Fall Season Paddling on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail


WAITSFIELD, Vt. – New York’s Adirondack Park Preserve, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, New Hampshire’s Great North Woods and Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region would be first-ballot inductees to a fall foliage Hall of Fame. The classic autumn destinations have vast and healthy forests, photogenic landscapes, and friendly towns and cities to explore.Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. The Nulhegan River flows through Vermont's Northeast Kingdom to the Connecticut River. Credit: Clyde H. Smith
Each region also holds a portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT). The 740-mile canoe and kayak trail connects lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and portage trails between Old Forge, N.Y., and Fort Kent, Maine. Paddlers have spectacular views of turning foliage in each state from mid-September to late-October. Island and waterside campsites, and plenty of other overnight options at campgrounds, B&Bs and motels along the trail allow visitors to spend a weekend, week, or longer enjoying the waterway and the communities it passes through.
The trail has whitewater river paddling for adventure seekers, and lazy rivers, streams and small ponds for novice paddlers and families with children. A foliage vacation on the NFCT means more time taking in the views and less time driving to a vantage point crowded with other leaf-peepers.
These stretches of the waterway are particularly attractive during the fall:
Multiple peninsulas jut into Raquette Lake in New York giving it coves and bays to explore. Pine trees along the lake’s 90 miles of shoreline are accented by the yellow, orange and red hues of leaf-bearing trees during fall. Take two days to soak up the scenery along the Saranac River from the village of Saranac Lake to Franklin Falls Pond. There are primitive campsites along the easy 12-mile paddle, and a short hiking trail to a remote pond.
The village of Island Pond, Vermont, is a starting point for exploring the trail in the Northeast Kingdom. Paddle across the pond that the village is named after, and head west on the Clyde River for a short out-and-back paddle between two mountain peaks.           
The trail follows the Missisquoi River through forest and farmland in northwestern Vermont. It’s a five-mile paddle from the Quebec border-town of Richford to the Doe campsite just north of East Berkshire. The campsite is high on a bluff above the river and has one of the best vantage points for photographing the reflection of fall colors on the water.
Plenty of people have driven through New Hampshire’s 13 Mile Woods Scenic AreaRight-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. The fall beauty of Maine's Dead River is enjoyed by fishermen and paddlers. Credit: Clyde H. Smith along the Androscoggin River. But, the ultimate way to experience the protected forestland in the fall is by canoe or kayak. The paddling along this section of the trail between the town of Errol and the Pontook Reservoir is a mix of easy floating and moderate rapids. There is a state park campground and two primitive campsites within the Woods.
One of the NFCT’s best close-up mountain views during fall is in Stratton, Maine on the South Branch of the Dead River and Flagstaff Lake. The 4,150-foot tall, 17-mile long Bigelow Mountain Range looms to the east near the northern portion of the river where it meets the lake.  Paddle along the lake’s southern shoreline and take in the patchwork of colors in a forest preserve of more than 30,000 acres. There are multiple free primitive campsites on the lake shore.
Each of the trail’s 13 sections has a color fold-out map with route details, portaging instructions and local paddling information. The NFCT Web site has an interactive Trip Planner Map that shows attractions, outfitters, accommodations and visitor services along the trail. For multi-day paddling itineraries and trip packages, visit the Northern Forest Canoe Trail online at http://www.northernforestcanoetrail.org or call 802-496-2285.




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