Trip Report: Paddle Down the East Branch of the Penobscot

My partner, Gary, and I decided to run the East Branch of the Penobscot River during the weekend of June 16th and 17th. I recently joined the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters as its inaugural Executive Director and we planned this trip to get to know one of the three waterways that can be paddled in our new national monument and to give me some whitewater training. In a former life, Gary was an instructor for Outward Bound as well as the Boy Scouts; he’s paddled this stretch of river more times than he can count. Back in 2013, the East Branch was the first river I had ever paddled with Gary. We were both eager to return, but we knew that the quick water, rapids, and numerous waterfalls requiring portages would test our physical and mental dexterity.

We decided to stay at Bowlin Camps, an old lodge with a series of sporting cabins on the shore of the East Branch, abutting monument lands to the west and south. Dave and his wife, Terry, manage the camps and were excellent hosts during our three-night stay. For a modest fee, Dave shuttled us from the camps up to the Matagamon Dam on both Saturday and Sunday, allowing us to run the exciting part of the river both days while enjoying the creature comforts of beds, shelter from the bugs, and even some wi-fi.

We arrived at Bowlin Camps late Friday afternoon. Jeff, the camp cook, prepared us an excellent meal of salad, lasagna, garlic bread, and the best chocolate cream pie I’ve ever had. Afterward, Gary and I headed to Bowlin Pond for a refresher on some paddling techniques and to see the sun set behind the Traveler Mountains. Bowlin Camps keeps a canoe on the pond and if you ask nicely they’ll let you use it.

Early Saturday morning we loaded up the canoe, paddles, and supplies for a day on the river. Dave dropped us off on Matagamon Lake just before the Baxter Gate, allowing us more time to practice before we headed to the dam to start our river journey. The river flowage is regulated by the Matagamon Lake Owners Association and was running at about 330 CFS (cubic feet per second) – a little low, but passable. We pushed off from below the dam on a cloudless, 78-degree day.

As we paddled under the route 159 bridge we saw several anglers wading in the water looking to hook trout and a couple of folks camped out on the shore of Matagamon Wilderness Camps. After the first mile or so of the river, we didn’t see another soul for the rest of our trip (both Saturday and Sunday). But we didn’t have to look far for signs of life; we spotted river otters, bald eagles, beavers, and even a moose along the way.  Of course, the blackflies, mosquitos, and moose flies also made unwelcome appearances, but they were mostly deterred by a stiff breeze both days.

After passing through The Oxbow, where author Henry David Thoreau and his Wabanaki guide, Joe Polis, once camped for a night in 1857, we approached Stair Falls, the first major set of rapids we would run. Some choose to portage this series of ledges, but we were up for the ride. We scouted both the upper and lower falls. The more serious lower falls are a series of ledges that can make for some bumps in low water, but we managed to successfully run them without taking much water or getting hung up. Most run this rapid river-center to just right of river-center. It’s definitely an exhilarating experience.

After passing by the Haskell Hut on river right (which you can ski to and spend a night at during the winter) and passing through Haskell Deadwater, we came to the first of four mandatory portages, Haskell Rock Pitch. After a snack, schlepping our gear, and some scouting, we were ready to run two more rapids just below the falls, Mikelic I and Mikelic II. Our planned route was to zigzag the first set of rapids, moving from river-right to river-left, and back to river-right again to avoid a number of boulders and pillows – so much for best-laid plans! As we turned the boat to river-left I felt a big bump and then the next thing I knew we were both in the river and our canoe was floating upside down at our side. Luckily, the same previously unseen rock that resulted in us dumping the boat was also providing us with a safe-harbor eddy. We managed to pull our boat up on some rocks, bailed out as much water as we could, and finished running the rapids. Aside from a couple scrapes and sunken pairs of sunglasses, we were fine. In talking with some of the locals later, we heard stories of just how serious these rapids and other spots on the river can be – those less prepared or knowledgeable haven’t fared as well.

After our swim, we made our way to Pond Pitch and a short while later the Grand Pitch. Both of these falls are mandatory portages. You can portage on either side of the river at both falls, river-right is on monument lands while river-left is privately owned. There is some quick water before and after both portages, but not rapids like the ones right after Haskell, making for a welcomed easier ride. It should be noted that both portages have some really nice campsites; there’s even a lean-to managed by the National Park Service on river-right. All of these sites, along with the falls, portages, and other helpful information, are detailed in the Map Adventures Katahdin Woods and Waters recreation map. I’d highly recommend having it before setting off on a journey in the monument. Folks that sign up to be members or renew their membership in 2018 get one of these maps as part of their membership.

Not far after Grand Pitch is The Hulling Machine, the fourth and final portage if you are pulling out at Bowlin Camps. The name comes from the time of the log drivers. Rumor has it that this waterfall is so powerful that the trunks of century-old white pines would exit the falls with their bark stripped. You can only portage this fall on river-right and, boy, is it a difficult one. The nearly half-mile portage goes uphill for a good clip and I have never seen so many mosquitos congregating in the hollow of my boat as I have on this carry. Gary and I probably switched off the canoe half a dozen times before getting back to the water. Gary told me that this portage used to make the Outward Bound students he guided cry. I can see why.

Our last leg of our river journey was down river to Bowlin Falls. You can portage this set of falls, too, but it’s much more fun to run them. We took our boat out shortly after the falls at Bowlin Camps. We prepared a campfire (Dave actually prepped the fire for us, we just had to light a match) and cooked some steaks while we enjoyed frosty cold beers.

The next morning we headed out a little later, choosing to put in just below the dam and forgo paddling on the lake. We ran the river, spending extra time scouting Mikelic I, where we bumped along and at one point got hung up on a rock, but managed to make it through with only a little water in the boat and our pride intact.

We ran the river much more quickly on Sunday. In fact, we managed to be eating dinner in our 1895 cabin (named for the year it was built) shortly after 5 pm. As we wondered what to do with ourselves that evening, Dave and Terry invited us to head out for a drive on the dirt roads of the monument just to the south of the property to scout moose and other wildlife. We managed to see five moose during our drive on roads that had us grateful for four-wheel drive and high clearance. As we drove around, I made a mental note to come back next time with mountain bikes – the dirt roads are begging to be explored by cyclists.

We slept well Sunday night after two days of paddling and portaging. We awoke on Monday to the sound of rain hitting our cabin roof and high-fived each other for having gotten the good weather during our paddle days. All told, it was a great weekend in some of the most remote and interesting waters in the state. I wouldn’t want to paddle the river with much less water, so I’d encourage folks to check the Matagamon Dam outputs prior to setting out. I’d highly recommend staying at Bowlin Camps. I left with a profound sense of gratitude and respect for the wild and beautiful public that is the East Branch, knowing that I’ll surely be back to share this treasure with others.

Andy Bossie, Executive Director

Preparations Underway for 2nd Anniversary Celebration of Maine’s National Monument 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Contact:
Andrew Bossie
Executive Director
Office: (207) 808 – 0020

Preparations Underway for 2nd Anniversary Celebration of Maine’s National Monument
This year’s festivities include new and returning sponsors as well as activities in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and the surrounding communities. 

Patten, ME — Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters released details of the 2ndAnniversary Celebration of the establishment of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument today. The celebration, presented by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters and Maine Beer Company, will be held on August 25that Shin Pond Village in Mt. Chase, Maine.

The evening will include beer from Maine Beer Company, dinner from Patten-based Casual Elegance Caterers, and a silent auction of outdoor gear, experiences, and memorabilia. The special evening will feature a performance from the Magic Eight Ball Quartet, sponsored by The Wilderness Society. Weather permitting, guests will get the chance to experience the exceptional night skies of the area by walking a short distance from the event to telescopes and an interpretive presentation.  Tickets for the Saturday night celebration are available for $25 at www.friendsofkww.org/anniversary.

“Interest in our national monument continues to grow and we’re eager to share the unique natural, recreational, and cultural aspects of our new public lands with more people,” said Andrew Bossie, Executive Director of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “As we celebrate two years since the designation of the monument, we’re growing the number of partnerships and offering more activities that lift up the monument and the communities of the Katahdin Region.”

Maine-based outdoor retailer, L.L. Bean, is sponsoring activities that encourage attendees to “Be an Outsider” and explore Maine and the nation’s newest public lands before and after the event. Organizers have posted suggested trips including hikes, paddles, bike rides, and drives throughout the monument. Visitors are also urged to support the surrounding communities by booking local accommodations and shopping at area businesses. During the weekend, attendees of the anniversary can visit the Patten Lumberman’s museum to learn about the rich logging history of the region. Attendees can also visit North Light Gallery in Millinocket to meet local painters who will be displaying recently produced Plein Air works showcasing the natural beauty of Katahdin Woods and Waters.

Host and sponsorship benefits are available to interested individuals and businesses. Patagonia is hosting a private reception for hosts and sponsors Friday evening at Mt Chase Lodge. Proceeds from the anniversary celebration will benefit the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters in their efforts to protect, preserve, and promote the monument and the communities of the Katahdin Region.

The Bangor Daily News has agreed to sponsor the event through promotions in its print and online publications to help drive visitation to the event, the monument, and the surrounding communities.

Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is a non-profit 501(c)(3) membership organization made up of individuals and businesses who are committed to the mission to preserve and protect the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality and distinctive cultural resources of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and surrounding communities for the inspiration and enjoyment of all generations. To become a member or to learn more, go to www.friendsofkww.org.

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Putting the Nation’s Newest Monument on the Map

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Contact:
Andrew Bossie
Executive Director
Office: (207) 808-0020

Putting the Nation’s Newest Monument on the Map
Map Adventures partners with Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters to release new recreation map

Patten, ME — Map Adventures LLC, publisher of the popular Katahdin Baxter Map, Acadia National Park, and other hiking and biking maps, recently partnered with Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters to release a new map of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWWNM). This is the first recreational map of the monument available for purchase, although anyone who joins Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters before June 30th will receive the map as part of their membership.

The new map represents trails and activities for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, canoeists, kayakers, and fans of winter recreation. The two major wild rivers that run through the monument, the Seboeis River and the East Branch of the Penobscot River, offer stellar whitewater and flatwater river experiences for paddlers. Families can get a lot out of the monument too, however, they should know that limited services and signage make visiting an adventure.

“Other parks that we’ve mapped have a longer history of recreational use, an infrastructure of trails, and visitor centers,” said Steve Bushey, cartographer and co-owner of Map Adventures. “The exciting challenge was to create a map to help visitors safely navigate a national treasure that’s still in its infancy.”

Another unique feature of the KWWNM map is the inclusion of communities, towns, and trail systems leading to the park. It’s one of the reasons that Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters wanted to partner with Map Adventures on the project.

“Both of our organizations believe in the power of community,” said Andrew Bossie, executive director of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “We encourage people to try the outdoor and wilderness activities offered by nearby businesses – it will only add to their understanding and experience of the monument.”

Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is also offering a guide of the scenic Loop Road for those visitors who might prefer a leisurely drive to watch for wildlife, or to learn some area history. The Loop Road Interpretive Map is available at the KWWNM’s visitor contact stations in Millinocket and Patten, at the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, and along the Loop Road, which is expected to open to visitors before the end of the May.

Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is a non-profit 501c3 membership organization made up of individuals and businesses who are committed to working to help protect, preserve, and promote all that is special about Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. To become a member, or to learn more, go to www.friendsofkww.org.

Based in Peaks Island, Maine, Map Adventures LLC was founded in 1994 by husband-and-wife team Steve Bushey (head cartographer and strategist) and Angela Faeth (designer and project manager). The company has published more than 100 detailed, high-quality maps, including hiking maps and guides for Northern New England, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information, visit www.mapadventures.com.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument map is available from retail outlets in the Katahdin region and throughout New England, and online at www.mapadventures.com. A companion digital version of the map is downloadable through the Avenza PDF Map Store, using the PDF Maps mobile app.

** Digital images and hard copies of the map are available upon request.**

Media Contacts:
Andrew Bossie – andrew@friendsofkww.org / (207) 808 – 0020
Jennifer Boggs – jen@toderico.com / (917) 520 – 1123
Angela Faeth – angela@mapdventures.com / (207) 879 – 4777

National Parks Conservation Association Meet & Greet: May 24th

You’re invited to a 21+ Oxbow Brewery meet and greet hosted by the National Parks Conversation Association (NPCA) featuring Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters!

Come learn about the vital work of NPCA, an organization which has advocated for national parks since 1919, and how you can be involved in shaping the future of these special places, including Katahdin Woods and Waters. We hope you’ll join us! Your first beer (Maine Beer Company’s Woods & Waters IPA – fitting, right?) is free. To RSVP, register for the event here.

 

Event Details

Thursday, May 24th
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Oxbow Blending and Bottling
49 Washington Ave, Portland, ME 04101

Save the Date: August 25th

Join us for the Second Anniversary Celebration of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument presented by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters and Maine Beer Company.

Plan on joining us Saturday, August 25th to explore the monument and enjoy and an evening celebration at Shin Pond Village in Mt. Chase, Maine.

More details forthcoming, but this is something you don’t want to miss.

Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Fest: May 19th

Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is excited to be one of the sponsors for the fifth annual Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Fest, taking place Saturday, May 19th at the Lumbermen’s Museum in Patten. You’re invited to join this celebration of spring in the north woods. Musicians from near and far will be playing throughout the day alongside local artisans, craftsmen, and food vendors.

Thanks to the generosity of Emera and Case Professional Services, this year’s festival will be headlined by the Muddy Marsh Ramblers. The festival lineup will play on two stages: the Maine Stage and the Log Jam Stage, with performances from Gus Lacasse, Belfast Bay Fiddlers, John Birmingham RFD Band, Donna Chase, and Hannah Boone. If you play an instrument or sing yourself, then come prepared to share a tune at the afternoon jam session scheduled from 4 – 5 PM at the Log Jam stage.

Food will be served throughout the day, with all the proceeds from the festival vendors benefiting local non-profits. If you’ve got a great dish involving fiddleheads, send your best fern-friendly recipe to the curator at the Lumbermen’s Museum and you may be entered into a cook-off to crown 2018’s “Cast Iron Chef”.

The festival will also include a childrens’ area featuring throwback games from the 20th century. The event promises to be fun for the whole family and we hope you’ll join us. For those of you willing to lend a helping hand to the event set-up and take-down, please email us at info@friendsofkww.org.

Festival Details:

Saturday, May 19th, 2018
10 AM to 5 PM
Lumbermen’s Museum
61 Shin Pond Rd, Patten, ME 04765

The Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival is made possible thanks to the Lumbermen’s Museum, Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, and our fellow sponsors at Elliotsville Plantation Inc., Emera, Katahdin Valley Health Center, Yankee Grocers, Jerry’s  Thriftway, Case Professional, and Katahdin Trust.

Stacyville Monument Planning Meeting: April 11th

Katahdin Woods and Waters Superintendent, Tim Hudson, will be hosting a meeting to gather public input for the monument’s management plan next week.  The management plan will act as a road map to the development of our park over the years ahead. This particular meeting will focus on access to the monument from the Patten/Sherman area and visitor use in the north end of the monument as well as the Seboeis parcel.

This is an important opportunity for Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters supporters who are eager to take an active role in determining how the monument is developed. If you plan on joining us at the meeting, or would like information on future meetings, please email our Operations and Special Projects Coordinator, Sam Deeran.

Meeting Details:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018
6:00 to 8:00 PM
Katahdin Area Middle/High School
800 Station Rd, Stacyville, Maine 04777

Trip Report: FKWW & AMC XC Ski to Haskell Hut

This past Saturday, our Executive Director, Andy, and I set out from the Matagamon Gate (at the north of the monument) for a weekend XC ski excursion with our partners at Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). AMC is training their members to lead trips into the monument, and they invited us along to recon the trail to our lodging at Haskell Hut, and to share about our ongoing work.

It was the final weekend of the Head North Ski Days, and so the trails near the gate were populated by some friendly folks, enjoying free rentals provided by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. For long stretches along the East Branch of the Penobscot, there wasn’t a soul in sight – save for some red squirrels scurrying between the trees. We thought we found some lynx tracks along the trail, but it turned out to be a big, friendly brown lab running alongside a couple from Fort Kent.

By mid-afternoon on Saturday, we arrived at the Haskell Hut as snow flurries started up. Haskell Hut is a cozy cabin sitting above the expansive Haskell Deadwaters. When we stepped in and dropped our packs and sleds, the cabin was still warm from the visitors there the night before. From there, we set out to Haskell Rock Pitch, where we built a snowman to keep watch over the rapids.

That night, we cooked up some hefty dinners and ate as the sun went down. Around our solar powered lamp, we talked at length with the AMC members about the history of the monument and how they could get involved with the monument planning process.

On Sunday, we rose early with the morning sun, made some coffee and ate some chocolate chip pancakes courtesy of Eliza from AMC. On our way back, we took a mile long detour to see Stair Falls. Along the trail, there were stunning views of Bald Mountain and Billfish Mountain, which sits at the Northwest corner of the monument.

At the Matagamon Gate, we were welcomed back by Mark and Susan Adams from EPI. They’ve devoted nine straight days to making sure Head North Ski Days was a success, and we’re grateful for their help in gearing us up for our excursion.  Thanks also to Kaitlyn and Kim from AMC for leading a safe and fun trip.

As we left, the roads were starting to mud up. Spring is making its way to the monument, but there’s still plenty of snow. If you have any questions about our trip, or are planning a trip of your own, reach out. We hope you’ll make a trip north while there’s skiing to be had.

We’ll see you out on the trails.

Sam Deeran
Operations and Special Projects Coordinator

Head North Ski Days Are Back: March 17th-25th

We are happy to announce that Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters and Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. are teaming up to bring back the Head North Ski Days!

A Katahdin region tradition in its fifth year, Head North Ski Days is a gathering of nordic skiers taking place between March 17th and March 25th. Join us for free XC skiing at the North/Matagamon Gate as the calendar turns from Winter to Spring at Katahdin Woods and Waters.

Starting each day at 10 AM from Saturday, March 17th to Sunday, March 25th, you’re invited to enjoy the beautiful trails beyond KWW’s north entrance. We welcome students, families, outdoor groups, and more.

Free skis, boots, and poles will be provided by the Outdoor Sport Institute. Trails will be groomed, and beginner terrain will be available. Volunteers will be standing by to get you, your group, or your family trained up and ready to hit the trails. We recommend you wear warm layers, and pack yourself water, lunch, sunglasses, and sunscreen. For families visiting on Saturday and Sunday March 17th-18th and March 24th-25th, we will be serving fireside marshmallows and hot chocolate.

For more info and reservations, contact Susan Adams, Recreation Manager for Elliotsville Plantation, at lunksoos@gmail.com or (207) 852 – 1291.

Visit the National Park Service’s Katahdin Woods and Waters Directions page for directions to the North/Matagamon entrance. For a preview of the trails, check out the KWWNM Cross Country Ski Map. And if you’d like to check in on trail conditions, visit the Katahdin Woods and Waters Facebook.

Event details:

March 18th to March 25th
Starting each day at 10 AM
Free skis, boots, and poles provided by Outdoor Sport Institute
Trainings offered by experienced volunteers
Pack list: layers, water, lunch, sunglasses and sunscreen

Stars Over Katahdin: Mark Your October Calendar

Stars Over Katahdin (SOK) is a very special October event that has been sponsored for the past four years by Elliotsville Plantation, Incorporated (EPI), on and around the lands EPI originally owned. When EPI gifted these lands to the United States, the acreage was then decreed by President Obama to be the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWWNM).

“Dark Sky” sight-seeing is growing, in which people will go to great lengths to catch a glimpse of what many often take for granted in the North Woods – stars in the wilderness unobstructed by the presence of human artificial light, often called “light pollution.”

This year, the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is delighted to continue sponsoring this magical event, with community educational programming during the week of October 1-8, 2018.  Each year the event has grown.  At SOK 2017, light readings were taken to show that our location for the star viewing event is one of the darkest found in the state of Maine, and maybe even in New England.

Stars Over Katahdin has evolved into a successful communities outreach program as well, bringing the Northern Star Planetarium to schools in the Katahdin Region in the same week, along with a small group of Astro VIPs (Volunteers in Parks) that are shared with Acadia National Park. Last year, the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument engaged its first Place Based Learning Educator into the Stars Over Katahdin programming. The Monument VIPs offered guided interpretation and hikes or bike rides into the Monument through the weekend as well.

The small challenges of reaching this slightly remote area are offset by the wow factor when observing the shadow of Katahdin and the stars so closely — thanks to astronomer partners who bring all kinds of telescopes, and share expertise for your viewing pleasure for one magical night in the Monument. One more reason to celebrate this amazing gift!

To learn more about the impact of artificial light and how you can protect the precious resource of dark skies, visit: http://www.darksky.org

For more information on how you can participate and support this and other programs and events at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, explore the pages right here of the Friends of KWW website (https://www.friendsofkww.org).