Photograph by Carl D. Walsh, Aurora Photos

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The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a 92-mile (148-kilometer) stretch of lakes, ponds, and the Allagash River flowing north through the northern Maine wilderness.

Photograph by Carl D. Walsh, Aurora Photos

AdventureBest American Adventures

Explore Maine's Wilderness by Canoe

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway offers over 90 miles of lakes, ponds, and broad river winding through scenic forests.

Maine’s North Woods are so far removed from the rest of the bustling Northeast, they’ve changed little since the 19th century. That’s why canoeing the Allagash River, a state-protected wilderness waterway, is a little like time travel. Over 92 river miles (148 kilometers), canoeists notice few signs of civilization, save for a few dusty bridges, a historic lumber camp, and the occasional distant rumble of a logging truck.

Though paddlers frequent the river between May and October, spring is arguably the best time to go: the crowds are few and the spring meltwater makes a longer trip possible. Enlist the help of Allagash Canoe Trips, a guide service established in 1953 and run by three consecutive generations of Cochranes. The consummate trip will take at least nine days, following the narrow, trout-packed Allagash Stream; serene, motorless Allagash Lake; and finally the storied river itself. Along the way, canoeists run Class I and II rapids, see a 45-foot (14-meter) cascading waterfall, and hike up nearby mountains to spot views of Mount Katahdin. But it’s arguably the moments when you’re least busy—gliding silently through the glassy water, observing a moose or an eagle standing sentinel over a nest—that you fall into a peaceful trance impossible anywhere else but this still-wild land.

Need to Know: Allagash Canoe Trips, a guide service, runs small, private trips. A nine-day, 100-mile (161-kilometer) trip along the Allagash Stream, Allagash Lake, and Allagash River costs about $1,225.