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Moose River Bow Trip

The Moose River Bow Trip is a popular, 34-mile scenic paddling loop in Western Maine, featuring lake and river paddling, brief whitewater, a few portages, and great opportunities to view wildlife, including moose!
Trail Activity
Length
34.0 miles, Round Trip
Difficulty
Moderate
Towns
Attean Twp, Bradstreet Twp, Holeb Twp, T5 R7 BKP WKR
Surface
Dirt/Forest Floor, Boardwalk/Bog Bridging, Lake/Pond, River/Stream
Pets
Permitted
Fees
No

Description

The Moose River Bow Trip is a great beginner overnight paddling trip, enjoyed by both canoers and kayakers. Paddlers can enjoy a few nights out and return to their launch point without a shuttle, thus making this a popular trip. Most paddlers take three days to complete the trip. This route is often crowded on summer weekends and holidays, so please plan accordingly. Tent sites along this trip are first-come, first-served and free to use without registration.

General route: paddle west from Attean Landing across Attean Pond to the portage to Holeb Pond. Paddle to the southwest outlet of Holeb Pond into Holeb Stream, which soon joins the Moose River. There is another portage around Holeb Falls. Paddle to Spencer Rips and Attean Falls, both of which can be paddled at higher water levels. The Moose River flows into Attean Pond; paddle north to return to Attean Landing.

Attean and Holeb Ponds:

From Attean Landing, head west and paddle 4.75 miles down the long arm of Attean Pond (Attean Narrows). There are 8 campsites along this stretch, which can make for a nice first evening for afternoon launches. Attean Mountain rises to the left and Sally Mountain to the right. At the west end of the pond is the 1.25-mile portage to Holeb Pond (45.575079, -70.347465). Do not portage on the railroad bed -- this is both illegal and dangerous since these are actively used tracks. Much of the portage is now surfaced in bog bridging. When the portage reaches a road; turn right and cross the railroad tracks, then take a left before the road curves to finish the portage at Holeb Pond (45.574909, -70.370151). The paddle across Holeb Pond is 3.25 miles to its outlet into Holeb Stream (45.582691, -70.433400), which joins the Moose River in 1 mile (45.573005, -70.442643).

Moose River to Holeb Falls:

The Moose River is generally slow-moving but punctuated by a few minor rapids. The first is the Camel Rips ledge drop, 3.75 miles after entering the Moose River. This is followed in 500 yards by the Second Camel Rips, at a 90-degree left turn in the river. The river meanders for 5.5 miles through marshy area before reaching Holeb Falls, a mandatory portage, which is signed. There will be large boulders in the river and a rocky ledge on the right -- take the smaller left branch of the river at this point (45.537154, -70.364636) and an immediate right. After 0.5 miles, turn left into a small stream; the large river beyond here is usually blocked by jumbled, weathered logs (dri-ki). Begin the 0.3-mile portage here, or continue to paddle a bit farther until logs block the waterway and join the portage trail on the left. The portage passes tenting options and a cabin (provided by Carrier Timberlands, LLC) and finishes at the wide Holeb Pool in the Moose River, just below the end of Holeb Falls.

Holeb Falls to Attean Lake and Landing:

The Mosquito Rips drop is just around the corner from the portage put-in; if water is low, boats can be lined through the drop on ropes from river right -- be aware of slippery ledges here. After 3.5 miles of calm paddling is Spencer Rips, which can be paddled in high water, but must often be portaged due to sharp rocks across the entire river. After another 7 miles of flatwater paddling, is Attean Rips (longest rapids of the trip) followed by Attean Falls (a quick drop). Both of these pitches are full of sharp rocks, due to dynamiting for logging. They may be run in high water, but should be portaged in low water.  The Attean Rips portage is on the left, which continues to bypass Attean Falls as well (not shown on the map). The shortest way around Attean Falls is the portage trail on the right. After the falls, it is 3.5 miles across Attean Pond, through islands, to Attean Landing and the end of the Loop Trip. There is sometimes a strong headwind here, and the islands can provide helpful calm sections.

Local outfitter Cry of the Loon (207-668-7808) can lead or assist with the trip, providing shuttles (to avoid the 1.25-mile portage), gear, guides, or information. 

Other Information

Fire permits are required for all campsites and can be obtained through the Maine Forest Service: 1-800-750-9777. Fires are permitted only at state-authorized sites with an official fire ring. Use only dead and downed wood.

Learn more about the fascinating geology of the Moose River Bow Trip, courtesy of the Maine Geologic Survey.

Trail Manager

For more information, contact:

Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Western Public Lands Office

Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Western Public Lands Office
PO Box 327
Farmington, Maine 04938
Phone: (207) 778-8231
Tim.Post@maine.gov

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Trail Tips

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Trailhead Information

Attean Landing: This is the most popular launch spot for paddlers completing the entire Bow Trip, including the Attean-Holeb portage. When entering Jackman from the south on US-201, turn left onto Attean Road (just before the ME-6/15 junction on the right). The landing is at the road’s end (45.588378, -70.259610): please park on the left at the sign-designated spaces and offload/upload to the left at the beach. At busy times, offload and then park up the road in the clearing on the shoulder.

Holeb Landing: Paddlers can complete the entire Bow Trip from here or can shorten their trip to 25 miles by starting here and ending at Attean Landing (thus avoiding much of the lake paddling and the long Attean-Holeb portage). After passing through Jackman from the south on US-201, cross the bridge over the Moose River. In 3.1 miles, turn left onto Holeb Road; follow this well-traveled gravel road for 11.6 miles and make a sharp left onto Holeb Pond Road. The landing is at the end of the road (45.594068, -70.427042).

Spencer Rips: Please note, as of summer 2017, the Spencer Rips Road is washed out and unpassable by vehicles. [For paddlers looking for a shorter trip, with a few rapids and some lake paddling, Spencer Rips is an alternate access point (it is 11 miles from here to Attean Landing). Travel north on US-201, turning left onto Hardscabble Road across from Parlin Pond, 13.9 miles north of The Forks. Hardscrabble Road becomes Spencer Road, the most well-traveled of roads in that area. Turn right onto Spencer Rips Road, 9.7 miles from leaving US-201 (45.482276, -70.273636). Follow the road to its end; depending on water level, launch above or below Spencer Rips (45.520239, -70.295858).]

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Trail Alerts

Safety
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.
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