Why is the northern end of the Trail in Fort Kent? Why not Allagash Village? Or for that matter why not further along the St John, maybe in Madawaska Maine (“The Northernmost Town in New England”), or Fredericton, New Brunswick?
I contacted Ron Canter, one of the three mappers of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Here is Ron’s response:
Fort Kent was chosen because the route first suggested for the trail didn’t go down the Allagash. It went east via Webster Brook, Grand Lake Matagamon, Beaver Brook, and the Aroostook, before turning north up the Little Machias to reach the Fish River and come down that to the St. Johns at Fort Kent, which was a major junction of ancient canoe routes.
The thought behind it was to not add to traffic on the Allagash, and to link to the Aroostook as well. When real work started on the trail, it was switched to the Allagash as a stopgap. It has worked so well, and with the Allagash no more crowded, that the Allagash quickly became the permanent route.
Madawaska might have worked as well as the terminus, but somehow it never occurred to us to consider it. A town like Fredericton, farther down the St. Johns, would have closed off some of the best options for extending the trail north or northeast into Canada in the future. A route up the Tobique and down the Nepisiguit through New Brunswick would be a particularly good fit for the NFCT.
Fascinating! Thank-you Sandy and Ron! I’ve wondered about that for many years, and I am glad I finally asked. And, I’m driving to Chamberlain Lake on Monday for a paddle trip with friends – I wonder if I can convince them them to, um, deviate slightly from our previously agreed upon route…
I once came across a Native Trails map of the early Northern Forest Canoe Trail that showed the portage south from Lake Memphremagog into the headwaters of the Lamoille River, and down the Lamoille to Lake Champlain. A local committee has recently been creating a Lamoille River Paddlers Trail, working with landowners to improve river access and portages and create primitive campsites. The Missisquoi is generally the better route for upstream travel than is the Lamoille, so at some point the proposed NFCT was re-routed. Another intriguing side-route to explore!