I have been guiding on the Allagash river since 1974 and over the years I’ve seen a distinct pattern in terms of usage. Canoeists must use designated campsites on the waterway and there is no reservation system. In peak periods if paddlers don’t secure a campsite by mid-day or shortly thereafter, they may end up canoeing a lot further than planned on any given day to find an open campsite.


The highest use period on the Allagash is July through about the third week of August. Other times to try and avoid scheduling an Allagash trip would be around the holidays: Memorial day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Planning to put in mid-week would also help reduce the likelihood of getting stuck on the same schedule of other parties, especially scout and youth groups which tend to be large (max. group size on the Allagash is 12). Also remember more people on the river generally means you see less wildlife. The only two trips when I didn’t see a moose were when there were many people on the river. A number of campsites are two cells (sites) often close to one another. Avoiding peak periods will give you more flexibility to avoid the multi-group sites.


My favorite time of the year to do the Allagash is May into June. The fishing is better and the CFS (cubic feet per second, a measure of water flow) is more reliable. Optimum CFS levels for canoeing are 700-2400 CFS. The second and third week of May is usually before the bugs hatch, depending on the spring. Even in June by wearing light and bright colored clothing and having some insect repellant, the bugs aren’t too bad. I have friends that swear by their “bug shirt” where the repellent (usually pyrethrins) is in the shirt material.


Another beautiful time of the year to consider for your Allagash trip is the fall, September through the first week of October. By the last week of September the water has usually cooled enough that the trout fishing picks up again and you will be rewarded with amazing fall colors. If you are lucky you may even get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. The most amazing display I have ever seen in Maine was an Allagash trip in early October, half the sky was a shimmering red curtain.


Happy paddling,

Kevin & Polly