Northern Forest Canoe trail

We have decided to not do the Adirondack 90 mile canoe race this year, and are thinking about doing another trip up north instead.

I have heard a lot about the Northern Forest Canoe trail.

Can someone give me a overall of it, and would you advise for or against it.

Jack L

Are you thinking of speed paddling?
Some of the NFCT is flatwater, some of it upstream and not much of it for racing.

The most problematic section is the Saranac River NY. It gets bony in the summer. That said Whiteface MT just had three feet of snow and I suspect the river is running well now.

I have done about half the Maine part in bits and pieces.

Others have done far bigger bites

No speed paddling
When we race we speed paddle.

When we explore we smell the roses, look at the views and wild life and enjoy what the man upstairs has set aside for us.

Thanks for the info

Jack L

Definitely recommended
If you’re looking to get away from society, here are some stretches I would recommend over others:

NY: Long Lake Village to Saranac Lake Village, especially in late September.

VT: Missiquoi River (in the downstream direction).

ME: Rangeley Lakes region, or anywhere from Rockwood (Moosehead Lake) to Chesuncook Lake. And, of course, any of the Allagash.


Chesuncook to Chamberlain may

– Last Updated: May-30-13 7:53 PM EST –

make you swear. Google Mud Pond Carry.

The NFCT is over 700 mile long and has pretty much any kind of paddling you could want. If you give us a time frame there are several people on this site who could recomend sections to do. Riverstriders recomendations are a good start. If possible I would do the Allagash if you can but it’s a wicked long drive from North Carolina and you will need at least 5 or 6 days to paddle it.

bony sections
The Lower Saranac is bony in the summer as is the lower Clyde below Salem Lake, Nulhegan starting 3 miles below Wenlock Crossing, The Upper Ammonooosuc below Stark, The Dead River, and Spencer Stream. Check with St Regis Outfitters in Saranac Lake for current Saranac River conditions.

There are ways around all of these dry sections so check here if you have specific question or use the NFCT forums…


the real killer is the shuttle back from Fort Kent Maine to Old Forge,NY. 740miles of trail, shuttle drive unknown.

I intend to do it, in sections, all downstream. I joined the NFCT several years ago and have the maps and guidebook. GW and I are going on a work trip July5th to work on your favorite carry at Raquette Falls.

Mail me and we’ll talk about it.


NFCT - work trrip

I did the NFCT work trip last year at Raquette Falls. Great interns, well fed and had a good time you’ll enjoy it. Disappointed I couldn’t make it this year but the dates conflicted with the plans made by my wife. Expect to work hard or be embarrassed by the interns who if they are anything like the ones last year are some form of cloned super young women and men.

Say hello to Gary the caretaker for the area and if you get a chance look at one of the strip built canoes he makes and sells.


Raquette Falls Carry
Last fall the Raquette Falls Carry was in the best shape I have seen it. The work done by the NFCT work party was very noticeable. Thank You.

That was what inspired me to volunteer for this years work party. I have been over that carry 20+ times and it beats me up every year during the 90 Miler. Figure I have a vested interest in its improvements. The 64 year old legs don’t go over the rocks and slippery water bars as deftly as in years past, even with carrying a lighter canoe now.

I fully expect the young ones to outwork me. That’s why they are interns and I am a volunteer.


The RF trail now is definitely a very welcome improvement over previous years, although the initial steps up the slippery rocks will always be a safety challenge during the 90 miler when anxious boats tend to pile up there. Gary and other helpers do a great job organizing boats heading up the trail.

I’ll be paddling another cannonball-90 (the 90 miler in a single day), starting next Friday night at midnight. Projecting to be at RF carry around 1:00pm. This will be our last endurance training paddle before heading north in a couple of weeks for yet another YRQ.

After last year, I decided that
for this year I was going to carry the boat, and made up some neat curved foam blocks glued to aluminum plates. Then I glassed pipe straps with the built on tightner to the bottom of each so the blocks could go exactly where the comfort zone on the shoulders would be.

Now we decided to bow out his year, and just do a fun paddle some place.

Jack L

Raquette Falls Carry
The stone stairs at the take out aren’t bad on a trip,but on the 90 Miler after the first ten boats hit the carry, the steps are wet and slippery. No way to change that. In 2004 the water was really high and there was no beach to land on. You got out and your boat was still floating. The rangers were directing traffic up the stairs. You had to carry up the stairs upright and with all your stuff in the boat. You could unload up the hill where it gets wider. Theycalled our turn and we picked up the canoe. GW was on the second step when a canoe came into shore at speed and put their bow right between my legs, sending me and the stern of the canoe to the ground. It toppled GW off the stairs with the canoe on top of her. I thought she was going to break a leg or come down on the rocks sideways. The Ranger taking boat numbers was below her and just had enough time to put his hand up to slow her fall.Said it was the first time she was glad to feel a strange man’s hand on her But. Another Ranger grabbed the bow of the canoe as I got the stern on my shoulders and practically dragged me and the canoe up the stairs with GW following behind. I ended up single carrying the rest of the way, with GW taking the gear.

Not our best day on the river, but one trip across Raquette Falls Carry we will never forget.


A great and tough trip
I finished a through paddle earlier this week. It was an awesome and challenging adventure. I had a lot of fun, and it is a lot of hard work. Particularly the upstream work which is most of VT and NH. I think saner more rational paddlers do it in sections and follow the current. But that didn’t appeal to my slightly sadistic goal oriented persona. Water levels were very high for my run straight up to Maine, and my experiences seemed very different than accounts I had read from those of other thru paddlers from prior years. Relating to another question under “wilderness tripping” I can not imagine doing the trail without a portage cart. Some are miles long on logging roads, dirt roads and paved roads. I looked forward to those I could wheel just to stretch my legs. The trail really does have everything from tight streams, wide rivers, ponds and really really big lakes. I loved it.

  • Mike

keep going
you have Mud Pond carry awaiting you. Its not cartable and it is two miles long. The trouble with carts is that while they are useful in many spots, there are spots later in the trip where they are a hindrance and you can’t just send it back then.

In prior years water levels have been lower. We have been under protracted flood watches for a couple of months now.

Agree with mud pond carry.
I went straight through to Ft. Kent, and mud pond carry was tough and made worse by the added weight of the cart on my back. Additionally, I used it for just part of the Great Falls carry and no where else north of there. However just a couple days prior to mud pond carry the cart was awesome on the portage from the Spencer lake Fish pond area to the Moose river (5 miles made even longer sadly by a navigational error on my part) and also the 3 mile portage at demo rd. on the Moose river. For the NFCT As a through paddle i think the cart is an overwhelming asset. In sections it would just depend.

  • Mike