Our wilderness canoe trips provide instruction in traditional northern canoeing and camping techniques developed by the Wabanaki people and later by Maine guides. We allow more days for our river trips than most guide services to enjoy the country, our company, and to slow down our busy lives.

Traveling by canoe on rivers in what we now call “Maine” is a 12,000 year-old tradition and is the best way to view moose and other wildlife up close in the North Woods. We are a traditional Maine Guide service. We use setting poles for shallow river travel, our own handcrafted wood paddles and canoes, and bake desserts in a reflector oven in front of the campfire. We can even show you the strokes the first Mainers—the Wabanaki—used to paddle their canoes.

We offer most of our wilderness canoe trips on the northern rivers of Maine. The Allagash River trips are the most popular, but we also guide the East and West Branch of the Penobscot, and the St. John (Wolastoq). By previous arrangement, we are also available to guide the Machias, St. Croix, Aroostook, Moose River, and any other area you wish to explore.

In late summer, we migrate north to Quebec for our Canoeing with the Cree trip. This is a rich opportunity to travel with a Cree family, the Bosums, in their ancestral homeland they call “Chitchinnu,” meaning “our garden.”

We also offer canoeing and cultural experiences with the Penobscot natives to Sugar Island in the Penobscot River on our Way of the Wabanaki trip. This is a rare opportunity to learn about and spend time with the Wabanaki people.

In addition, we offer shorter canoe trips, ranging from one to three days, into the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. Contact us about scheduling and available dates.

A few reasons you may want to consider Mahoosuc Guide Service for a canoe trip are:

  • We are Master Maine Guides with 34 and 44 years of experience.
  • We have been in business since 1990.
  • We’re former ACA-certified whitewater instructors and/or whitewater trainers.
  • We are full time professional wilderness guides. Guiding is all we do.
  • Mahoosuc Guide Service offered the first Canoe River Guide Training Course in Maine.
  • We handcraft our own cedar-canvas canoes, paddles, and setting poles.
  • We developed one of the first River Rescue courses for professional guides back in 1985.
  • We received the State of Maine’s “Excellence in Nature Based Tourism Award” in 2003.
  • We are able to design custom trips for families or friends and cater to any special needs you may have.
  • Polly received the “Legendary Maine Guide Award” in 2021 from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

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) or Medway, Maine (one hour 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.

What to Expect

Canoe trips in Maine can have highly variable weather. High temperatures can range from 50° to 90°, with low temperatures of 30° to 60°. Average high temps for June-August range from 70°-80° with low temps reaching 50°. May and September highs range from 50°-70° with lows in the 30°-50° range. “Bug Season” typically runs from mid-May through June.

Packing, Clothing, Personal Equipment

Please use the clothing list as a literal checklist and try not to bring extra stuff. All of your clothing, gear, and sleeping bag need to fit into one large dry bag and one small dry bag. The small dry bag is for items you need to keep accessible: bug repellent, hat, rain gear, chapstick, sunscreen, camera, etc.

Good quality rain gear (top and bottom) is essential. Do not skimp here. We recommend gore-tex or gore-tex knock-off (i.e. breathable). A less expensive option is coated nylon rain gear with taped seams.

Wet shoes– it’s important that they are closed toe and have a ridged sole. Much of the bedrock in Maine is quite sharp. Avoid the “slipper” type wet shoes. Ankle support is important if your trip has a portage on it.

During “bug season” (approximately mid-May through June), you may want to consider a bug shirt or jacket, especially if you prefer not to use insect repellent. Google “bug shirt” or “bug jacket”; there is a wide selection out there. There are natural ingredient based bug repellents available, but keep in mind you will have to apply them more often than the DEET based bug repellents. DEET is effective, but it does melt plastic and synthetics!! Bugs are attracted to dark colors, so your lightweight long sleeve cotton shirts(s) should be light or bright colored.

On May and September trips, it is important to have high top rubber waterproof boots to keep your feet warm and dry. The height should be to just below the knee or about 16”. It is also important to bring a pair of gloves for possible cool or wet days of paddling.

Daily Routine

Guides are typically up at first light and coffee and tea water is ready shortly thereafter. Normally we are on the water paddling for 4-6 hours a day with a lunch break mid-day and shorter snack breaks as necessary. We move camp each day and must travel a certain distance, but there is usually ample time for swimming, fishing or just relaxing. We usually pull into camp mid-afternoon-ish. If you are interested in learning about the natural history of the North Woods, the guides are happy to share their knowledge about edible/medicinal plants, tree identification, common birds and their songs (just to name a few).

Camp Life

There is a certain amount of work involved in setting up and taking down camp. Since we cook and bake on fires, we use a good bit of firewood. You should feel comfortable helping as much, or as little, as you want with the camp chores. We always have two guides and sometimes an apprentice on every trip, for safety and to spread the workload. Your accommodations will be a 4-person nylon tent for couples or kids, or a 2-person nylon tent for individuals. Most campsites have picnic tables, an outhouse, and level tent sites. There will be hand sanitizer in the outhouse and a warm water wash station set up near the kitchen area.

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 and Alaska, we have an excellent safety record. We are certified in Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder.

We prefer people to wear their PFD’s at all times while we are on the water. You will receive safety briefings before paddling, running white-water, portages, or any other activity with inherent risks. We ask all our guests to be extra careful when doing any trip related activity due to our extreme remoteness. We always carry a satellite phone in the event of an emergency. All guides have a current WFA (wilderness first aid) or WFR (wilderness first responder) certification and CPR. Our trips are alcohol free for both guides and guests.


Most of our canoe trips are beginner friendly. The guides will cover paddle strokes, tent set-up, canoe poling, and just about any other outdoor skill you want to learn. Remember, we were all beginners at some point! If you have any questions or concerns regarding the appropriateness of one of our trips for your experience level or physical abilities, please do not hesitate to contact us.


All the rivers that we paddle for our canoe trips are artificial lure or fly fishing only. Children (resident and non-resident) under the age of 16 do not need a license. Adults can obtain a fishing license online by going to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website. Primary fish species include: native brook trout, land-locked salmon, and fallfish (chub). We recommend keeping your fishing rod in a rigid case. If you want advice on lures or flies, send us an email as it depends on the season and the river. Generally, the best fly fishing is the end of May through June and the second half of September. To purchase a fishing license online, click here.


Tips are appropriate for your guides as recognition for how hard they worked to provide a safe and enjoyable trip for you. A common amount is 5% – 10% of your trip cost. At Mahoosuc, we split tips evenly among whoever is working on the trip unless people want certain amounts to go directly to certain guides. In this case, they should tip guides individually.


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