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
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