NFCT Trail Overview - Northern Forest Canoe Trail

northern forest canoe trail
Northern Forest Canoe Trail

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P.O. Box 565
Waitsfield, VT 05673

Phone 802-496-2285
Fax 802-329-2239

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NFCT Trail Overview

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a long-distance paddling trail connecting the major watersheds across the Adirondacks and Northern New England. In the 740-mile traverse across New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine, the Trail links communities and wild places, offering canoeists and kayakers a lifetime of paddling destinations and adventures.

Trail Facts:

Rivers and Streams: 22

Lakes and Ponds: 58

Carries or Portages: 63, totaling 53 miles.

Skills Needed: Novice to expert, canoes and kayaks welcome.The route includes flat and whitewater paddling, poling, lining, portaging.

National Wildlife Refuges: 3


Flow of the Trail: Downstream and upstream. Water levels fluctuate due to spring runoff, drought, and dam releases.

Direction to Paddle: All sectional maps describe waterways in downstream direction. Sectional and destination paddlers typically choose to paddle downstream. Through paddlers should paddle west to east to minimize upstream paddling.

Lodging options:From primitive campsites, to lovely inns, with overnight options roughly every 15 miles.

Landscape: Passing through hills and mountains, forests, farmlands and village centers.

Trail History:  The idea for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail was brought to life in the 1990's when Mike Krepner, Ron Canter, and Randy Mardres of Native Trails, Inc. researched the traditional east-west water routes used by Native Americans and early settlers in the Northern Forest Region, from the Adirondacks to Northern Maine. In 2000, Kay Henry and Rob Center - former principals of Mad River Canoe Company - incorporated the Northern Forest Canoe Trail organization as a way to translate this research into a recreational, community, and regional resource.

Border Crossing:  The Northern Forest Canoe Trail crosses the border into Canada in two locations and both in Vermont: on the Missisquoi River and Lake Memphremagog. For more information visit Border Crossing.

New York: 147 miles

From the western terminus of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail at Old Forge to the Saranac River is a classic paddle on waterways that make up the historic "Highway of the Adirondacks." The Saranac River is a scenic, challenging, route off the Adirondack Plateau.

Vermont/Québec: 174 miles

Lake Champlain is one of the most storied lakes in America, and very big. The Missisquoi River flows through farm country and enters Lake Champlain through a delta protected by a National Wildlife Refuge. The "Grand Portage" connects the Missisquoi valley with Lake Memphremagog in Quebec. The Clyde River flows through remote fens, but also has stretches of whitewater. The Nulhegan River drops through a National Fish & Wildlife Refuge on its descent to the Connecticut River valley.

New Hampshire: 72 miles

The Connecticut is placid as it meanders through a broad valley to the Upper Ammonoosuc River. In this section, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is also part of the Connecticut River Paddlers' Trail. The Upper Ammonoosuc is a fairly slow-flowing river with a few rapids. The Androscoggin is wide and swift with some rapids.

Maine: 347 miles

The Rangeley Lakes are large and surrounded by conserved forests and mountains. The South Branch of the Dead River provides a whitewater run when it has enough water to be paddled. Flagstaff Lake spreads out beneath the dramatic ridgeline of the Bigelow Range. The Dead River is placid until it tumbles over Grand Falls. Spencer Lake and Stream are remote and scenic. The Moose River flows through many lakes and ponds as it meanders to Moosehead Lake, which is the largest in Maine. The West Branch of the Penobscot is wide and slow and ends in the open stretches of Chesuncook Lake. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a spectacular ribbon of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams winding through northern Maine. The St John River flows through a scenic, international valley to the eastern terminus of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.