Date(s) Price(s)
July 13-17, 2024 $1,350 per person
August 12-16, 2024 $1,350 per person
September 17-21, 2024 $1,350 per person
October 1-5, 2024 $1,350 per person

Custom Guided Canoe Trips on The Wabanaki-Thoreau Canoe Trail

West Branch of the Penobscot River/Chesuncook Lake Wabanaki-Thoreau Canoe Trail, which retraces part of Thoreau’s voyage through the Maine woods with his Penobscot guide, Joe Polis, is a must-do for nature enthusiasts.

This part of Thoreau’s route is an excellent wilderness trip for beginners through countries rich in wildlife, logging history, and Native American history. There are no difficult rapids or portages on the entire trip. We also visit the historic Chesuncook village, which Thoreau visited in 1850.

On most of our West Branch trips, we see moose, bald eagles, and occasionally black bears and river otters. Our comfortable campsites in the boreal forest along the river banks and lake shore have picnic tables, outhouses, and stone fire rings.

This is the most popular introduction to Maine canoe camping we offer and an excellent choice for families. To view the trip itinerary, click here.




  1. All food and gear (including sleeping bags, pads, dry bags)
  2. Transportation to and from Orono
  3. Two guides


  1. Transportation to Orono
  2. Overnight stays in motels or bed and breakfasts in Orono

Retrace Thoreau’s Footsteps on the Wabanki-Thoreau Canoe Trail

This canoe trip on the West Branch of the Penobscot retraces about half of Thoreau’s journey with his Penobscot guide, Joe Polis. This is our most popular introduction to Maine’s wilderness canoe camping trips. The West Branch trip is especially popular with elders and families as there are only beginners-level rapids and no carries or portages. The area is rich in wildlife; moose and bald eagles are often daily sightings. There is some evidence of the river drive logging era along its shores and many of the campsites are old river drive encampments. For over 12,000 years, the West Branch has been a major Wabanaki canoe route interstate for travel. The Wabanaki word for Chesuncook translates to “lake from which you can travel to many rivers”. From the north end of Chesuncook, you can access the Allagash River, the East and West Branches of the Penobscot River, the Wolastoq (St. John River), and the Kennebec river systems.

Historic Chesuncook Village

On our West Branch canoe trip, we will stop at Chesuncook Village, which was first cleared around 1850 by Ansell Smith whom Henry David Thoreau and Joe Polis stayed with on their famous canoe trip. Later in the 1800s, the village grew in size to be a bustling community of several hundred people during the river drive logging era and, until the early 2000s, was the state of Maine’s last roadless settlement. We will go on a leisurely walk through the village as we have some friends who still live there today. We will also stop by the historic church and, if there is interest, take a short walk up to the cemetery where Ansell Smith and his descendants are buried.

West Branch of the Penobscot River Canoe Country

In the early 1980s, the state of Maine negotiated a conservation easement along the shoreline of the upper West Branch to keep it from ever being developed and to maintain its “forever wild” state. Along the river shoreline, the campsites are located in Boreal Forest habitat and the state of Maine maintains picnic tables, a stone fireplace, and an outhouse at each of the campsites. The West Branch of the Penobscot Wabanki-Thoreau Canoe Trail is an excellent choice for anyone who would like to enjoy a remote and quiet river trip through the solitude of the north Maine woods.

For trip itinerary, click here

Book Today

Have a Question? Contact Us

Please let us know what's on your mind. Have a question for us? Ask away.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Custom trips

Mahoosuc Guide Service can design custom Maine canoe trips for families, youth groups, clubs, or organizations from one to 10 days in length. We can also design trips to retrace any part of Henry David Thoreau’s route, including Webster Brook and East Branch of the Penobscot River. Contact us today to discuss your group’s interests, abilities, goals, and available dates.

Learn More About Custom Trips


Photo Gallery

Book Today




Book Now


Safety and Basic Information for Canoe Trips

All our Maine canoe trips are fully outfitted and guided by Mahoosuc Guide Service’s owners Polly or Kevin. We provide all the food, camping, paddling, and cooking equipment, as well as a detailed clothing list to help you in packing for your trip. Most of our trips meet in Orono, Maine (just north of Bangor). We provide transportation to and from the river. Many of our canoe trips require no special physical conditioning. If you have any concerns about the physical requirements of a trip, please contact us.

On the Trip:

We are experienced teachers and will help you master the art of canoeing by teaching paddle strokes and poling techniques. You will learn how to set up a warm dry camp, and if you want, how to cook and bake over an open fire. All our food is natural or organic, and we source much of our food locally. Natural history, wildlife viewing, and fishing will be covered as your interests warrant.


You are in safe hands with Mahoosuc Guide Service. With more than 40 years guiding experience from Maine and Quebec to the Yukon Territory and Alaska, we have an excellent safety record. We are certified in Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responders. We carry a satellite phone for emergency communication!


Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Meet at the Black Bear Inn in Orono, Maine, at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast. Look at map together and pack up gear for the trip. Depart around 9 a.m. Drive to put in on Lobster Stream. Lesson about paddling strokes, loading canoes, and traveling as a group. Paddle to campsite on Lobster Lake.

Day 2

Paddle down Lobster Stream to confluence of the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Lunch at Thoreau’s Island. Camp at Big Island area. Fish or lesson about canoe poling.

Day 3

Paddle down the West Branch of the Penobscot to Pine Stream. Lunch and exploration upstream, if people desire. Paddle down to Chesuncook Lake. Stay over in area around Chesuncook Village with beautiful views of Mt. Katahdin. Walk around village and see historic cemetery.

Day 4

Paddle down Chesuncook Lake. Camp at Mouser Island with beautiful views of Spencer Mountain. Last night together and on an island! Good swimming, poling, or fishing.

Day 5

Paddle to take-out at south end of the lake, visit the museum if it is open. Load canoes and gear. Have lunch. Drive back to Black Bear Inn in Orono. Arrive around 5 p.m. Say good-byes.