I’m considering doing a father/son trip on the Allagash putting in at Churchill Dam/Chase Rapids and taking out at Allagash Village. The sons range from 9-12 and they range (as do the dads) in experience from novice to intermediate. Do you think the Rapids would be too dangerous in May for this crowd? We might have the ranger take us around the rapids. Also, can anyone recommend a good transportation company to drop us off and/or pick us up. We may also need to rent some gear. Thanks!!
"The sons range from 9-12 and they range (as do the dads) in experience from novice to intermediate. Do you think the Rapids would be too dangerous in May for this crowd?"
short answer is yes, I’d say so. Novice to intermediate - flatwater? whitewater? makes a difference, as does when in May. The water flow through Chase Rapids is controlled by the ranger - every morning, he’ll open up the floodgate at the dam to ensure enough water for the run through the rapids. Chase Rapid is about 9 miles long, and that means there is a lot of opportunity to screw up. Probably, the better paddlers in your group would do ok if teamed up(assuming some of thier experiience is on moving water and rapids and they know how to read the water), especially since the ranger can truck your gear down to the bottom of chase for you for a fee. At lower water levels, say in mid-june, it would be an easier run, but still a lot of rock dodging.
How 'bout St. John?
For a couple of reasons, I suggest you think about the St. John instead of the Alligash. In fairness, I have not been on the Alligash, so I don’t know what you will be missing, but the St. John is only reliable for a few weeks in May, whereas you can go on the Alligash any time. The St. John is a neighboring watershed to the Alligash, so the geography and climate should be similar.
For your group, the advantage of the St. John is that you have several days on the river before you get to “real” rapids, and you can use those days to improve everybody’s skills on moving water. You pass through many class I rapids the first few days, and we dedicated some time each day to practicing eddy turns and ferries. I paddled there in 2002 with a novice, 11-year old, bow paddler, and by the time we got to Big Black Rapid, a Class II-III, we were able to run it cleanly.
I was pleased with shuttle service provided by Maine Canoe Adventures in St. Francis. We drove to the put in, and the outfitter used the key I had mailed him to move the truck while we were out on the River, and it was waiting at St. Francis when we got there. But have your vehicle waiting at Alligash Village instead of St. Francis, because the last five or ten miles to St. Francis is flat, wide, and you will be ready to take out by the time you pass Alligash.
Here is a link to a TR for our 2002 trip, and you can find contact info for the outfitter at the bottom, item 5 under “worked well.” I’m sure they will also service the Alligash, if that is where you end up paddling?
One final, sad, comment. I had planned to be on the Alligash right freaking NOW! But, my mis-manager refused my request for leave on the grounds that she thought this is a critical time period and we would be way to busy for me to take off. Yawn. She was wrong, as I knew she would be. So here I sit, browsing p-net right in the middle of this critical period. Reduced to being able to take a couple days off, which will be spent in the Adirondacks. Never been there. I’m sure it will be nice, but it is hardly the Alligash! Thanks for listening. I feel better after that bit of whine!!
~~Sad Man, Chip Walsh
Here is a discussion you might find of interest on the Tripping forum at NPMP
I would highly suggest some other river to begin on. Even though the rapids are not extremely difficult, the temperature of the water will make it a dangerous situation. I would also say NO to the St. John!!! The rapids on this river are even more difficult and it is more remote than the Allagash.
Might I suggest postponing your trip until the water temp. comes up a little?
There is also another trip you might start on… The West Branch of the Penobscot, Starting below Roll Dam or @ Lobster Lake.
The lakes in northern Maiine ie: Chesuncook, Chamberlain, Eagle, etc… are VERY large and you must use caution when making crossings. If you want to call me to talk about Maine trips and outfitters, feel free
207-563-6425…ask for BB