Thoreau-Wabanaki Anniversary Tour

The journey taken by the Maine Woods Discovery team during May 2014 was undertaken to commemorate and recreate an 1857 journey by Henry David Thoreau and Joe Polis, his Wabanaki Guide, through the Maine Woods. That journey by Thoreau into Maine’s deep wet woods and two other trips make up the subject matter of the American Classic The Maine Woods, where the writer, by way of participation, gives a vividly detailed account of his experiences and thoughts.

Maine Woods Discovery worked for nearly year to assemble an intrepid group of adventurers – ranging from the team of guides and Penobscot who planned the expedition, to journalists, scientists, Thoreau scholars and dozens of others (we think forty-five in all) – to navigate a carefully-planned 16 day canoe trip closely based on the 1857 trip itinerary.

It is our hope that this website provides you with enough information about that trip and its participants to see it through our eyes. For those looking to see even more, simply search the web for the hashtag #150Thoreau.  This will reveal a trove of images, information and blog entries and articles that circulated by way of social and traditional media during the expedition.

Looking back on the trip, we still are amazed at the impact that this excursion, one filled with 20-mile days of paddling, Class II-III rapids and muddy portages had upon each of the trips’ participants, we also recognize that none of what we did would have been possible without the staff support of The Northern Forest Center and our other generous supporters and sponsors.

Nature must have cooperated with art here.
The Maine Woods, Henry David Thoreau

General Route

As Thoreau did, the expedition began in Bangor with a short trip north to Indian Island where we connected with our Penobscot cultural guides. From there, we traveled to Greenville to begin the canoe journey by paddling the full length of Moosehead Lake – concluding with a 2-mile portage to the West Branch of the Penobscot River. From there we traveled deeper into the Penobscot and Allagash River watersheds then headed down Webster Stream (which Thoreau described as “navigating a thunder spout”) to Grand Lake Matagamon and the East Branch of the Penobscot. The East Branch carried us south to the main stem of the Penobscot and then finally full circle back to Indian Island.

Daily Activities

Along the way, the travelers were more than mere “paddlers,” each took time to share their distinct connection to the expedition and to the Maine Woods. Guides, both Native American and Maine Woods Discovery team members  lead the trip; filmmakers and photographers captured every moment, ecologists, nature and literary scholars, foresters, landowners and journalists all participated in actively celebrating the work of this American master. For complete details of our route, visit the itinerary page here.

Social Media & GPS Map

During this epic adventure we used technology as an aid in encouraging and supporting the internets from onlookers. Through Facebook and the hashtag #150Thoreau family, friends and fans followed along, made comments and interacted with our expedition.  Those digital imprints are lasting evidence of those interactions that will hopefully forever leave their mark.

We also used modern satellite and GPS mapping technology to keep track of the expedition team in real time thanks to DeLorme inReach tracking devices – Sign up now to get updates on that Maine Woods Discovery sponsored event.

Social Media Information:

Trip Dates

Start-End Dates: May 16-June 1, 2014
Start-End Location: Indian Island, Penobscot Nation, Penobscot County, Maine