Water Trails

Perhaps the biggest is the way they are managed. The Canoe Trail obtains access for campsites and portages through landowner permission rather than through land protection. And, because it is a trail of navigable waters, the Canoe Trail flows through both developed areas and backcountry — providing its users with a blend of community experiences and wilderness.

In reality, Williams and her staff are more apt to compare the Canoe Trail to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, Florida’s Everglades Wilderness Waterway or Maine’s Island Trail.

Simply put, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a unique, contiguous water trail concept, but one that can be readily replicated in many areas across the country. In fact, several coastal areas in Washington, North Carolina and Alabama are at varying stages of developing similar trail systems.

It’s an idea it seems whose time has come.

Create Your Own Water Trail?

Which is exactly what the founders, employees and volunteers of the Canoe Trail hope for. As they move forward with their work, organized around waterway stewardship, cultivation of sustainable tourism and promotion of local heritage and culture they hope to inspire the creation and development of other water trails.

As Williams notes, there are many, many areas of the country where lakes, streams, ponds and rivers could be mapped, surveyed, improved and connected. If you’re considering doing something like this in your community or region, Williams recommends the following:

• Look at all potential bodies of water (rivers, streams, lakes and ponds) as potential portions of the route

• Generate local community support for the project

• Tie the project to a central theme (such as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s use of the Native American travel route)

• And, don’t give up

There are plenty of organizations willing to support a project that provides a healthy, recreational opportunity, improves commerce in rural areas and educates/empowers local residents to be good stewards of their natural resources.

While it’s too early to tell how many people are using the new Canoe Trail (a baseline economic impact study is just being completed), the rush of support and enthusiasm from local volunteers is a good indicator of the long-term success of this spectacular water trail. PRB

Helen Downey is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Parks & Rec Business. She can be reached via hcdowney@adelphia.net.


The Trail — An Overview

The final, completed Canoe Trail has thirteen, mapped, contiguous sections offering its users campsites (10-15 miles apart), portage routes

(62 in all, 55 total miles), trail signs, and frequent access points.

New York — 147 miles

Starting at Old Forge, NY, the Canoe Trail follows the scenic, but challenging Saranac River, otherwise known as the long-established “Highway of the Adirondacks” to the Vermont border.

Vermont/Québec — 174 miles

Lake Champlain is perhaps the most historic lake in America. It’s also very big. From Lake Champlain, paddlers follow the Missisquoi River to Lake Memphremagog – this section has the “Grand Portage,” but otherwise is gentle and has few carries – and finally flows through the Northeast Kingdom on the Clyde and Nulhegan Rivers (many carries, but very scenic).

New Hampshire — 72 miles

This portion of the Canoe Trail follows the placid Connecticut River as it meanders to the Upper Ammonoosuc. The Trail then turns west to east, heading upstream, albeit on fairly lazy water with few rapids. The final leg, on the Adroscoggin, is wide with sections of slowly flowing water and some rapids.

Maine — 347 miles

The section from Errol, New Hampshire to Rangeley, Maine is easier to paddle from Rangeley to Errol. The Trail descends steadily from Maine’s interior plateau through big lakes and tumbling rivers. Beyond Rangeley to the east is the Androscoggin-Kennebec divide — the highest point on the trail east of the Adirondacks. After the divide, the Trail is easiest southwest to northeast as it works across the plateau and then descends to Fort Kent. Flagstaff Lake and the headwaters of Little Spencer Stream hold some of the finest scenery along the Trail, though Moosehead Lake is also outstanding. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is spectacular.


Our Approach

In the context of partnering with local communities, honoring Native American culture, and conserving the human and natural heritage of the region, we will serve travelers and benefit neighboring communities by:

• Encouraging canoe/kayak travel and recreation

• Stimulating economic development by attracting a wide range of visitors to the region’s communities

• Improving local access to regional waterways – rivers, streams and lakes

• Enabling travelers to experience the Northern Forest’s full range of diverse landscapes, from working cities to towns to farms, forests and mountains

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