Chris Welcome! I’ll take a stab at some of your questions. I live over in Vermont and I’ve paddled the Allagash only twice, so I am not an expert on that section. Paddling the Allagash Waterway from the Chamberlain Bridge Ranger Station down to either Michaud Farm or Allagash Village would be a very doable 6-8 day family trip and would take you through most of map sections 12 and 13. Chamberlain Bridge is the beginning of the classic Allagash trip. Although it is possible to begin a trip a little earlier on Map 12, on Umbazooksus Stream, doing so then commits you to an upstream paddle ( a potential slog at some water levels), and then the 2 mile portage across the storied, famous or infamous Mud Pond Carry. Marital engagements have broken up over lesser obstacles.
Most paddlers find it is worthwhile to pay for a shuttle driver rather than set your own shuttle on this trip.
This is a remote trip, for sure! And it feels remote. It has been claimed it is the longest roadless river trip in the eastern United States, although in fact there are a couple of privately owned logging road bridges along the way. There are also a few historic remains from the logging era along the shores, and a small reconstructed dam on Churchill Lake. There is a lot in print about the Allagash, and some of that information would add interest to the trip for the kids, I bet, and the chance to visit the abandoned locomotives and other logging gear at the tramway carry and elsewhere on the trip.
Camping is first-come first-served in numbered campsites, each of which has a picnic table and fire pit, and usually a tarp pole over the table.
The headwater lakes at the beginning of the trip can be windy, so it is a good idea to be prepared to start early in the day, and build in a layover day if you become windbound.
The Allagash River can get bony but people do paddle it through the summer. Perhaps others can chime in here. I think low water levels are most difficult for those in ultra-light boats, and those who pack two coolers and the kitchen sink (not always easy to avoid with kids and family trips, I know!). I’ve never heard of the river being impassable to those who are willing to hop out and wade, but I really would advise spreading out the gear among the boats, and packing as lightly as you reasonably can.
I do not know who rents canoes or kayaks in the area. Let us know what you find!
My two trips were late May to early June (many bugs, many moose), and late September to early October (no bugs, no moose). For sure we were hopping out of the canoes during the September trip on the rockier sections below Long Lake until we got a night of torrential rain, and the waters came right up…
If you can make the time for the trip after Labor Day there will be very few other paddlers out there. Any time of year there is great remote scenery, botany and wildlife, wild shorelines and clean water. – k