Best Wilderness Paddling in Lower 48?

A buddy and I are trying to settle on a destination for a paddling trip (most likely by canoe) late this summer/early fall and are open to suggestions. We’ve been to Yellowstone and last fall did some sea kayaking off the Maine coast.

We’re considering Isle Royale, and I’ve even looked into Bowron Lakes Provincial Park up in B.C. I suppose we should also toss BWCA and Voyageuers into the mix.

Any thoughts or suggestions?



BWCA and Quetico
I suggest the BWCA or the Quetico after Labor Day. Less people, less or no bugs, better choice of campsites, warm weather during the day, cool at night, good fishing. Anywhere in the bwca or quetico is wonderful. Check out for suggested trips and advice on planning your trip.

I don’t know what is best, but
I did a trip over 6 days last summer in Maine and hardly saw a soul. There are a lot of trips to be had there.

Also, I highly recommend the St. Regis Canoe Area in the Adirondacks, upstate New York, but wait until after labor day when the two primary pests (bugs and tourists) are less numerous.

-rs (who refuses to consider himself a tourist)

best trips
If you consider anything in the Great Lakes as part of the lower 48, then I’d recommend Pukaskwa National Park on the north shore of Lake Superior.

Just across the border
is Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Worth looking at. I’m not going to be able to make it back this year, but it’s a magical place.

Wells Grey Provincial Park
is also a good choice if Bowron is crowded.

Green River Utah
in October. Do Ruby Ranch to Spanish Bottom. 1 day hiking/exploring for each day paddling.

S.E. Utah rivers!
Paddle through deep canyons everyday and camp with the spirits of the Anasazi, and hike side canyons looking for ruins and incredible rock art.

Best Wilderness Paddling in Late Summer!
If you are a sea kayaker go to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Great wildlife area and miles of unspoiled beaches. The San Juan Islands are less remote, but also excellent with some historic sites to visit too.

If you desire a canoeing trip do the Upper Missouri or Yellowstone River, or if you prefer lakes do Ross Lake in the North Cascade National Park. The Upper Missouri has lots of historical sites and the White Cliffs, plus tons of wildlife. Ross Lake is magnificent views of rugged peaks and glaciers, and neat side hikes to waterfalls and viewpoints.

Happy Paddling!

What about…

Maine rivers
The Allagash has seen use plummet. Used to be about 50,000 annual camper days just after it was named a Wilderness Waterway in 1966. Hardly a wilderness then.

Now use down to about a tenth of that… Have done it several times and over 92 miles seen an average of six to ten people total.

The St. John is another fantastic river trip over a hundred miles long…since it is seasonal you may see others on the river…but not crowded at all.

The NFCT of course is another wonderful trip. Many people do bits and pieces of it at different times (the Allagash is at the tail of the NFCT)

Allagash flows?
We’re thinking of a September trip, and when I checked with the folks in Maine the other week, they said the Allagash would be pretty bony near the end by then. That true?

Not always
as in all things regarding paddling there are not many absolutes.

A good rainfall can make Sept paddling delightful…have run it at 1600 cfs in Sept. Or it can be what one would consider bony…

There is a party from Germany that always does a September trip on the Allagash every year. They have done it as low as 250. It does not seem to detract from their pleasure.

Also a rainfall makes the river rise quick…it sounds weird, but flow depends little on the daily release from Churchill Dam relative to incoming streams.

Rio Grande
Do some research on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. You might like what you find out.

The Allagash might be a good choice. We did a 5 day trip a few summers ago and didn’t see another human being for 3 of the days.

Did it again the following summer for 3 days and we saw 4 other groups on the river over those 3 days.

I can only echoe
what some of the others here have said about Canyonlands and the Saint John River in Maine.

The Green and Colorado in Canyonlands are exceptionally abundant with natural beauty.

The Saint John will not be runnable in the fall but it is a great place to watch a hundred miles go by.

Hell, on the ride up we counted over 50 moose on the roads between Rockwood and Baker Lake. It is great to hang out in places where the moose outnumber the people 25 to 1. Puts things in a different light.

Yellowstone it is…
While I was hoping to head somewhere new, logistics make Yellowstone Lake the choice this year. We’ll head down into the South Arm for four days in mid-September. Chances are we’ll have that end of the lake to ourselves, and with the rut approaching, should have some interesting background music after dinner.

you could try the smith river which is nearby

in montana.

allagash water levels

– Last Updated: Mar-27-08 3:21 PM EST –

Are best in late May and June(and incidently that's the height of blackfly season---moose and deer known to jump off cliffs--driven mad by the flies.) But is ok later in the season---I've done it as late as October and below Churchill dam, where the river begins(as opposed to the lakes above it) it can still be done, albeit with a little bump or two on the rocks. The saving grace is the dam which is soley for the purpose of regulating the flow for recreational paddlers. Your best bet is to call the Allagash Waterway Authority and ask what the water level is like before you drive to Maine.

Other good trips that time of year are the St. Croix in Washington county(from East Grand/Spednic lakes, down through Vanceboro to Loon Bay---if you do the lake maybe 3-4 day trip(there is more ww than the Allagash but with the exception of Big Falls not terribly difficult and even BF can be run---scout first though.) and possibly the Aroostook River if there has been a wet August---forget the St. John after the 3rd week of June---even in a wet summer it is dry.

Another river that's good late in the year is the West Branch of the Penobscot---but this trip has some heavy duty white water, some of which would have to be portaged if youre in a canoe.