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First Debsconeag Water Trail

Remote day-paddle or overnight. First Debsconeag Lake offers several campsites and access to the Ice Caves Trail.
Trail Activity
6.00 miles, Round Trip
Water - Lake/Pond, Water - River/Stream
Not Permitted


First Debsconeag Lake is a 1.6-mile long lake within The Nature Conservancy's 46,271 acre Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area. The lake is connected to the West Branch Penobscot River by a narrow channel. In order to reach the lake, paddlers must travel from the boat launch through several braided river channels. First time visitors should print a map to assist with navigation.

First Debsconeag Lake has three campsites on the east end, each with their own private sandy beach. On the west end, there is one campsite and a portage trail accessing Second Debsconeag Lake. All campsites have fire rings, picnic tables, and pit toilets. Day-use and overnight visitors to these campsites should use leave-no-trace ethics to reduce their impact and preserve a primitive natural experience for the next visitor.

The Ice Caves Trail can be accessed on the north shore of Debsconeag Lake, a few hundred feet below a rocky outcropping visible from the lake. A small sign marks where the trail meets the lake. The sign is easy to miss, so pay close attention or bring a GPS showing the trail location. The Ice Caves are less than a half mile from the lake.

Paddlers seeking an extended trip may paddle into the Debsconeag Deadwater and the West Branch of the Penobscot River. See the Maine Trail Finder connector trail posting for the West Branch Penobscot River for more information.

Other Information

Debsconeag means "carrying place," named by native people for the portage sites where they carried their birch bark canoes around rapids and waterfalls. The Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area contains the highest concentration of pristine, remote ponds in New England, as well as thousands of acres of mature forests.

Preserve Guidelines:

  • Hunting and fishing are allowed according to state laws and regulations.
  • Vehicles are restricted to designated roads; ATVs are not allowed anywhere on the property.
  • Mountain bikes are not permitted on hiking trails.
  • Horses, pets, and other domestic animals are not permitted.
  • Fires are allowed by permit only in existing fire rings at designated locations. Use only dead and down wood.
  • Do not collect or remove plants or animals.
  • Camp only in designated campsites. First come first served. No reservations or fees required.
  • Camping at any one site is limited to a two week maximum stay.
  • Please use the latrines installed at campsites.
  • Carry water for washing at least 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap.
  • Pack it in, pack it out! Remove all trash and leave your campsite looking better than when you arrived.

Trail Manager

For more information, contact the Maine Field Office of The Nature Conservancy:

The Nature Conservancy, Maine Field Office

The Nature Conservancy, Maine Field Office
14 Maine Street, Suite 401
Brunswick, ME 04011
Phone: (207) 729-5181
View website

Nearby Events


Trail Tips

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Walk single file in the middle of the trail. Wear the right shoes and enjoy the mud – you're in the great outdoors!
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Trailhead Information

From Millinocket: travel about 10 miles northwest on the Baxter Park Road and turn left at the junction marked "Allagash." This short connecting road quickly comes to the Golden Road; turn right here. Travel about 3.7 miles on the Golden Road and turn left onto the road marked "Debsconeag Area 4.5 Miles." This very rough road, not suitable for most vehicles, goes about 3.5 miles directly to the boat launch. HIGH CENTER VEHICLES ONLY.

Warning: the Golden Road is a private logging road, all visitors must yield to log trucks.

Click on a parking icon to get custom directions
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Trail Alerts

Be a Safe and Respectful Paddler
Paddling conditions will vary according to the weather and season, so always exercise caution and always wear a lifejacket. With good judgment and proper equipment, the risk associated with paddling can be minimized. Respect the natural world and the rights of landowners, and be considerate of other outdoor enthusiasts. Paddlers should seek to avoid causing erosion, trampling vegetation, disturbing wildlife, and harming water quality.
Logging Road Access
Access to the trailhead/put-in is on gravel logging roads managed and maintained to transport timber. Be aware that logging trucks have the right of way and be prepared to pull to the side of the road when encountering logging trucks. Do not park in the travel portion of the road or block side roads. Yield to any equipment working on roads. Logging roads may be closed during active logging operations.
Remote Access
This part of Maine has poor signage and GPS driving directions can be misleading. Mobile phone use may also be limited. First time visitors should carry a map and printed directions.

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