Multi-day Canoeing in Maine/Canada

A group of my buddies were looking for a new river stretch to run in the Maine area. We ran the East Branch of the Penobscot a couple years ago. We ran in at the peak of summer - water was high. We wrecked a few times, lost some gear, but had a blast. We’re looking for something just as challenging this year as we’re a bit more prepared. We liked the Penobscot but want to try something new. We have about a 5 day time constraint and were thinking the Mathias River sometime in late May. (3rd lake to Mathias). Wondering if anyone had any suggestions to prepare for this stretch or possibly a better stretch to run?


You can do the Allagash in five days.YOu can hire a shutle service to bring your car to the end of the trip. You can also skip th elakes at the begining but many consider that cheating.

I’m not to knowledgable about the Machias but shuttles might be an issue.

Machias* sorry, calling it the wrong thing in original post.

Thanks for the info. We thought about Allagash, but a few guys in our group have done it before so we were trying something else.


– Last Updated: Jan-29-13 3:57 PM EST –

Machias has a reputation as a challenging river. It does have a day or two of lakes at the start, which of course can be skipped. I was going to do it late last May. The water level was marginal. We started but I bailed out after two days when my bowman got sick, and that was before the most challenging sections.

Plan on running your own shuttle. There is only one outfitter that shuttles on that river and their prices are, IMO, exorbitant.

The St. John can be fun but you might be disappointed in the rapids, class II - III. Still worth it, IMO, because of the remoteness. It's a long way between humans. You also have to give a wad of money to the Northwoods, which you don't on the Machias. And the shuttle is longer, but cheaper. You finish up the same as the Alligash, which sounds like you might be familiar.


connecticut river
Have you considered trying the Connecticut river starting up at the Connecticut Lakes, its not wilderness but it is supposed to be a nice trip.

If you want to bail less and drink more,
try the St. Croix on the border. Dam control gives it enough water through the summer and early fall.

I run whitewater, and I do some multi-night tripping. But I’m afraid I don’t understand the appeal of 5 days running whitewater in canoes loaded down with gear. Not unless I were exploring or doing something I could not cover in daytrips, like the Moisie.

Guess thats what makes the world go
around. I can’t think of many things more enjoyable and challenging than traveling on a white water river with loaded canoes.

The Machias is a wonderful short trip. There is some challenging water. Need to be cautious and check water levels. Moderately remote feel to it.


– Last Updated: Jan-31-13 11:46 AM EST –

If you can catch it. As with the St John, your schduling flexibility will go a long way towards hitting the best levels.
We did 5 days and nights from 3rd Lake outlet to Whitneyville. It was very low which made some of he rapids easier and some too scratchy to run at all.
Starting at Third Lake cuts out the big lakes but there's still a LOT of slackwater between Lower Holmes and Great Falls with more from Great Falls to Whitneyville.
We did our own shuttle. IIRC that took us 2+ hours on each end.

I’ve heard great things
about the Machias from some of my buds at Maine High Adventure (located at Matagamon). The East Branch is one of my favorites.

Some other great trips- Moose River between Long Pond to Brassua Lake, then paddle/tie the canoes together and sail Moosehead to East Outlet and run it Indian Pond. Arrange a commercial rafting trip from Harris Dam to the Forks. Have them transport your canoes back to their base camp on their flat beds. Your shuttle would be from Jackman to the Forks (to a raft company). The whitewater is a step up from the East Branch but more seasonal. You will be on the biggest lake in the State for part of this trip! Watch the wind! If this is running the whitewater will not disappoint. Portage gear before running East Outlet (trail gets overgrown near Indian Lake as of 2011). It may also be possible to portage gear on Moose since this is now NFCT. The moose is a seasonal run and very continous when its running.

Webster Brook is tougher than the East Branch because the whitewater is more continuous but only one portage. If the Telos cut is running below the dam then it’s very exciting to run empty. Put in at Telos Landing and take out on Grand Lake or run down the East Branch again! Webster is more easonal than the E. Branch on water levels, requires some campsites within Baxter but it is possible to get out of the park and camp up Big Logan on G Lake Matagamon to avoid another night of camping fees.

North Branch, Seboomook Lake to Roll Dam on West Branch. Don’t underestimate the first set of ledges you’ll encounter before roll dam (Slades Rips, West Branch) I highly recommend portaging this set- approaches class IV in difficulty. Check out the AW site for more info on rapids and the amc guidebook. Roll dam is a ton of fun and I always ran it empty, portaging the gear. Maybe paddle the Westbranch down to Burbank to lengthen the trip- good chance to spot moose. Beware of the South Branch- the upper limits of what is possible in tripping canoes- you need some real skills. The North Branch is Class II fun. Unfortunately a ton of NMWoods Fees in this area.

All three trips are a step up from the East Branch in terms of whitewater difficulty. In my opinion it is more difficult to boat the East Branch at low flows- Stair Falls is more grabby, and the rapid below Haskell Rock Pitch eats a lot of canoes at low flow but it’s more fun at higher flows. Whetstone and Grindstone are a lot “bigger” at higher flows so the swims can be epic. Just something to consider.

Another great place to post is the North East Paddlers message board. I’m sure they could tell you more about the Machias. Good Luck!

Machias - like East Branch

– Last Updated: Feb-02-13 10:24 AM EST –

involves a fair amount of white water and some that all but the hair boaters must carry around. The original post is a little concerning to me as to whether the dangers associated with paddling white water in cold water and remote areas are perceived. The dangers are real. Not to be a wet blanket - but we all need to be humble about our own skill levels and develop the necessary skill for the water we plan to paddle before we take the risk of paddling in cold and high water. The Machias is a great river but like many other similar rivers there have been terrible accidents on the Machias.

Given the OPs experience on the East Branch, (wrecked a FEW times and lost gear) it might be worth considering a trip on something in the class 2 range - there are plenty of them and they can be just as much fun - maybe more fun because they are less stressful. Just a thought. Some might think of a trip like the OP describes on the East Branch as a disaster and feel that you were lucky to get out alive. You can gain skills in heavier white water in warmer water and on rivers closer to the road and then be safer and more relaxed when you move up to more remote and heavier white water trips in loaded boats.

I don't mean to be too negative - maybe as your say you are more prepared this time around. But please be cautious.

Nice thing about the Machias
at least below third lake is that almost all of the rapids can be scouted from the portage trail. That makes it well worth the effort to carry at least some of your gear down while scouting.

IIRC Grand Falls is the exception to this.

penobscot was running hard
that summer. Outfitter said his friend LOST a canoe around the Grindstone portion a week before us. We were a bit worried before the trip and rightfully so. Sure enough we stumbled upon the abandoned canoe wrapped around a rock at the Grindstone portion. Unbelievable. Man do I have stories about that trip. Could not write it all down in this post but I kept a log of it.

Thanks all for the tips/advice/warnings. Seems like you guys are pretty knowledgeable. We’ll probably be be running the Machias after Memorial Day.

Would like to hear your story
If you ever write it up, please post.

Machias after Memorial Day
You might get out on 3rd and 4th lakes but the river will most likely be too dry.

Your best bet is to shoot for ice out and stay flexible.

I was thinking the same thing
about your timing. Might want a plan B if there isn’t enough water. No way to predict with any real accuracy but mid may would be more reliable I think.

You can also have a great time of the
St John. 140 miles or more if you start at Fifth St John Lake.

Usually the water level drops by mid June; its for running right after ice out. However sometimes mid summer rains do bring the river up enough to have a neat rapidy ride.

I’ll be on the St. John this May.
This is a wonderful trip. Moves right along. More challenging water is at the end of the trip not far from town if you have trouble.

Best of all you can run Big
empty. There is road access at the top to leave gear and road access at the bottom.

Big Rapids is two mile of rockabillying Class 3 without a penalty. There is a big rescue pool at the bottom.

Machias River Run
I can happily say we ran The Machias 3rd lake to Smith Landing and had a blast. One of the more successful trips we went on. Got tons of rain before memorial day. Water is high and river is running great. Only portage was Holmes Falls. Pretty technical with some tight bends and strainers for the first few miles on Long Falls. Tipped but didn’t have any serious problems. Carrick Pitch and Little Holmes Falls were also pretty technical. We ran them dry and made it through without tipping. I’d portage them if you’re not up for the challenge.

If you want to find a stellar place to camp/fish/run some whitewater, the campsite at Little Falls is absolutely beautiful and it’s like somethign out of a Tim Burton movie with gigantic bugs and trees that seem like they are walking on root stilts.

Also, after little Holmes Falls we ran into something straight out of a horror movie. We missed a campsite and decided we had to try to find one off the beaten path or potentially have to hack one out. I notice what looks to be canoes on the side of the river and we investigate and find some really creepy stuff. Four OLD canoes covered in cobwebs and just a treasure trove of old life jackets, canteens and paddles. There was even what looked to be a dog or deer skull hanging from the tree. A trail went deeper into the woods and there was a cabin across the river that looked long abandoned. It creeped us the hell out and we left to find other shelter. I’m wondering if anyone can confirm what the hell that is that we found. I will post pictures in near future.