Thoreau’s North Woods

Photo: Martin Brown

Photo: Martin Brown

Thoreau’s North Woods

New England scribe and avant-garde environmentalist Henry David Thoreau paddled Maine’s Allagash River in 1853 and 1857 with Penobscot Indian guides Joe Aitteon and Joe Polis. Back then, the free-flowing river was the haunt of moose, black bears and virgin 15-story pine, but also faced the looming threat of logging and development. Thoreau’s clarion call for the river’s protection came in The North Woods, a book of essays published posthumously in 1864. Thoreau’s poetic description of the river and passionate stance on wilderness preservation was a big reason the Allagash became America’s first Wild and Scenic river more than a century later in 1970.

Redux Route: From Chamberlain Lake to the confluence with the St. John River, the Allagash flows nearly 100 miles through lakes, ponds, runnable Class I to III whitewater, falls and short portages, making this the quintessential seven- to 10-day Maine canoe trip. Starting near the river’s headwaters on Allagash Lake—Maine’s only waterway that is free of motorized boats and vehicles—only increases the wilderness experience. (Info and guided trips: allagashcanoetrips.com) —CM

Redux Routes   The Voyageur’s Highway

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  • Chris Gill

    One major issue here, Thoreau never paddled the Allagash, he made it as far as Pillsbury Island on Eagle Lake and then headed back south down the Penobscot to Bangor.

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