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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
Paddling
Length
34.00 miles, Round Trip
Difficulty
Moderate
Towns
Attean Twp, Bradstreet Twp, Holeb Twp, T5 R7 BKP WKR
Surface
Dirt/Forest Floor, Boardwalk/Bog Bridging, Water - Lake/Pond, Water - 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. 

Public access to Attean Pond or the Moose River Bow Trip is available in the Town of Jackman or on Holeb Pond. Please note that Attean Landing is accessed via a privately owned and privately maintained road that is closed and gated periodically for repairs or flooding. Please be aware that the “turn around” immediately before the gate (approximately 1.5 miles from ME-201) and the surrounding fields are also private property.

General route: Paddle south from Holeb Landing to the outlet of Holeb Pond into Holeb Stream, which soon joins the Moose River. After about 8 more miles, there is a 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 to the west end of Attean Pond, and follow the 1.25 mile portage trail to Holeb Pond.  Paddle west across Holeb Pond to return to Holeb Landing.

Alternate route: Paddlers may also begin the trip from the Jackman public boat launch on Wood Pond, and paddle 2.5 miles south on Wood Pond and Moose River to Attean Pond.  From there, paddle 4.5 miles west the length of Attean Pond to the Holeb portage trail and continue the route as described above (aside from the stop at Holeb Landing). 

Holeb Landing to Holeb Stream and Moose River
The paddle is 0.9 miles from Holeb Landing to its outlet into Holeb Stream (45.582691, -70.433400), which joins the Moose River in about 1 mile (45.573005, -70.442643).  There is a campsite at Holeb Landing and several more a short paddle away across the cove from the landing, which can make for a nice first evening for afternoon launches.

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 a 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
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 0.6 miles to Attean Pond.

Attean and Holeb Ponds
From the Moose River outlet, head west and paddle 4.75 miles down the long arm of Attean Pond (Attean Narrows). There are 5 campsites on the east and north shoreline and at the west end of the pond. 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 arrive back at Holeb Landing.

If the trip began at the Jackman boat access, paddle 3.5 miles north across Attean Pond, through islands, to the Moose River and 2.5 miles to the boat access on Wood Pond. There is sometimes a strong headwind on Attean Pond, 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

Public access to Attean Pond or the Moose River Bow Trip is available in the Town of Jackman or on Holeb Pond. Please note that Attean Landing is accessed via a privately owned and privately maintained road that is periodically closed and gated for repairs or flooding. As the private road runs through private property, the landowners are understandably concerned about misuse of/damage to their road and property. Please be aware that the “turn around” immediately before the gate (approximately 1.5 miles from ME-201) and the surrounding fields are also private property. The Bureau of Parks and Lands is collaborating with the landowners to develop a long
term solution for managing public access to Attean Pond.

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 Jackman Public Boat Launch (thus avoiding 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).

Jackman Public Boat Launch:
Paddlers can complete the entire Bow Trip from here, or can shorten their trip to 25 miles by starting at Holeb landing and ending at Jackman Public Boat Launch. From ME-201 in downtown Jackman, follow Spruce Street then Mill Street southwest 0.3 miles to the public boat access (45.619750, -70.257600).

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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smuggsbackbowls
June 05, 2024
Completed the loop Memorial Day weekend and confirm REP's comment about Attean Landing being gated and sketchy spray painted signs stating no public parking. We started the loop from the public boat launch on Woods Pond instead (added about 4 miles in total to the loop).

1.25 mile portage is hardcore - plan to do it in one trip (wear backpacks with most of your gear, avoid bringing coolers/bins). No major blowdowns to report, mosquitos were ravaging in places. Several dead moose in Moose river between Mosquito rips and Attean falls - be sure to treat water before drinking. Awesome experience overall though, with intense headwinds on Attean pond we were exhausted battling whitecaps - only recommended for strong paddlers.
rep
May 30, 2024
The Attean Landing does not seem friendly to parking at this time. We arrived at the locked gate on Attean Pond Road to see large hand painted signs directing folks to use the Jackman or Holeb put ins. Didn’t encounter the land owner but opted to play it safe and put in at Holeb. Amazing trip!
tjd
August 08, 2023
I created a video trip planner of our 3-day trip. https://youtu.be/CcQsNmRDGro.
tjd
August 01, 2023
We just completed the trip July 27 - 29, 2023. Levels are high. The final 1 mile to Attean Landing is ROAD CLOSED. However, there is parking at this gate and a short portage to a put-in on the Moose river just upstream of the railroad bridge. I was concerned about paddling upstream to Attean Pond through the boulder garden just downstream of Attean Landing, but with the extremely high water it was no problem at all. Great trip. We didn't see a soul after we left Holeb Pond.
falconleader
June 22, 2023
If anyone has done this trip as of June 2023 - could you share how the water levels are?
I'll talk to the outfitters but it doesn't hurt to ask here as well.
falconleader
June 22, 2023
If anyone has done this trip as of June 2023 - could you share how the water levels are?
I'll talk to the outfitters but it doesn't hurt to ask here as well.
operation adventure
May 02, 2023
Amazing adventure with some drama. Here is what I learned. To start, this trip was with 3 people, one dog, and 2 canoes. When we arrived at the Attean Lake Road, that leads to the boat launch or start point, there was an old gate that was closed with an old "road closed" sign attached to the gate. The gate was secured with a piece of wood stuck where a lock would be. Because of the gate/sign being old, the gate held shut by a piece of wood, and all the information online about this trip stating the entry point is the State of Maine owned (Maine Public Land) launch/start point, we decided to bypass the gate.

The portage point between Haleb Attean and Haleb lakes was no joke. 1.2 miles, thru a rugged trail, and took 3 trips totaling 4 1/2 hours. Its strongly suggested that all containers be a backpacks, no coolers or totes, due to the long and difficult portage. I would also suggest taking the diverted route to the railroad tracks for the last quarter mile of the trail because its flat.

There are 3 more portages, Haleb Falls, and two optional portages at the entrance to Attean Lake from Moose River. However, there was unexpected rough water about 2 miles into the Moose River, from Haleb Pond, that we almost flipped one canoe. This rough water is notated on the map provided on this website.

When leaving, at the above mentioned gate, there was a Ford F-250 truck, bearing the Maine license plate Support Wildlife 340-AVH, that was blocking us from exiting. The male driver exited, told us we were trespassing, said he took down our registration plates, and would be alerting the authorizes. We appeased his self-proclaimed ownership or association of the property by appolgizing, and after answering his interrogation type questioning, he backed out and allowed us to leave.

Other than being unprepared for the 1.2 mile portage and the drama at the gate, this was an amazing trip. Twoi additional suggestion, I could see how the bugs might be out of control during the warmer days so bug head nets would be strongly suggested. Second, If I was to do this trip again, I would plan it for 4 days to enjoy slower paddling and allowing for more fishing time. I hope this information helps and your trip is as great as ours was!
kempla71
August 26, 2021
For a campfire permit, call the Central Region Forest Service headquarters in Old Town. 207-827-1800.
kempla71
August 26, 2021
Apparently the listed # on this site is not the correct Forest service phone # for campfire permits.... (Maine Forest Service: 1-800-750-9777) I called it this week and got an answering machine, left a message, but no one returned my call. It would be helpful to get that info correct on this site if a permit is indeed required.
roots royd
December 30, 2019
If you like hiking, camping, and canoeing, this is a great trip. It is, at the least, moderately strenuous. There’s a lot of paddling across the pond on day one then there is a long portage to the campsite. You can carry your gear and boat in one trip, but the experienced hikers in my group made two trips: boats first then gear second. The second portage is about half the distance of the first one. On our third site, you can portage to avoid the rapids or just canoe through them and dock at the end of the site. There are 3 rapids and you can portage all of them, if you choose. You are camping outdoors so be prepared for cooler nights and possible rain. It was really cold one night. Most of us slept in hammocks. If you have an underquilt and a cover, you should be fine. We bathed in the river on day two and there are some “field” outhouses. I packed food that only required adding water. Obviously, there is ample water, but you will want to filter it. Recipes are easy to find online. I boiled some eggs before I left and took some baggies of oatmeal for breakfast. Pemmican was my lunch cuisine as lunch was during a midday-paddle. Peanuts and raisins make a good snack, too. For dinner, I put some pasta in a pot with seasoning, cheese, and beans. There are plenty of hiking recipes online. That’s where I found the pemmican recipe. This was a fun trip and it helps if you travel with a fun group, too.
roots royd
December 30, 2019
This was a good trip. There is a lot of rowing and the first portage is long. One night was rather cold so be prepared for that, too. It was a great trip with a good bunch of guys. I look forward to it next year.
jennifer burgin
July 15, 2019
My daughter and I just completed the full Bow Trip, starting and ending at Attean Landing. There was no problem at the landing. The comment I want to make is about the portage from Attean Pond to Holeb Pond. We had been hugging the south side of Attean Pond, and didn't realize we had come to the wrong place to begin our portage. We quickly came to a gravel road which we knew wasn't correct but ... we continued. The gravel road was not navigable by vehicles, because it had two deep ditches where there should have been culverts. Good things: the wild strawberries along it were plentiful and delicious, it wasn't buggy, it did not have trees across it, and when we were 3/4s or so of the way to Holeb Pond, the correct trail joined the road we were on. Bad things: there was a lot more elevation change and it was very hot and sunny. When we went back to get our canoe, we took the correct portage trail, discovered the trees across the trail, and then came out on Attean Pond a ways from our canoe, with no path between the two spots. My daughter swam to get it, then we paddled back to the "wrong" (but I believe easier) route.
bpontbriand
June 03, 2019
Someone needs to resolve the issue at the Attean Landing take out. The road is gated and to take out you are force downstream to access a parking area which appears to be on private land and about 350 yards up from the stream. Does not make make sense to have trail users anger the local land owners
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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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