What kind of boat for a Moosehead trip?

So I’ve been kicking this around and thought I would put it to the community.

I’ve been paddling for several decades (I’m old :slight_smile: ), both kayaks and canoes. Nothing radical or serious (I would never dream of pretending to fit in at Watertribe, although I lurk). Moderately skilled.

My son, who will be 11 next month, is a pretty good paddler himself. Started early at 4 years old (with his own SOT boat), and now paddles a Necky Eliza like a pro (more or less). We’ve also canoed a bit, and recently enjoyed a decent whitewater canoe day trip. Doing the Allagash next month.

We have been talking lately about doing Moosehead next year, as in get dropped by seaplane at the north end and take 5-7 days to enjoy paddling back down to Greenville. I had originally been planning this as a solo kayak trip (in my 1998 CD Caribou), but now that the boy is getting serious about paddling, asked him, and he’s excited about the idea.

Just wondering. What would you guys use as a boat/boats? Two yaks? One canoe? Or a tandem yak? If the latter, I would assume something like a Passat or Tahe Maxi, and don’t mind investing in such a boat (would use it for many purposes anyway). What makes the most sense to you, for a mid-summer stroll down Moosehead, with a 50-ish man and an 11 year old boy? Assume we have good gear (we do).



I prefer two solo anythings
Because you can get away from each other.

But he is 11. And no way would I let my 12 year old grandson paddle alone while I tended camp, even though he is a good paddler too.

You might consider two solo boats with rules and towing practice just in case Moosehead kicks up with wind from the south and someone gets tired.

Doable in a canoe. Tandem kayak may be overkill and those things are heavy to bring into camp.

5-7 days is pretty reasonable for 40 miles. You have time to wait out winds which typically start about 11. But not if you are late sleepers!

Dont forget leave time for Kineo.

Thanks, medic. We definitely will spend some time on Kineo.

I’m still on the fence re boat(s). I wouldn’t be allowing him to run off alone on Moosehead, but he typically likes to paddle around and explore within sight of where I am, which I think is fine. So a couple of solo yaks had sort of been my assumption.

OTOH, I am a little bit concerned that if he is in his own boat and gets in trouble, I may not always been close enough to immediately help. Deciding to always stay close sounds good in principle, but in reality it is kind of a hard rule to enforce. So I started thinking about a single boat.

I love canoeing, and obviously you have lots of room for readily accessible stuff in a canoe. I worry a little bit that wind and waves could be more of a problem.

Yes, we will be allowing sufficient time to make it a fairly leisurely trip, so sitting out winds is an option (except when you don’t get the choice :slight_smile: ). We don’t presently own a good tandem yak, but I could buy one between now and the trip. Kind of wondering what local experience or knowledge of paddling that lake would suggest to folks? Any further input would be appreciated.


Why fly in?

– Last Updated: Jul-15-15 8:21 PM EST –

Others may know more than I about that particular area - but I'm pretty sure you can drive in and have someone shuttle your vehicle to the take out. Might be a lot cheaper and easier. Anyone know for sure?

The other thing I will mention is predicting weather in the northern Maine area. Maybe you already know this? If you are wind-bound in a sunny high pressure system (wind from the north) you can generally count on the wind dying down to nothing at night and in the early morning. Mid to late morning it will often start to blow again. Sometimes, if there is a moon, we will eat dinner and then paddle in the calmed down evening/night lake - or we will rise very early, maybe 3AM, and get our paddle in before the high pressure winds build. This works well if you are wind-bound and you need to get home on a particular day.

Also, if you are in a high pressure (north wind) and you notice the wind swinging around out of the south (you will often notice clouds coming in when this happens) it is likely that any wind will continue to blow all night long and you may be looking at rain on the way though not always.

Moosehead is a large lake, not to be trifled with in rough seas. Best to get off the water and make camp if it is bad. Certainly stay close to shore and don't attempt any crossings that will take you away from shore. Just my opinion but it has kept me alive so far and I have enjoyed a lot of trips in my life.

canoe is fine

– Last Updated: Jul-15-15 9:01 PM EST –

thats the craft of tradition.. Kayak is overkill. You can make eight miles in three hours. Just don't let him sleep in.

As far as driving to the NE Carry its certainly possible. It takes about 2 hours from Greenville. The last part on the Lobster Trip road is in horrid shape as of ten days ago.

Not a go for a standard car. Fine for high clearance

Because it would take a shuttle four hours it may be more expensive than you hoped for. But its a good idea to ask. Try Allagash Gateway Campground.

To the best of my knowledge FAA regs preclude external loads. For sure a tandem sea kayak would be a no go. In Canada operators have to be specially certified for external loads. But I think in the US its a no no. Pakcanoe could be a way around that.( it fits in a bag and you assemble it at the put in)

Try Curriers for what they say about flying a canoe in.

Or do a loop trip. The southern part of Moosehead has little camping land. South of Beaver Cove there are many camps. And there is a road on the west side south of Rockwood.

excellent info, thanks
I hadn’t even thought of the legality of carrying the boat on a seaplane. I had checked a couple years ago, I think with Currier, I can’t remember, and was told it was fine. Currier does have a photo of a plane with a canoe strapped to it on his website. I will call and check with them. I think this is the way we would want to do it.

Driving up sounds like a huge PITA. I guess one option could be to drive to Rockwood and then go up and back down to Greenville, but that’s probably more time than we will have (at least to do it in a leisurely manner, which I prefer). Thanks for all the info, much appreciated.


Or Lily Bay and paddle up and down the

– Last Updated: Jul-16-15 6:25 PM EST –

other side.

I fear you paddling the length of Moosehead is a big waste of time.. You are probably not aware that there are houses on the south end all the way between Rockwood and Greenville and Beaver Cove to Greenville. Thats a significant chunk.. and to pay for a plane with roads close by..

And no camping.

I am not google searching. The area is pretty close to home.

But check the DeLorme Gazeteer first. Its got all the campsites on it.

only paddled a couple of times
on Moosehead. Coming out of Brassua (rockwood) down to the east outlet as part of a mooseriver circuit to Indian trip. We had a group and I was thankful for it. We cruised on the lake at 5-6 miles an hour with the wind and waves pushing us down the lake, just ruddering. We tied the canoes together for stability and safety,rafted up, no need for a sail. In fact we had to bail the boats out to prevent swamping. Good to have a group of boats that day. Another time it was as smooth as glass. I did camp on the lake but that was 30 years ago with no issues. Never went south beyond the east outlet- good ww fun there. Best to be pretty conservative with just one boat or even with 2 boats with one being a child. I would think that prevailing winds would usually go from s to n but it can switch. I would think you could find someone to shuttle your car from greenville up to rockwood.

for what its worth Moosehead is not the place I would pick for a canoe trip. Lots of other beautiful places in northern maine. Maybe the Lobster trip? three or four nights out. One on Lobster, one on the West Branch and on on Chesuncook?

Big A$$ Canoe
I think I’d prefer a large tandem canoe for this trip, but I’m told kids enjoy it when they get to be captain of their own boat. Eleven is a kind of in-between age, and whether the boy is up to solo paddling miles of open water depends a lot on the physical and mental development of the boy. All Eleven year olds are not the same.

I like a sea kayak for Moosehead because it is easier to paddle a sea kayak in wind and waves, which you can get on a big, open, deep lake.

There are more remote destinations than Moosehead, as alluded to by other posters. But Moosehead is a really nice lake. Spend two nights at Kineo so you will have time to climb to the tower and paddle around under the cliffs–sights you will not see on the other “nicer” lakes.

There are lots of campsites on Moosehead. I just pulled out my Gazetteer and counted 20 on the southern part of the lake (up to the edge of the page). There’s more on the north end–I camped on 'em. Big Duck Cove is a favorite. The cove on the north end of Moose Island looked really nice but was taken when I paddled there. These are State sites, no charge, but also no reservations, which means you can get to a site and find it occupied. If I needed a site and couldn’t go anymore, I would not feel bashful about sharing a site. Paddling campers will probably understand, but maybe not the power boaters. If you can go after Labor Day, you’ll have the place to yourself, but your kid will miss school. Weekdays not so bad, but summer weekends you should get a camp early and probably stay two nights.

Another drawback of the no reservation non-system is that sometimes power boaters go out to a site and set up camp, then go away for days and leave the site set up for when they come back. This stinks for paddlers, because if you just paddled many miles to get to a site and find it occupied, you can’t just jump back in your boat and zoom around looking for sites, like the PBs do.

As for shuttles, that region has an economy which is hard scrabble and there are lots of people who will be happy to retrieve your vehicle for a modest sum. I personally know people who live there who will be happy to earn a few extra bucks, so if you don’t find anything, PM me and I will set you up. Try calling that fishing store on the Moosehead Lake Road near the center of Greenville–I think it is called Maine Guide–and they can probably set you up with somebody for shuttles. I found shuttle service from Raymonds Store in Northeast Carry, if it is still there, unreliable.

Anyhow, hope you get to do the trip and I’m sure you will enjoy.


I’d do what I can to make a tandem canoe work. The opportunity to bond with your son, by working together as a team for several days is priceless.

Sure he’d like to have his own kayak and do some exploring on his own, but he’ll be doing plenty of that soon. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to spend true, quality time together. At 11 those opportunities will be few and far between in the coming years.

I agree -
tandem canoe would be best. Also, I’m not sure how wise it is to permit an 11 year old to be paddling alone on a big northern maine lake unless an adult is close at hand.

I would probably use either two solo

– Last Updated: Jul-17-15 6:05 PM EST –

touring kayaks or a tandem canoe. Agree with all others...and I think rpg51 nailed the info on the winds that can kick up..and (just personal opinion) I think I'd agree that there are quite a few other lakes, somewhat smaller, with shorelines with more moose, deer, bear, bird activity & less development making for a more wilderness feel to a multi-day paddle. Moosehead is typical big water, but it does have its bays with islands to offer protection from the wind, however the bays are big, deep water in themselves...but have nice inlet brook water. Want to check "official campsites" cause it's shoreline_camping-regs were a lot looser back in the day. Sticking to one shoreline can offer much more safety from the exposed miles of open water connecting the various bays, but you're going to limit yourself in seeing the many parts of the lake, tribs and shoreline...so I guess I'm not sure what your intention is. It's a lake to sit down with a detailed topo map to plan a course to paddle..but you'll have a good time. Not sure where you make homebase but Moosehead's lattitudes receive much more wind & "weather" from Quebec and Atlantic Canadian weather systems more than from the more mild US systems that usually result in the gentle SW breezes....$.01(sorry for the rambling)

I’d way personally go for other lakes
like Chesuncook , Lobster Sebomook and the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Also you can investigate the Black Pond for moose ( sightings very likely)

South winds and north winds can both be a problem due to funnelling but its all wilderness save for the small hamlet of Chesuncook Village which is charming in and of itself.

Chesuncook is choppy cause its relatively shallow(140 feet). Moosehead is more ocean like.(246 feet)

I did a nice trip recently
with a friend in one tandem. Put in at Chamberlain Bridge on Chamberlain Lake. Two nights on Chamberlain. Drop down into Eagle - two nights in one site on Eagle. Push back up into Chamberlain, two more nights on Chamberlain and out. It was very relaxing, almost no one around (week before schools let out), great weather and the bugs were totally manageable - light actually. Nice warm and long days. Loved it. We didn’t have much time and this avoided a shuttle (truck parked at Chamberlain Bridge). Like I said, easy and relaxing. Something to think about. Sounds like you are going to paddle the Allagash - I assume you will skip the lakes like most people seem to do these days. Well, these lakes are the lakes that many consider an integral part of an Allagash trip. I do anyway.