jackman to paddle the Moose River Loop / Bow Trip.

This is the view our first night where we camped on Holeb Pond.
This is the view our first night where we camped on Holeb Pond.

Choose your route

I call the trip the Moose River Loop / Bow Trip for two reasons. Most of the locals in the area call it the “Bow Trip” which involves starting at the landing on Holeb Pond and paddling to the landing at Attean Pond. You need to have someone bring your vehicle from one location to the other, or use two vehicles. Registered Maine Guides usually transport vehicles from one spot to the next for a fee. The “Moose River Loop” or just “Moose Loop” makes a complete circuit, from Attean Pond landing back to Attean Pond landing, no vehicle transportation needed! The loop is incredibly fun but brings some challenges.

The first portage is the longest when paddling the Moose Loop.
The first portage is the longest when paddling the Moose Loop.
Henry copied the figure on the sign.
Henry copied the figure on the sign.

 

Improve your portaging skills

The Moose River Loop involves paddling across Attean Pond to the first portage that will take you to Holeb Pond. The portage is relatively challe1.25-mile5 mile hike through the woods over stumps, rocks and up hills. You won’t be able to use a kayak cart on this trail- believe me, we watched a few folks try it! After the portage, you’ll paddle Holeb Pond for a while until you reach your campsite or decide to head on towards Moose River. We decided to stay the night on Holeb and get a fresh start the next morning. From Holeb the fun begins as you pass under a bridge and head towards the Moose River.

This is how far the first portage is between Attean Pond and Holeb Pond.
This is how far the first portage is between Attean Pond and Holeb Pond.
Henry portages the wannigan ahead of me.
Henry portages the wannigan ahead of me.
The picnic area at the end of the first Moose Loop portage at Holeb Pond.
The picnic area at the end of the first Moose Loop portage at Holeb Pond.
Dinner on the shore of Holeb Pond the first night was fantastic!
Dinner on the shore of Holeb Pond the first night was fantastic!
They day ended with a fantastic sunset.
The day ended with a fantastic sunset.

Paddle the Moose River

Winding through remote wilderness is the Moose River, appropriately named. Small sandbars can be found along the riverbanks with huge moose tracks on them. We were lucky to see one moose eating at the edge of the river on our second day of the trip.

The river has everything from simple rips to Class I-II rapids, most of which run for short stretches of the river.
There are many fantastic campsites along the river. Each one has a fire ring and picnic table for adventurers to use. There are several other portages, although none are as brutal as the portage between Attean and Holeb ponds.

Henry gets in a good stretch as we leave Holeb Pond and head for the Moose River!
Henry gets in a good stretch as we leave Holeb Pond and head for the Moose River!
You'll pass under some train tracks near the beginning of the river.
You’ll pass under some train tracks near the beginning of the river.
There is plenty of quickwater but some areas can be completely flat-calm.
There is plenty of quickwater but some areas can be completely flat-calm.
Some rapids on the Moose River.
Some rapids on the Moose River.
Henry assesses some rapids on the river.
Henry assesses some rapids on the river.

Pay attention near No. 5 Bog

The Moose River passes by No. 5 Bog, one of the biggest peat bogs in Maine and a National Natural Landmark. As you paddle past the section of river that borders the bog you stand a pretty good chance to encounter a moose.  We did!

Moose tracks are easy to find on the sandbars along the shore. Size 7 patriotic water shoe for scale.
Moose tracks are easy to find on the sandbars along the shore. Size 7 patriotic water shoe for scale.

Heading back to Attean Pond

The last leg of the journey is relatively easy as you hit a few small portages and then follow the river to Attean Pond. Make sure you have your compass because the islands on Attean blend in really well with one another and make it challenging to tell the difference between the shore and a group of islands.

Early morning fog rising up from the river as we paddle on our last day.
Early morning fog rising up from the river as we paddle on our last day.
The Moose River was incredible as we paddled towards Attean Pond.
The Moose River was incredible as we paddled towards Attean Pond.
Each curve in the river offers a completely new view, like this one of distant mountains.
Each curve in the river offers a completely new view, like this one of distant mountains.
Attean Pond was just as beautiful as the river on our final day of adventure!
Attean Pond was just as beautiful as the river on our final day of adventure!

Moose River Loop & Bow Trip Adventure Series

Angela and Henry paddled the Moose River Loop/Bow Trip in July 2016.  Angela documented their entire adventure and wrote about it.  Their trip was full of challenges and adventure, from paddling in high waves to no campsite availability, and even a canoe crash in rapids.  The crash broke their thwart, but not their spirits.  All was well worth the challenge, including a moose sighting and incredible natural beauty you won’t find anywhere else.  Their trip started and ended at Attean Pond Landing.

Check out the Moose River Loop & Bow Trip adventure series:
Canoeing the Moose River Loop | Bow Trip: Day 1
Canoeing the Moose River Loop | Bow Trip: Day 2
Canoeing the Moose River Loop | Bow Trip: Day 3, Part One
Canoeing the Moose River Loop | Bow Trip: Day 3, Part Two
Canoeing the Moose River Loop | Bow Trip: Day 4

This article was featured in the Summer 2018 issue of UNTAMED Maine Magazine! 

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Angela Quintal-Snowman
Stay Untamed

Angela Quintal-Snowman

Adventurer at Untamed Mainer
Angela enjoys exploring the many beautiful and unique natural places in Maine and sharing her outdoor experiences with others.When not out exploring Maine woods, trails, mountains and waterways Angela can be found plotting and planning her next adventure or buying another backpack.(Because you can never have too many).
Angela Quintal-Snowman
Stay Untamed

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