Posted by: nfct | October 13, 2011

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Blog Has Moved…

Named “2011 Best Canoe Trail”
by Outside Magazine.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail blog has a new home at

Update your bookmark and stay in touch with happenings along the 740-mile, 4-state and 1-province water route.

Same great stories, same great canoe trail!

Posted by: nfct | August 9, 2011

The Allagash Crew: Life on the fringe….

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a beacon for many long distance paddlers on the NFCT, looking to make their way to Fort Kent, ME.  For NFCT interns Nicole and Peter, this location has been home for six weeks.

Heading out to Lock Dam in the Boston Whaler.

No one said it would be easy from the get-go.  Matt Laroche, AWW Superintendent caught wind of the great stewardship work that we have been doing and thought there would be a good fit for our trained interns in the Allagash.  The first project he had in mind was a doozy for a two person crew, but fortunately we were able to find Nicole and Pete.  The challenge:  construct 1,000 plus feet of stone causeway through a muddy sluice on the Tramway Carry. 

Covered in mud and fighting the bugs, but feeling strong.

The first day out on the carry we met up with Matt, Rangers Chris and Pat, and a couple of people who knew a bit about the history of the area.  Matt gave us a run down of why the carry had such a high degree of historic significance.  This 3/4 mile stretch of land was in the way of getting logs to go south where they would stay in US mills.  With a lot of Yankee ingenuity and a few learning mistakes along the way the Tramway was constructed.  The tramway was basically a conveyor belt that brought logs from Eagle Lake to Chamberlin.  To keep the logs running downhill they built a berm of earth.  The easiest thing to do was take what soil they could find from right next to the berm.  This dropped the surface of what is now called the carry and created a situation where the carry became a sluice of mud.

The rain was keeping the bugs down. Then it stopped raining.

Out of the 1,000 plus feet of causeway, there was about 200 feet that was particularly bad.  I mean muck half way up your shin, filled with rotting logs and wood chips, with no way to get the water out of the trail.  This is where the crew started, getting the worst out of the way first.  We needed to dig ditches to divert the water, then remove the organics in order to build the causeway on something fairly solid.

Fabric was used to keep the gravel and rocks from sinking into the mud.


Rock was used to make a border for the gravel fill.


Then the Canicom motorized wheelbarrow was used to transport the gravel. What a back saver.

Multiply this process by 1,000 plus feet and you have a big thank you to Nicole, Peter, and all the volunteers that helped.  A huge “Thanks!” to Chamberlain Rangers Chris and Rick as well as Deb for treating us like family.
We also had two great Waterway Work Trips on this project that made a huge difference.  And that is another story that we will soon tell….
Posted by: nfct | July 27, 2011

Off to the races……..

The 2011 NFCT Interns are hot on the trail.  After an intense few weeks of training the crews are putting their energy and knowledge to work making the NFCT continue to be the best canoe trail out there.

All houses are built on foundations, and it is awful hard for anyone person to build a foundation on their own.  Once again a community of support came together to get this season’s interns ready to hit the trail. Rob Scharges from Vermont Canoe offered to spend a day with the crew training them on paddling techniques for fastwater.  We headed down the old Missisquoi River putting in at Sheldon Springs and making our way to East Highgate, taking the time to practice technique and learn about the flow and power of moving water along the way.

Rob explains paddle techniques to the crews.


Max Reis has some fun in the solo playboat.


Pete and Allison pick a good line.


Practicing a throw bag toss.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Julie Foley, Rebecca Pfieffer, and Leslie Mathews explained the details of wetlands, floodpalins, and aquatic invasives.  We also harnessed a high degree of internal expertise to cover the topics of Managing Group Conflict, Flat Water Paddling, and Working with Volunteers.
And then there was Tim Hille.  Tim is a long time supporter of the NFCT.  He went above and beyond the call of duty.  Tim not only volunteered to be our injury victim as we trained for emergency preparedness:

Tim fakes a realistic eye injury.

but him and his sons Ben and Joe built an amazing Waterway Stewardship Canoe Trailer that they donated to our program!!!  Hille’s you rock!  (More to come on the construction process of the trailer)

The crew poses in front of our new work trailer!

We are all ready to get out an accomplish great things on the trail.  Hope to see you out there!

By Kate Williams, Executive Director

I still remember when I was a kid and took my first glimpse through a microscope at an unremarkable drop of pond water.  As I saw the remarkable range of squirmy, shapely, and mysterious creatures under the lens, I finally understood the phrase “more than meets the eye.”  I had a similar kind of “aha” this past Wednesday, June 29, when I suddenly grokked all of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail activity that was occurring simultaneously in Coos County, NH under the forested cover, rugged topography, and dramatically cloudy skies:

  • Outreach:  With three staffers from the NH Fish and Game Department, I was paddling the Connecticut River from Maidstone to Guildhall to film a segment of a TV show that will air on WBIN-TV.  The big clouds and filtered light made the wide valley, silver maples, and background peaks almost unreal in their perfection, and my new paddling friends were fun and knowledgeable.  All good.  (Stay tuned for when our segment airs….)
  •  Trail Stewardship:  Just downstream in Lancaster, several of our interns with field coordinator Noah Pollock were industriously building register boxes at the home of NFCT Board member Mary Sloat.  Mary’s husband, Bruce, has done his fair share of trail work primarily for the Appalachian Mountain Club, and he joined in the fun and gave the interns high marks for their work ethic.  Phew.
  • More Trail Stewardship:  Continuing east, another pod of interns was working on an Upper Ammonoosuc River access we are building at Gord’s Corner Store in Milan.  Huge thanks to Gord’s for being such an active partner!
  • Community Economic Development:  At the tail end of the day, Noah and I converged in Lancaster for a meeting with Kevin Mack, NFCT’s new Director of Partnerships and Marketing, and Phoebe Backler, our field coordinator for NH.  We met to review our Trails and Economic Development Report (coming soon!) and to strategize for the coming year’s work in our community economic development program.
  • Northern Forest Explorers:  Last but not least, on NFCT’s third NH river, the mighty Androscoggin, one of our first Northern Forest Explorers trips of the season was making its way downstream to their campsite for the night under the able guidance of Great Glen Trails.
One day – one beautiful trail section – LOTS of activity in all of our program areas.  And I knew that to our west and east, so much more similarly wonderful activity was happening in the watersheds of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
Posted by: nfct | May 5, 2011

The Mighty Freshet

from Walter Opuszynski, NFCT Trail Director

Many springs we don’t recognize the 100 year flood line. For decades dams sit in a somewhat idle fashion and we may wonder why people went through such great efforts to install them in certain locations.  Not this year.  I have been across New England planning for projects this upcoming season and have marveled at and been humbled by the amazing power of congregated moving water.  Please, all paddlers, be careful out there.  The power is great.   I learned the hard way this season as I let a canoe slip through my fingers and eventually through the jaws of the Permanent Rapids on the Saranac River in New York.  The canoe did not come out the other end as it went in, lesson learned.  As we continue to get rain and many homes and roads are inundated by water, it is important to respect nature and know your limits.  If you are going to be paddling this run-off, be prepared; scout well, dress appropriately, and plan for the worst.

Here are a few shots of what I have been seeing along the trail:

We have some Great Tips on the NFCT website that I always suggest people take a look at before hitting the water. 

Brendan Jackson, 2010 Stewardship Intern and soon to be 2011 GIS intern also shared these pictures and video with us.

Once again, be safe, have fun, and keep us posted on your adventures!  I’m sure we will all be riding this freshet out for some time.

Posted by: nfct | May 2, 2011

Recognizing the Centennial of the Weeks Act

by Phoebe Backler, New Hampshire Field Coordinator

This year, we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Weeks Act. This landmark legislation enabled the federal government to purchase private land to protect the watersheds and headwaters of rivers in the eastern United States and to maintain navigable waterways.

Upper Ammoonoosuc River above Cordwell Campsite an NFCT, by Josh Carroll

The Upper Ammonoosuc River's watershed touches the White Mountain National Forest created in 1918 as a result of the Weeks Act.

A legacy of the Weeks Act, championed by John Wingate Weeks of Lancaster NH, is the protection of nearly 20 million acres of lands across the eastern US. It also offers proof that the preservation of natural habitat, outdoor recreation opportunity and economic vitality can and should be sought simultaneously.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s work is closely linked to this view of environmental protection. Our stewardship initiatives both protect wildlife habitat and provide paddlers access to magnificent waterways.

At the same time, we work with small business owners to help them establish their towns as premiere paddling destinations with the goal of preserving the economic health of the unique and rich hamlets of the Northern Forest. Our Itineraries and Vacation Packages are designed to spark the wander lust in YOU, the paddler and to draw you to these special places. So go ahead. Check them out and see where your imagination and paddle take you this paddling season!

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Itineraries

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Vacation Packages

Spread the word: If you follow a tip for a great lunch or soft bed from an NFCT itinerary, let business owners know! You can help us demonstrate the power of the Trail on your next excursion to the NFCT.

Posted by: nfct | April 14, 2011

Trip Report for the North Branch of the Dead River

Just in time for the reliable waters of May and June.  NFCT Member Michael O’Neill has shared with us a report created after a trip he took last year with some paddling buddies.  They had so much fun that they asked me to share it with others.  It is a “feeder trip” to the NFCT, but sure does sound like a lot of fun.  I’ve put it on my list.  You can see how this trip enters the NFCT corridor by looking on the NFCT Map 9 in the northwest corner. 

At the Chain of Lakes

You can find all the details by following this link:

Michael O’Neill’s North Branch of the Dead River Trip Report

Slide Show of Pictures Available until 7-13-2011

If anyone else has any well put together trip reports regarding NFCT adventures, I would be happy to post them for others to access.  Just a note that any trip reports should be used as supplemental information to your plans.  Michael does a great job of listing other known resources that should be accessed to prepare for such an adventure.

Here comes the freshet!  Happy Paddling!

Walter Opuszynski, NFCT Trail Director

Posted by: nfct | April 6, 2011

Not Quite Paddling Yet

What else for paddlers to do when the water is not yet liquid enough for paddling?  Hit the early season paddling shows, of course!  As in past years, NFCT was there to meet them this year.  Specifically, this year we hit the QuietWater Symposium in Lansing, Michigan, Jersey Paddler’s Paddlesport 2011, and Kittery Trading Post’s New England Paddlesport Show.  Here’s what we love about these shows:

  • We meet members new and old, and get a lift from their excitement about NFCT
  • We learn from paddlers what services they are looking for (big takeaway this year:  create a bulletin board on our website so paddlers can find each other for trips on the trail)
  • We join with other trail partners and corporate supporters to create one big happy buzz about recreational paddling.

Other highlights from this year include the opportunity I had to hang out with kayak through paddler Cathy Mumford at the Jersey show, and to co-present with her over the course of the weekend.  Cathy is an incredible person, both strong and warm, and she has a great story to tell.  We look forward to continuing to share the stage moving forward!

Kate and Cathy at the booth in New Jersey, March 2011

And at the Kittery Trading Post show, a few of our awesome supporters stopped by the NFCT booth for a photo opp.  Thanks to ALL of our supporters for the great work they do to get you outside with the gear you need!

Old Town Canoe & Kayak’s Scott Phillips, April 2011

Jim Kaiser, representing Wenonah Canoe, April 2011

Peter Pell from Thule, April 2011

Brian Van Drie from

And in the neighboring booth, Danielle Chaput of MITA and Ron Shaw of MASKGI

Our thanks to one and all for the great work you are doing on all fronts to support recreational paddling and to connect people to the outdoors!

Posted by: nfct | March 24, 2011

Discovering the Clyde River

By Noah Pollock, Vermont Field Coordinator

In 2006, as part of a graduate research project, I conducted a study examining the economic impacts of paddler tourism and recreation along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. As research projects go, this was a pretty sweet gig! Fellow classmates shook their heads when I described how my work required me to explore waterways stretching from the Adirondacks to northern Maine. Living out of my car, I traveled from region to region, surveying businesses and paddlers along the way.

Kayaking the Clyde River

The Clyde River is part of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

One of my study regions was the Clyde River, in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Here, the NFCT winds through a valley of farms, forests, and boreal wetlands. After assessing use levels and expenditures by paddlers, I concluded that paddlers had a fairly minimal impact on the local economy here. Unlike in the Adirondacks or along the Allagash, very few outfitters served this region, and most folks exploring the waterways were local fishermen and second home owners.

Now, wearing a hat as a NFCT Field Coordinator, my work takes me back to many of the same places I had surveyed as a student, including the Clyde River. What a difference a few years make! Soon after I graduated, Chris McFarland, a landscaper from New Hampshire, decided it was time for a career change. Purchasing a flotilla of colorful kayaks, Chris set out to provide boat rental and shuttling services near Pensioner Pond, in East Charleston. He located the business, named Clyde River Recreation, in a spot where the river meanders so much that following an eight minute shuttle paddlers can enjoy a two and a half hour paddle. This allows Chris to keep costs low and visitors happy. Now, on a typical summer day, dozens of groups set out on river journeys, returning with smiles on their faces.

Clyde River Recreation

Clyde River Recreation provides boats, you provide the power.

I have come to realize that in order for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail to create meaningful economic impacts in area communities, successful local boat liveries are essential. They have a presence in area chamber of commerce meetings. And just like the trail medallions and kiosks, racks of kayaks alongside the road catch the eyes of visitors.

As an organization, the NFCT is keenly interested in seeing businesses like Clyde River Recreation thrive – and doing what we can to support them.

Supported by a grant from the USDA, my work has allowed me to spread the word about Chris’ business and to encourage collaboration with local lodging establishments. Now, tourists visiting the Wildflower Inn in East Burke often spend a day cycling the off-road network of mountain bike trails often take a trip north to explore the Clyde River, as part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail “Pedal and Paddle” package.

A variety of overnight options provide serenity and easy access to the NFCT.

A variety of overnight options provide serenity and easy access to the NFCT.

As interest in paddling the Clyde River increases, other entrepreneurs are taking notice. Bill Manning, who founded the NorthWoods Stewardship Center years ago, now rents a vacation home to paddlers.  This beautiful getaway, situated along a wild and scenic stretch of the Clyde River rivals the offerings one finds in the Adirondacks and in Maine, but for a fraction of the price.

Following the Clyde River, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail flows through one of the most economically depressed regions in Vermont. Through our partnerships with area community members and entrepreneurs, it is satisfying to witness positive impacts in area communities. “The Trail is having more of an impact than you might think,” a local business owner told me recently. That statement, I suppose, is best verified by a future graduate student, with their own sweet research gig.

Posted by: nfct | March 2, 2011

Ahhhh….The Life of an NFCT Summer Intern

Our application deadline for summer interns (March 11th) is fast approaching.  We here at the NFCT office look forward to it with great anticipation because we know it means we are getting closer to the paddling season, and also that another great group of people will temporarily join the ranks, reinvigorating the organization and Trail.  The program has been steadily growing since inception and each season we are able to have more of an impact on the NFCT, the communities it travels through, and the people who live along the Trail.  With this said I encourage anyone interested in:

  • Traveling the trail performing stewardship projects
  • Collecting GIS information for NFCT infrastructure
  • Taking children on mini-expeditions and performing environmental eduction
  • Spending 7 weeks in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway performing stewardship projects
  • Working out of the Waitsfield, VT office supporting all of the efforts

to go to the NFCT 2011 Intern page on our website and follow the simple application process.  Here are some reasons why:

We heavily weight training as a part of the intern experience.  Youth Program, Roving Stewardship, Allagash, and GIS interns will receive 2 weeks of training up front to prepare for the season.  The Program Intern will participate in trainings with the field interns and have on the job training throughout the internship.  Some glimpses at past trainings:

Paddle training on the Missisquoi River in Vermont.

Learning about aquatic invasives

Then there is the time in the field.  You are guaranteed to be in some of the most beautiful places in the North Woods. We strive to have situations where interns can hone their leadership, group, and field skills.  You will be interacting with volunteers and land managers across the Trail.  You’ll be performing projects that make a difference:

Placing retainer rocks on the Eighth Lake take-out in NY

Taking a moment to pose for a picture after installing a log ladder at Spencer Rips in Maine

And there is still plenty of time to enjoy where you are and the company of others:

Enjoying a paddle along the CT River after a day in the field

I think our 2009 Stewardship Intern, Kim Hack, sums it up well:

“Interning with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail will ensure an action packed, adventure filled summer. Your projects will range from building rock staircases in the Adirondacks, chiseling in Vermont, painting picnic tables in New Hampshire, to nailing down bog bridges in Maine. Through it all you will gain a wide breath of skills in trail building, rock work, carpentry, canoe paddling, volunteer management, back country cooking, and effective communication. There are bountiful learning opportunities and connections to be made through the people at NFCT, your fellow interns, project partners, and through the volunteers. You will leave this internship with a greater appreciation and understanding for eco-tourism’s place in the sustainability movement. Engaging with the volunteers at the NFCT weekend events solidified my love for working with community members. I am now with AmeriCorps primarily involved with stream restoration efforts in SW Washington and helping to coordinate volunteer events and a stream steward program. I find many of the skills learned through my summer with the NFCT to be transferable to my current employment. Although my time with NFCT has come to an end my sweet memories with them will live on for a long time to come.”

So, if you are interested, I truly hope you throw your hat in the ring.  I’m sure it will prove to be a very fulfilling opportunity.

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