Fulton Chain of Lakes to Long Lake
From its western terminus at Old Forge, New York, the
Trail begins its journey along the Fulton Chain of Lakes,
following the historic path of Iroquois trappers in birch
bark canoes, traditional log drives down the Raquette
River, Adirondack guides leading city “sports” across the
wide stretches of Raquette Lake and early steamboats
navigating to lodges on the shores of Long Lake.
Long Lake to Saranac River
This section of the trail begins in historic Long Lake,
New York, where Adirondack wilderness guides once
battled the damming of the waterways with explosives
and the nighttime sinking of a steamship. Following the
route of early loggers and hunters, the Trail winds along
rivers, through a unique silver maple swamp, and across
open lakes, where century-old, hand-operated locks still
convey paddlers between waterways.
Saranac River to Lake Champlain
This section is characterized by varied river travel (often challenging), passing through some ponds on the upper stretch and dropping through rapids to the Lake. The flora and fauna change as the elevation drops and the landscape changes. The river was used for travel and fishing by Mohawk, Abenaki and Algonquin before arrival of European settlers, and then industrial uses came in: remains of dams, a sawmill, an iron forge give evidence of this past.
Lake Champlain and Missisquoi River
The Missisquoi River from Enosburg Falls to Swanton is wide and sometimes slow, sometimes swift. Rapids are intermittent and range in difficulty depending on the water level, but at most water levels are Class I-II. Below Swanton, the river is slow through the forests and swamps of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. Lake Champlain can be placid or wavy depending on the weather, and the conditions can change very quickly. Lake Champlain paddling is recommended for experienced paddlers, and is best traveled in kayaks.
Missisquoi River to Lake Memphremagog
This section of Trail includes the Missisquoi River, the
North Branch of the Missisquoi, and the Grand Portage
between Lake Memphremagog and the Missisquoi
watershed. These waterways and the Grand Portage
were historically used by the Abenaki, as well as later
by European explorers and settlers traveling between
Québec City and the New England settlements. This
section is characterized by rolling hills, dairy farms
and forests with a history of logging.
Lake Memphremagog to Connecticut River
This section crosses Lake Memphremagog (beginning in
Québec) and follows the Clyde and Nulhegan Rivers to the
Connecticut River. The Northeast Kingdom is a high, cold,
corner of Vermont whose granite hills remain sparsely
settled. The Clyde River wetlands support rare natural communities, where paddlers might hear the courtship calls of pied-billed grebes or catch glimpses of northern harriers among the sedge and bog willow. Vermont's most wild river, the Nulhegan River drops through a basin of thick forests and
boreal wetlands (home to Vermont’s largest population of moose and largest deeryard) and protected through
the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O.Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
Connecticut River to Umbagog Lake
This section travels three rivers: the Connecticut, the
Upper Ammonoosuc and Androscoggin. The route passes
through the Great North Woods on the northern edge of
the highest mountains in the northeast — the Presidential
Range of the White Mountains. Birding and wildlife
opportunities abound, and the section ends at the Lake
Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. All of the Great North
Woods remains sparsely settled and logging is still the
Umbagog Lake to Rangeley Lake
Traditionally traveled from east to west.
This section is characterized by a connected series of large
lakes (Rangeley, Mooselookmeguntic, the Richardsons,
and Umbagog) and lots of undeveloped, conserved land
and sensitive wildlife habitat. The section includes the
4,100 acre Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge on the
NH/Maine border, a renowned birdwatching area with
bald eagles, loons, peregrine falcons, and ospreys. The
Rangeley area has a history of logging and sport guiding,
and has been popular for fishing since the mid-1800s.
Rangeley Lake to Spencer Stream
The shallow waters of Flagstaff Lake cover three frontier
communities that were flooded in Maine’s quest for
reliable water flow to generate electricity for the state.
The Bigelow Preserve borders the lake, its 36,000 acres
of undeveloped, protected ridgeline towering over the
southern side of the lake. The Appalachian Trail crosses the
top. Grand Falls is a spectacular area attraction, with
30-foot falls on Dead River.
Spencer Stream to Moosehead Lake
This section includes the Spencer Stream watershed and
the Moose River through its outlet in Moosehead Lake.
A segment of the Moose River and Attean Pond are part
of historic “Moose River Bow Trip” in which paddlers travel
in a circle and end where they started, without having
backtracked. The communities of Jackman and Rockwood
have long relied on logging and outdoor recreation for
their livelihood, and both towns are becoming known as
great 4-season recreation towns surrounded by woods,
water and wilderness.
Moosehead Lake to Umbazooksus Stream
This section is characterized by dramatic features and a
rich history. Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine,
boasting the striking Mt. Kineo. Thoreau traveled this
section of the NFCT, writing of his trip in the posthumously published "The Maine Woods". The historic Katahdin steamship was used for logging until the 1970's and today provides summer cruises. The Northeast Carry was
used for centuries by Abenaki and early white settlers to
access the West Branch Penobscot River. In the historic
Chesuncook Village on Chesuncook Lake – accessible only
by boat or float plane – paddlers will find amenities to
ease their trip through the wilderness.
Umbazooksus Stream to Umsaskis Lake
Paddlers today following this most remote section of
the Trail will experience the vast stretches of forested
shoreline that sustained the Abenaki for centuries, the
interconnected waters that inspired Thoreau, and rusting
relics from the days of log drives. This state-managed Wild
and Scenic corridor known as the Allagash Wilderness
Waterway offers large and small lakes, swiftly flowing
river, and unparalleled wildlife-watching opportunities.
Umsaskis Lake to St. John River
This eastern-most section of the Trail winds along the
remote Allagash, the nation’s first Wild and Scenic River,
and finishes on the historic St. John River, which outlines
the international border. The route leads paddlers through
waters first paddled by Abenaki hunters in birchbark
canoes, past early European settlements in this remote
land, and along shorelines that hold the ghost stories and
rusting relics of logging days, as well as both the peace
and adventure of the remote north country.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) links the waterways of New York, Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire and Maine.
NFCT offers maps, books, and web-based tools to help you connect to our 740-mile paddling route that traces a fascinating history from early Native Americans through European settlers. NFCT also introduces you to the places and people that make waterway destinations along our route in the Adirondacks and Northern New England inviting and exciting today.
The route's variety of flat water, swift water, and whitewater, on a range of rivers, streams, lakes and ponds provide extensive opportunities for canoe and kayak recreation. Vibrant communities along the way offer inns, B&Bs and camping facilities, as well as other recreational and heritage attractions.
Come paddle with us...for an afternoon, a vacation, or a lifetime!