Thoreau-Wabanaki 150th Anniversary Tour Itinerary

Here is the day-by-day outline of the route and stops made along the way during our 16-day Thoreau-Wabanaki 150th Anniversary Tour of The Maine Woods. It makes an excellent guide for planning your own 
Thoreau-themed tour. But don’t go it alone. Head out on your memorable trip with our Maine Woods Discovery partner-providers Mahoosuc Guide Service and New England Outdoor Center.

Segment 1: May 16-19

The clouds breaking away a little, we had a glorious wild view, as we ascended, of the broad lake with its fluctuating surface and numerous forest-clad islands, extending beyond our sight both north and south, and the boundless forest undulating away from its shores on every side as densely packed as a rye-field, and enveloping nameless mountains in succession… – HDT, The Maine Woods

SEGMENT RATING – Moderate. The paddle up Moosehead Lake will involve two long days of flat water paddling with potential for wind and waves on the lake. The portage between Moosehead and the West Branch of the Penobscot River is roughly two miles.

May 16
Meet in Bangor and travel to Indian Island including:

  • tour of Penobscot Nation Museum
  • visit to Polis homestead and Thoreau-Wabanaki kiosk
  • conclude visit with send off ceremony
  • Depart Indian Island and travel to Greenville via stagecoach route

May 17

  • Depart Greenville – paddling north up Moosehead Lake
  • Camp on Kineo Island at Hardscrabble Point

May 18

  • Presentation & discussion with Chris Sokalexis about role of Mount Kineo in Wabanaki history and culture
  • Continue paddling north up Moosehead Lake
  • Camp near Northeast Carry at Seboomook Cove

May 19 – ROAD ACCESS POINT (Northeast Carry Road)

  • Early morning portage across Northeast East Carry to the West Branch of the Penobscot River (Two Miles)

Segment 2: May 19-21

My eyes were all the while on the trees, distinguishing between the black and white spruce and the fir. You paddle along in a narrow canal through an endless forest, and the vision I have in my minds eye, still, is of the small dark and sharp tops of tall first and spruce trees and pagoda-like arbor vitaes, crowded together on each side with various hard woods intermixed. – HDT, The Maine Woods

SEGMENT RATING – Easy to Moderate. This stretch of the West Branch is mostly flat and quick water. Crossing Chesuncook Lake, we may run into wind and waves.

May 19

  • Relaunch canoes and paddle down the West Branch of the Penobscot
  • Camp at Big Ragmuff Stream or Big Island

May 20

  • Canoe West Branch and to Chesuncook Lake
  • Visit “Chesuncook Village” where Ansell Smith is buried
  • Continue across Chesuncook Lake to Umbazooksus Stream
  • Camp at Chesuncook Lake

May 21

  • Canoe Chesuncook Lake to Umbazooksus Stream

Segment 3: May 21-24

This Webster Stream is well known to the lumbermen as a difficult one. It is exceedingly rapid and rocky, and also shallow, and can hardly be considered navigable unless that may mean that what is launched in it is sure to be carried swiftly down it, though it may be dashed to pieces by the way. It is somewhat like navigating a thunderspout. – HDT, The Maine Woods

SEGMENT RATINGVery Difficult. This section involves the 2 mile Mud Pond carry, a 1 mile carry around the Telos Cut followed by Class II and III rapids on the 9 mile long stretch of Webster Stream. At the lower end of Webster Stream is a 1 mile carry around Grand Pitch.

May 21 ROAD ACCESS POINTS (Umbazooksus Stream, am; Chamberlain Bridge, pm)

  • Canoe Umbazooksus Lake
  • Portage – Mud Pond Carry
  • Canoe Lower Chamberlain Lake
  • Canoe Round Pond to Telos Lake
  • Camp Telos Lake

May 22

  • Run Webster Brook
  • Camp at end of lower gorges – Little East Leanto, Baxter State Park, Matagamon Lake

The morning was a bright one, and perfectly still and serene, the lake as smooth as glass, we making the only ripple as we paddle into it. The dark mountains about it were seen through the glaucous mist, and the brilliant white stems of canoe-birches mingled with the other woods around it. The wood-thrush sang on the distant shore, and the laugh of some loons sporting in a concealed western bat, as if inspired by the morning, came distinct over the lake to us….– HDT, The Maine Woods

May 23

  • Canoe Matagamon Lake
  • Visit site where Joe Polis shot & butchered the moose – Louse Island
  • Camp at Birch Point (Penobscot Land – Possible Road Access with permission)

May 24

  • Canoe Matagamon Lake to Matagamon Bridge
  • Meet with Baxter State Park staff (resupply)

Segment 4: May 24-26

We had heard of a Grand Fall on this stream, and thought that each fall we came to must be it, but after christening several in succession with this name, we gave up the search. There were more Grand or Petty Falls than I can remember. I cannot tell how many times we had to walk on account of falls or rapids… However the carries were an agreeable variety. – HDT, The Maine Woods

SEGMENT RATING – Very Difficult. In the 10 mile stretch of river between Matagamon Lake and Bowlin Falls, the river drops over 400 feet. In the first 7 miles, there are 4 portages (0.5-0.75 miles long) and 6 sets of rapids rate Class II-III depending on water levels. Carry trails are rough, muddy, and slippery.

May 24 – ROAD ACCESS POINT (Matagamon Bridge)

  • Canoe East Branch of the Penobscot
  • Camp at Oxbow

May 25

  • Canoe East Branch of the Penobscot
  • Five sets of Class 2 or 3 rapids and 4 portages between ¼ – ½ mile each
  • Camp at Grand Pitch

May 26 (ROAD ACCESS POINT — Bowlin Camps)

  • Continue down East Branch to Bowlin Camps

Segment 5: May 26-29

As we glided swiftly down the inclined plane of the river, a great cat-owl launched itself away from a stump on the bank, and flew heavily across the stream, and the Indian, as usual, imitated its note…. Soon afterward a white-headed eagle sailed down the stream before us. We drove him several miles, while we were looking for a good place to camp… Some shecorways, being surprised by us, a part of them dived, and we passed directly over them and could trace their course here and there by a bubble on the surface, but we did not see them come up. – HDT, The Maine Woods

SEGMENT RATING – Moderate. This section is mostly quick water with no portages and two significant rapids. Whetstone Falls is rated Class II or III and can easily be walked around. Grindstone is a long (1 mile) continuous rapid rated Class III or IV depending on water level. Highway 11 runs parallel to the rapid so we have the easy option of a vehicle portage if the water is high (and it most likely will be this spring). There are intermittent Class I and II rapids between Grindstone and Medway

May 26

  • Relaunch from Bowlin Camps
  • Canoe East Branch from Grand Pitch to Whetstone Falls – Class 2-3 rapids
  • Camp at Fiske Brook

May 27

  • Canoe lower East Branch
  • Lunch at Lunksoos Camps
  • Camp at Whetstone Falls

May 28

  • Canoe lower East Branch
  • Run or portage Grindstone Falls
  • Camp below Grindstone

May 29

  • Paddle remainder of East Branch to Medway (ROAD ACCESS – Medway)

Segment 6: May 29-31

On entering the West Branch at Nicketow it appeared much larger then the East. Polis remarked that the former was all gone and lost now, that it was all smooth water hence to Old Town, and he threw away his pole which was cut on the Umbazooksus…. We camped about two miles below Nicketow, on the south side of the West Branch, covering with fresh twigs the withered bed of a former traveller, and feeling that we were now in a settled country, especially when in the evening we heard and ox sneeze in its wild pasture across the river. – HDT, The Maine Woods

SEGMENT RATING – Easy. This section is mostly flat and quick water with a couple portages around dams, and easy road access most of the way.


  • Re-launch from Medway
  • Join the main stem of the Penobscot River
  • Camp on Penobscot – near Mattawamkeag

May 30

  • Continue on main stem of the Penobscot River
  • Camp on the Penobscot – near Passadumkeag

May 31

  • Continue of main stem of the Penobscot River
  • Camp near Costigan

Public Day: June 1

June 1

  • Launch Penobscot War Canoes and open to the public – Costigan
  • Arrive Indian Island