Paddle Through History Along NFCT

WAITSFIELD, Vt. – Wilderness paddling trips mix scenic exploration with a good workout. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) lies just beyond Quebec’s border in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and western Maine. The 1,190-kilometre trail for canoes and kayaks follows lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and portage trails along paddling routes used by American Indians and First Nations people.

Primitive campsites on each of the trail’s 13 sections, and nearby campgrounds, B&B’s and motels make the NFCT a perfect late summer or autumn paddling destination for solo adventurers or families.Close encounters with farm animals on the Saranac River in northern New York. Credit: Lisa Dyslin.

The New York section of the trail stretches 236 kilometres from the Fulton Chain of Lakes to Lake Champlain. Much of the trail passes through the remote Adirondack Park Preserve, and paddlers navigate the Raquette River, Long Lake, and the Saranac Lakes and River on the way to Champlain. The Saranac River offers some of the most challenging whitewater stretches on the trail.

Nearly 25 kilometres of Québec’s Missisquoi River and its North Branch are part of the NFCT. The Québec section includes a 9-kilometre portage trail from Perkins Landing on Lake Memphremagog to the North Branch above Masonville. The trail goes through that town and moves west on the Missisquoi to the Vermont border town of East Richford.

In Vermont, the NFCT flows on the Missisquoi for 88 kilometres all the way to Missisquoi Bay in Lake Champlain. The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is a good departure point for exploring the Champlain islands of Hog, North Hero, South Hero and Isle la Motte.

The eastern portion of the trail in Vermont consists of two sections covering the small lakes, ponds and rivers of the Northeast Kingdom region. A 51 kilometre route largely on the Clyde River runs west from the town of Island Pond to the city of Newport on Lake Memphremagog. And an east flowing stretch meanders for 28 kilometres on the Nulhegan River to its confluence with the Connecticut River.Fall paddling on the Nulhegan River in northeast Vermont.

The NFCT’s New Hampshire route is made for river lovers. Nearly all of the trail’s 115 kilometres through the state flow along the Connecticut, Upper Ammonoosuc and Androscoggin Rivers. The paddling ranges from lazy currents to Class III rapids. New Hampshire is ideal for solo canoeists or kayakers seeking a long distance trip, or for families and groups out for a weekend of paddling and camping. Umbagog Lake on the New Hampshire/Maine border teems with wildlife, from moose to beaver, osprey, blue herons and turtles.

Remote streams and ponds, and legendary lakes like the Richardson’s and Moosehead mark the 558-kilometre Maine section of the NFCT.  The southernmost stretch of paddling between Rangeley Lake and Umbagog is classic big lake touring with mountain scenery and lots of waterside campsites.

The town of Jackman is 27 kilometres from the Québec border, and the place to get on the NFCT’s Moose River section to Moosehead Lake. North of Moosehead, the trail follows rivers, streams and lakes to the start of the 148-kilometre Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The St. John River brings paddlers to the eastern terminus of the NFCT in the town of Fort Kent bordering Clair, New Brunswick.

Each of the trail’s 13 sections has a color fold-out map with route details, border crossing 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 or call 802-496-2285.


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