Beginner Canoe Camping Trip in Maine

I am a beginner canoe camper and looking to go on a trip for a few days/nights this summer with my wife. We were thinking about tackling the Allagash but after doing some research I think we’d be better off with a trip closer to home (we’re in southern maine), less expensive and more forgiving of beginner errors. We have all the gear we need, where might we go?

Consider the
Bow Loop on the Moose River. There is a thread on this forum now.


what canoe do you have?, tent/bags or

– Last Updated: May-08-14 11:18 AM EST –

(check out NMW website for campsite/fees)..looking for lodging? Nice ponds(small/med size) w/lodge(cabin) often work out for starters to canoe/trips, but if you're used to moving water(kayakers?) and learn your strokes..the Seboomook section of W.Br. of the Penobscot oR some portion of the Allagash route to the north, but the previous choice of the Moose R. Bow Loop is a good one.

Donnell Pond

– Last Updated: May-08-14 11:02 PM EST –

Camping at Donnell Pond is free and there are some attractive sites. Reviews indicated that it can be rowdy on weekends. I was there midweek in April and it was very enjoyable. You can combine Donnell Pond with a stop at Acadia, which is only 30 minutes away.

Look at the western Maine lakes, such as Richardson. There are launches at the north and south ends of Richardson. There are some beautiful campsites on Richardson. There is a nice site on an island at the north end, only about a half a mile from the launch. From there you can explore the north end of the lake and some lovely beaches on the west side.

The western lakes are very large and wind is usually a factor. Choose your dates carefully and launch at sunrise to catch the first peaceful hours. The wind often rises by 10 a.m. Early morning and evening are the best times to paddle, with a long siesta in camp at midday. In other words, establish a base camp and make day trips from there according to the conditions. For beginners that might be safer than paddling 15 miles up a lake and becoming wind bound and unable to return. You don't have to paddle the entire length of a lake---canoe camping is as much about the camping as it is about the paddling.

lobster lake/stream
is the ultimate weeny trip in my book- but a pretty place worth going to. I’m assuming you need North Maine Woods permits but since your in-state I believe the cost is less for you. Baxter has a number of campsites on GrandLake Matagamon. The boyscouts used to use those sites a lot but since Baxter designated them as no longer group suitable the sites are more vacant. I like Grand Lake Sebois for putting around. None of those suggestions are Southern Maine but are nice places to spend a weekend- make sure you remember fire permits as well

Thanks for the info. Moose River Loop sounds just about perfect, the only thing that makes me nervous are the portages, I just had ACL reconstruction in March and probably shouldn’t carry canoes through the woods as early as this summer. The Saco is nearby but that just seems like fake canoe camping for USM frats…

allagash lakes
if you are worried about the river, you don’t necessarily have to do the river - you can stay on the chain of lakes, doing a loop back to your starting point, or one way to the dam

it is also possible to have the ranger portage you around chase rapids, and do the rest of the river if that is the part that concerns you

you do still have to pay the daily fees though, in either case

We did
a couple of nights on the sacco years ago, midweek we had it to ourselves, weekends can get crowded

If you really want to impress the wife

– Last Updated: May-09-14 8:28 PM EST –

take her "camping" and paddling at one of these places:

If I go back to Maine with the wife I'm going to spoil her.

Can’t beat the Saco
for a beginner trip—no signficant rapids and miles of sand beaches to camp on—only problem is the crowds on nice summer weekends

Ditto tdaniel’s…& I’ll add a few more

– Last Updated: May-10-14 3:07 PM EST –

You're selling your state short on woods(for touring)/waters(for paddling). There's a lot of woods and water between the Saco, Western Lakes and Allagash Trip area... Water up here is cold and clean in comparison to the southern part of the state. Most will have something on the web.
Nugent's Camps(on Chamberlain L., along Allagash Waterway).
Chesuncook LakeHouse(Chesuncook = big lake but paddling its leeward edge is nice).(NNE of Moosehead)
Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps.(NE corner of BSP)
Nahmakanta Lake Camps(small lake).(SW of Millinocket)
Little Lyford (Pond)Camp.(NE of Moosehead)
West Branch Pond Camps.(NE of Moosehead)
First Roach Pond @South Inlet campground....
(*camping gear).(NE of Moosehead)
Spencer Pond Camps.(just north of Moosehead)
Chewonki's Big Eddy Campground(*camping gear: along Big Eddy in W.Br,Penobscot)
(W of Millinocket)
Seboomook L.(western end + anywhere closeby)
(Pittston Farm lodge)

*Take a look at the DeLorme State Atlas & Gazetteer for any other places...has a good campground section.

2nd on the Allagash Lakes
We did them one year when the river was low.

Put in and take out at Churchill Dam. There are a lot of great campsite.

The place in that area that’s fun is PI/TO @ Umbazooksus Stream and paddle up into Black Pond, Stay on Gero Island on Chesunook Lake

For gear get some of Gil Gilpatrick’s books Allagash & The Outdoor Leaders Handbook


Cliff Jacobson is another author that has numerous books on Canoeing and camping

I recommed that you take it slow
at first and do something that involves little or no portaging and maybe spend a couple of nights in each site. Don’t bite off too much at first. Make your first trip fun, not stressful. The Allagash lakes are wonderful but they can be stressful in bad weather.

3rd or 4th Machias Lakes
I have been to both 3rd and 4th Machias Lakes up in Washington County a few times and have never been disappointed.

A few reasons I like them are the wind won’t effect your trip too much like a trip to the bigger lakes, the camping is free, the fishing on 3rd is pretty good for bass, and they had nice campsites and little activity, great lakes to begin canoe camping.

Here’s some pictures from 3rd Machias Lk

Here’s some from 4th Machias

Flagstaff Lake is another option,(free camping) but you run the risk of being windbound or just dealing with the winds

How come no wind up there?
Those two lakes look ideal for wind.

Smaller lakes and plenty of opportunitys
to avoid the winds that the larger lakes in the area are known for.

I paddled 3rd Machias Lake in a wind that would have kept me off the bigger lakes in the Grand Lake Stream area. lots of points and coves to use to keep out of the wind from the put in to some great campsites.

One of my favorite trips
The West Branch of the Penobscot. Put in at Lobster and paddle to Lobster…spend a couple of days hiking and paddling ( its a reasonably large lake) and then go back to the Lobster Put in but continue on down the West Branch of the Penobscot to Chesuncook Village where there is now a take out.

There is one set of fun rips ( for beginners too!) at Big Island.

This is good four or five day trip with no portages. You can cheat on the Bow trip by putting in ( using a good high clearance vehicle) at Holeb and taking out at Attean Pond using a second vehicle. That negates the big portage. You still have a couple of short ones …around Holeb and Attean Falls.

I agree -

– Last Updated: May-16-14 8:43 PM EST –

I call it the Lobster trip. Lovely trip with no carries. Although the times I have done it I have spent a night on Chesuncook and taken out down at the far end of the lake at the boat launch by the Chesuncook Inn I think its called? Is that the name. Chesuncook can get hairy and you can find yourself windbound. But this is a really nice relaxing trip. Lobster can be busy with fisherman with power boats in the spring. The other nice thing about the trip is that the shuttle is short. the trip makes a big U shape and you drive across the top of the U.