Summer On the Allagash

By Gil Gilpatrick

Canoeing the Allagash in mid to late summer is usually great time of year for it. The weather is more dependable than at any other season. When I was asked, it is the time I most recommended for a group of friends or a family trip. The bugs, though never completely absent, are less of a problem. Those pesky black flies are mostly all gone and only mosquitoes are mostly around in the evening, when the folks are likely sitting around the campfire where smoke keeps them sort of under control.

Unfortunately, in Maine the weather doesn’t always behave the way it is expected to behave and this causes some problems. I remember a mid-summer trip Dot and I took with my sister, her husband and some of his relatives, all of which lived in Alabama. We ran into more thunder storms on that trip than I have ever encountered on any trip. We went ashore on several occasions on several days when passing storms threatened us on the water. This happened frequently on that trip! It was wet and damp all of the time and care had to be taken in the campsites to keep everything dry.

Everyone did, however manage to stay in good spirits and by having the correct equipment, which I had made sure they did, we were comfortable. Inevitably, after the camp was all set up bottles came out and everyone enjoyed an evening drink around the campfire. I never drank on my guided trips, but this was a family trip with shared expenses so I felt free to partake. The trouble was the evening after setting up camp was when I had to prepare the evening meal, so I had to be careful not to partake too much. It is remarkable how those folks remembered that trip. They recalled the good times and the problems were mostly forgotten.

Water Levels
Summer water levels are dependent on the rainfall that particular summer. Normally it is optimal and there are no problems. But, low water can happen and when it does it frequently requires changes in plans. However, if you have a long-planned Allagash trip scheduled I urge you to consider doing things to cope with the low water instead of canceling the whole thing. Here’s why I say that:

A long time ago, soon after I got out of the service I think it was, my father and I planned an Allagash trip for the coming summer. When it was time to get going with putting our trip together we learned of the low water caused by the dry summer. We decided to take the trip another year. We never got to take that trip. My father, died and I have always regretted our not going. We could have just coped with the problems as they arose and would have had a memorable trip I am sure. Now I will never have that memory.

If fishing is on your mind, summer is not the ideal time for it on the river. People who know me would tell you that I am not much of a fisherman. However, I have fished for trout and I do listen to people who are knowledgeable about the area. It comes in handy at times. On a guided trip with a group of men there were several who wanted to catch some trout. I told them up front the situation, but that I would do my best to put them where they would at least have a shot at some brook trout. I made sure we camped in areas where cold feeder streams entered the river and sure enough, they managed to catch a few trout. So, it can be done.

Summer is usually the time of heaviest use on the Waterway so campsites are sometimes filled up at the end of the day. I overcame this problem by getting folks out of the tents early in the morning, getting under way, and then camping early in the afternoon. I usually got the campsite I wanted and after a day of so of this routine my guests usually remarked what a good system this was. They had the whole afternoon to relax, swim, fish or explore the area.

If you need help selecting the supplies and equipment to take along I suggest you check out my book, The Allagash Guide, where you will find lists of equipment, food and supplies you might need. It is available from the publisher through my website,, from, and probably many others.

Enjoy the rest of the summer folks!

Gil Gilpatrick is a Master Maine Guide, and is the first living recipient of the Legendary Maine Guide award. He is a life member of the Maine Professional Guides Association, a founding member of the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization, and served as a member of the Advisory Board for the Licensing of Guides from 1996 to 2010. He is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and is the author of seven outdoor-related books. Contact him at [email protected].

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