NRCM note: Mahoosuc Guide Service has joined many sporting camps that are offering a discount to Natural Resources Council of Maine members. Learn more about this offer and visit the Mahoosuc Guide Service website to plan your trip today!
Why Choose a Guide for Your Allagash Adventure?
Probably the most well-known canoe trip in Maine is the Allagash. It is hard to beat for its feeling of remoteness and opportunity to see abundant wildlife. Trips can vary in length from 4 – 10 days depending on where you start your trip. People with moderate canoe camping experience can paddle the river without a guide as most rapids are beginner to beginner-intermediate level. The exception is Chase Rapids, just below the outlet of Churchill Lake. If you lack whitewater experience, you can put in down river below this section at Umsaskis/Long Lake Thoroughfare.
There are, however, some important advantages to going on a guided trip down the Allagash. Our business, Mahoosuc Guide Service, has been providing guided trips down the Allagash for 30 years. Guiding is our passion, and Maine’s great outdoors is our favorite place to be, but Maine is fortunate to have a number of qualified Registered Maine Guides to choose from. Following is a list of some of the more important advantages:
- You probably won’t get lost or have to deal with multiple flat tires going in on the maze of logging roads. Most guides use vehicles with 10 ply tires and carry 2 spares.
- Guides fees are typically all-inclusive, covering North Maine Woods road and day use fees as well as Allagash camping fees.
- You won’t need to spend several days before the trip packing gear and food and after the trip cleaning up.
- The guide can interpret the natural and cultural history of the area. She/he can show you places of interest you may miss, such as the Lombard Log Haulers or the old barn at the Moers Farm homestead. The barn, having been built in two distinct phases, is an excellent example of both French Canadian and English timber framing techniques.
- On low water years, the guide can help you keep in the main channel and teach you how to use a setting pole to maneuver through bony rapids.
- Guides are generally pretty good cooks and most bake a dessert every night in a reflector and/or Dutch oven.
- In the event of an emergency, guides have first aid training and know where the Ranger Stations are as well as the location of the nearest logging roads.
- A good guide is also a teacher. We have found even relatively experienced outdoorsmen/women learn something from their guides during the trip.
- Finally, thanks to the COVID pandemic, many family-run guide services are struggling economically. Even if you have the experience to do it on your own, consider hiring a guide as a way to support a local business, if you have the financial resources to do so.
To get a sense of what it’s like to be part of one of these great adventures, we have created several videos. But nothing compares to being there, experiencing the wilderness for yourself, in person, with an experienced guide.
Minimum Information Your Guide Should Provide to You:
- Clearly written cancellation/refund policy and a description of what is included and what is not
- Sample trip itinerary
- Assumption of Risk form and a short medical history questionnaire that informs guides as to allergies or other pre-existing medical conditions
- Check list of equipment provided by the guide and a packing checklist for guests that recommend what to bring
Questions You May Want to Ask Your Guide When Considering a Trip:
- What level of first aid training do you have? Is it current? We recommend a minimum of Wilderness First Aid and CPR that is current.
- What are your emergency communication plans in the event of an accident or illness? Do you carry a satellite phone on trips?
- How many years have you been an active guide? On average, how many canoe trips do you guide a year?
- What type of food do you serve?
- What procedures do you have in place to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading corona virus?
- What is your minimum/maximum group size?
- How many guides will be on the trip? I recommend 1:4 or 5 guide-to-client ratio.
- Do you carry liability insurance?
Helpful Info and Links:
- The Allagash by Lew Deitz
- The Allagash Guide by Gil Gilpatrick
- Allagash by Gil Gilpatrick
- Outdoor Adventure Trips – Master Guide Handbook by Gil Gilpatrick
Find a Guide:
Maine Wilderness Guides Organization, at www.MWGO.org, has an extensive listing of conservation-oriented guides for the Allagash. We run the Mahoosuc Guide Service and would love to be your Allagash guides!
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway – North & South National Geographic
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway – The Maine State website features much helpful information including maps, water flow rate at USGS Allagash gauge station, rules, and alerts.
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation — This nonprofit organization is set up to protect and assist in interpreting the natural and cultural history of the Allagash.
—By Kevin Slater and Polly Mahoney, Mahoosuc Guide Service
Kevin Slater and Polly Mahoney are Master Maine guides who live in Newry, Maine. Kevin made his first trip by going up the Allagash after coming down the St John back in 1973. He has traveled extensively in the North by canoe and dog team and is a certified instructor-trainer for the American Canoe Association. Polly, a native Mainer, lived a subsistence lifestyle in the Yukon Territory for 10 years—she and her huskies were featured in the movie Never Cry Wolf. She has emergency medical training as a Wilderness First Responder. Visit their website, Mahoosuc Guide Service, to book your Allagash trip or other Maine outdoor adventure.