An intern’s first week on the Moose River Bow Loop

Colin McIntosh


By Colin McIntosh
Intern, Bow Loop Crew



The 34-mile Moose River Bow Loop is a popular canoe trip in northwestern Maine. In partnership with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is able to dedicate two interns this summer to surveying and maintaining the more than 20 campsites along the route. Colin McIntosh is a student at Allegheny College where he is studying Environmental Science and Global Health.   

This summer my crewmate Ryan and I are working on the Moose River Bow Loop, which consists of Holeb Pond, Attean Pond, a portage between the two ponds, and a section of the Moose River. This is the first year this internship position has been offered by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and we are working in conjunction with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Moose River, Maine, Northern Forest Canoe Trail

We have been doing detailed campsite surveys along the Bow Loop, as well as maintenance at the sites. I was excited to be canoeing outside and was willing to do about anything to do just that. So far my time spent here has been quite rewarding, and the scenery and wildlife here is hard to beat.

Recently Ryan and I went out for our first week by ourselves. We were to survey and maintain almost all of the campsites along the Moose River Bow Loop. Through this assessment work we will be making a list of campsite and portage improvements to make our next time through. After putting in on Holeb Pond it took us a minute to find the small stream that winds through a boggy area that would connect to the Moose River. As soon as we found and started paddling through it, we had to wait for a moose to get out of the way.

Colin & Ryan surveying campsite

That night we camped next to Camel Rips, a short Class I rapid, and practiced surfing the one wave the rapid made. I was excited that we had bigger rapids coming up. However, we were not going to have as much fun on them as I anticipated.

The next morning, we paddled 4.5 miles and surveyed and performed general maintenance on 3.5 sites before we had to call it quits because of the rain. The rain quickly turned into a very nice thunderstorm, and when the thunder and lightning finally died down the rain didn’t take notice.

The NFCT trail director has a policy that whenever you see lightning eat ice cream, which is a good excuse to get off the water in a T-storm. Unfortunately, we did not have access to such delicacies, which is why we brought Oreos as our backcountry ice cream. Although a small stream was running under our tent, the inside managed to stay dry until we crawled in for the night sopping wet. All in all, it was a pretty good day, and I slept well that night. It was later reported that we got 7 inches of rain that night.

Attean Pond, Maine, Northern Forest Canoe Trail

We got a weather report that called for more rain on Wednesday, and when we looked up in the morning the sky agreed. It was unclear just when it would start, so Ryan and I were moving fast. We finished surveying at Holeb Falls, and then paddled 5 miles in a little over an hour, stopping to knock out 4 other sites along the way. We passed Mosquito Rips and set up camp at Spencer Rips, both of which were so high that our canoe pretty easily went right over whatever rocks make those rapids in lower water.

Despite all the rain, we had accessed all of the sites we were supposed to for the week by Thursday morning. So when we arrived at Attean Falls that afternoon we settled into a normal pace. We did a few more sites that day and then relaxed that evening with a gorgeous view.

Moose Bow Loop, Maine, Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Attean Falls is actually just two sets of rapids. The first was too high to be much fun and the second was too high for us to run in our loaded Penobscot canoe. We did come back later on to finish the site surveys when the water was lower and we were able to run them over and over again.

I don’t mind the rain too much, but when you factor in getting to see great horned owls, moose, a beaver, bald eagles, and bunches of non-charismatic megafauna, I would hardly care if it actually rained the whole time.