Serenity: Paddling through the St. John Valley
by Monique Labbe, Recreation and Sports Reporter
Aug 02, 2012 | 981 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The roaring Fish River Falls is one of the most complicated hazards on the Fish River, but for those with experience, it can provide an adrenaline rush.
- SJVT photos / Monique Labbe
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Aug. 1 edition - ST. JOHN VALLEY – Much of the St. John Valley’s untouched beauty cannot be seen from the main roads or the man-made ATV and hiking trails throughout the area. It is from the serenity of the winding rivers that one can truly hear the quiet peace that the Northern Maine wilderness has to offer.

The Fish River is a heavily paddled river in the St. John Valley, particularly in the area between Eagle Lake and Fort Kent. For those wishing to spend an entire day in a canoe or kayak, taking off from Birch Haven or Plaisted on Eagle Lake and making the trek all the way to Fort Kent, river goers can dock at either Riverside Park or the Blockhouse.

A shorter trip down the Fish River takes place from Solider Pond to Fort Kent, which is the heavier part of the river, complete with white water and the Fish River Falls. Canoers and kayakers of all skill levels should use caution when approaching the Fish River Falls, though, particularly when the water levels are high, which causes the current to move at a much swifter pace.

A long port and a short port are available to people, with the long port landing being about 200 yards from the falls. With the long port, people can carry their equipment along a trail that goes along the falls, making it safer to those who are leery about the possibility of going over the falls. The trail was renovated and cleaned out by John Kaleta’s Maine Guide class from the Fort Kent Community High School in 2011.

The landing for the short port is right above the falls to the right, making it a challenge to those both experienced and brave enough to take on the class-five rapids that the Fish River Falls runs.

A calmer run, and probably the shortest day trip on the Fish River, is from Eagle Lake to Soldier Pond. Starting from the Birch Haven campsite in Eagle Lake, paddlers can enjoy the rolling hills that the lake is surrounded by before entering the mouth of the river. Once on the river, canoers and kayakers can virtually float their way down to Soldier Pond, as the upper part of the river does not pose much of a threat for rapids or jutting rocks.

Though there are no specific trips on the St. John River (people typically choose on their own where they will put in and dock), travelers can spend a day or two on the river itself. Whether paddling downriver or motoring up, river-goers have the unique opportunity to be surrounded by two countries, as the river serves as the border between the United States and Canada. There are landing sites along the river for those who want to dock for lunch or camp out if they are on a longer trip. The entire river is approximately 418 miles long and originates in Little St. John Lake on the Maine and Quebec border. The river makes its way north and snakes through Fort Kent, Madawaska, and Van Buren, eventually spilling out into the Bay of Fundy.

If the constant flow and current of rivers is not best suited, Deboullie Mountain in the Allagash boasts many ponds one can spend the day paddling on. Gardner Pond and Deboullie Pond, which has a breathtaking view of the ledges just at the base of Deboullie Mountain, are the two biggest ponds in the park and see the most traffic simply for their easy access from the main park road. Denny Pond, Togue Pond and Black Pond are out of the way and require a little more time to get to, and are nestled deep in the untouched Allagash wilderness.

The St. John Valley is full of rivers, lakes and ponds for canoers and kayakers of every skill level, whether it be a day-long excursion or a week full of paddling and camping in the remote locations of the Northern Maine woods.