Day 4 On The Allagash
The nights grew warmer after our 40 degree evening at Umsaskis Thoroughfare. We slept late at Big Brook as we only had about nine miles to paddle to Allagash Village where we’d take out. Around 8:30 that morning a lone yellow kayak slipped below the bluff. We watch as she worked her way through McGargle Rocks. They would be our first challenge of the day.
By 9:30 we were on the river and were quickly into McGargle Rocks. In years past logs driven down the river would often get caught on the rocks creating jams. When that would happen, river drivers would climb out on the logs to push them loose. It was a dangerous job and once the jam broke the men would often have to run across the rolling logs for their lives. McGargle Rocks was named after a driver whose luck ran out after breaking up a jam. He was killed when the jam broke.
We hugged the left shore, following the channel as we worked our way through the rocks. McGargle Rocks is a mix of quick water and shallow stone beds. One minute you might be running fast between rocks, only to find yourself suddenly beached on a rock bar. Chris did a nice job of taking us through.
The Allagash below the falls is low in late summer, but even during the spring drives it is easy to see how the logs would jam on the rocks and become stranded on the bars.
A couple of miles below McGargle Rocks we came to Depot Bar and immediately after that Ghost Landing Bar. Both are high bars of melon size rocks and larger that, like a sand bar, rise in the river.
In a logging accident a man was killed at Ghost Landing Bar when he was crushed by the tree he was cutting. For years after the incident people passing the bar reported seeing the ghost of the dead man sitting on a rock beside the river.
The next mile leading up to Twin Brook Rapids was splashy as we found rips and class I where none was shown on our map. It kept us busy as we approached the last of the class II water on the river.
Twin Brook marks the official end of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, but the river continues for about another four miles into Allagash Village. Twin Brook was chosen as the end of the waterway in 1966 because of a proposed hydroelectric development which would have included two dams on the St. John River that would have flooded the lower Allagash. The plan was cancelled in 1985.
As we drifted closer to Twin Brook Rapids Chris bent forward on his paddle studying the river. I sat in the stern and kept the canoe headed straight up the river. Once he decided on a course of action, he turned to me and said, “Lets get over to the left, then paddle hard past those first rocks. Once we clear them we’ll paddle across to the right until we get to the biggest boulder, then we’ll swing left and paddle as fast as we can to where the two big rocks are and head between them.”
It seemed to me like a lot of things were going to have to go right in order to pull that off. Looking ahead I watched the water kicking and boiling amid a field of big rocks. The river appeared to end and then begin again further down stream. There were some fishermen on the bar below and as I could only see their heads and shoulders it was pretty clear that the river dropped off.
We were getting close.
“Let’s go!” Chris shouted back to me. He seemed pretty sure of his plan. I only hoped we could pull it off. If not the fishermen below would get a show as our canoe and it’s contents and Chris and I tumbled over the rocks and down the river.
It was the final day of the Fort Kent Muskie Derby and as we got closer I could see there were more than just a couple of guys fishing. There were about six people and a woman with a video camera. She was pointing it at us. I thought, “This could get very embarrassing.”
We slipped left and around some nasty stuff and then put all we had into crossing to the right. I had thought we’d be fighting across the current. Chris had found the channel and while we did drift a bit down stream, the river had us in its grip and we were being rushed to the right.
“Hard left!” he shouted. I immediately brought the canoe around the big boulder and we shot to the left. We were precariously close to where the river had earlier disappeared from sight. Now I could see. It dropped off quickly with water flying off boulders. Clearly it was not the spot to be in with a canoe.
When we reached the spot Chris had pointed out between the two big rocks he shouted without turning, “To the right now!”
Again I swung the canoe hard over on its side and aimed for the slot between the rocks.
The river was in control now and we were along for the ride. We were swept between the rocks and sluiced down a chute of white water and into a calm pool beyond the rapids. We had gotten through without a bump. The woman lowered her video camera. Maybe she was disappointed. We paddled past the fishermen acting like we knew what we were doing.
At Three Mile Island we watched an eagle soar overhead. Eliza Hole Rapids were next and we slipped through them without a problem. We ran some minor rips the rest of the way pulling up to Kelly’s Landing about one o’clock. Across the road was the only restaurant in Allagash Village. We were both looking forward to someone else’s cooking.
My truck was parked along the side of Two Rivers Restaurant. While Chris unpacked our gear I ran up the bank and across the street and got it. We began carrying our equipment up the hill and throwing it in the back of the truck when Sean Lizzote came by. We talked for a bit about the trip and while we did a big bull moose walked into the river about 200 yards up stream and began to browse.
Sean asked some questions about the river and we talked about the Big Black River as Chris and I were hoping to stop to fish on our way south. After Sean left Chris and I changed in the truck on the side of the road across from the restaurant. We were hungry and once we had more suitable cloths on we pulled across the road.
We have had at least one meal at Two Rivers each of the past four years while canoeing, hiking or camping around the Allagash area. There fare is simple, the portions are large and the price is right.
The woman in the little yellow kayak was at the landing when we arrived and she was in Two Rivers Restaurant when we went in having something to eat. We could see that she too had spent some time on the river.
Her name was Cathy Mumford and she was on her way to Fort Kent, where, once she arrived she would be the first woman to paddle the entire Northern Forest Canoe trail from Old Forge, N.Y. alone. It took her 58-days to complete the 740-mile trek.
After we ate, Chris and I drove to Fort Kent to catch the end of the Muskie Derby. The three-day derby that opened at 9 am the Friday before was scheduled to end at 5 o’clock. When we arrived in Fort Kent we stopped at a store and bought a bottle of aloe for our sunburns and sat and watched a very long train loaded with long logs and pulp roll by. At 5 pm they announced this year’s overall winner Kevin Bosse who had caught a 40.5 inch long fish that weighed in at 18 pounds 15 ounces. Most of the fishermen are from the local area, however, every year they offer a $500 prize to the fisherman that has traveled the longest distance and caught a muskie. This year the person winning that was a Maine resident. If we get up there again, we’ll have to try harder to catch a fish.
The derby awards $35,000 in prize money.
That night we stayed in a motel at the northern end of Route 1. The other end is in Key West, Florida.
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