The most popular way to experience the St. John River Forest is the 143-mile canoe trip from the St. John Ponds to the town of Allagash, Maine. The waters run high and fast from the spring melt, yet remain accessible for a range of skill levels. Under the proper conditions, this trip can be the most rewarding wilderness canoe experience in the East, a marvelous experience full of solitude, wildlife and adventure.
North Maine Woods, inc. manages public use of the St. John River corridor. This organization is a non-profit corporation created through a collaboration of landowners in the region that works to welcome visitors and ensure ongoing public access. For complete and current information on visiting the St. John River Forest and other North Maine Woods areas, please visit www.northmainewoods.org.
Everyone who uses the St. John River is expected to register. Those traveling by vehicle will pass through a North Maine Woods checkpoint and will be registered at that time. Those who fly in will either be registered by the flying service or by one of the North Maine Woods attendants on the river. Fees will be collected at the time of registration.
Water Condition Are Important
The St. John River usually provides adequate water for canoeing during the month of May. How late in the spring good canoeing is possible depends on winter snow cover, temperature and rainfall.
The North Maine Woods office obtains daily readings on the level of water in the river through the month of May. The minimum for good canoeing, in our judgment, is 3,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) at the Dickey gauging station. Less than that will result in grounding out or portaging much of the way. You are welcome to call us for current conditions at (207) 435-6213.
Planning the Trip
Early in May the trip is cool with high water, and in late May the water may be lower with more black flies more wildlife and perhaps better fishing. Generally about 50% of the yearly canoeing traffic occurs during the weeks before and after Memorial Day. The weather can vary. One year parties were swimming in 75 degree weather on May 20: and the next year during the same week it was 30 degrees and snowing. Preparation for either extreme should be considered.
Good canoeing is also possible at various times throughout the summer. A couple of days of heavy rain will raise the water level to provide adequate flow for up to a week. If your schedule is flexible, then trips at these times are best. Parties generally have the river and campsites to themselves.