Helping preserve the waterway

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation, founded in 2011, is a group of dedicated volunteers who are interested in enhancing the wilderness character of the waterway, protecting its environment, preserving its historic and cultural values and fostering knowledge and understanding of the waterway.

The foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that has funded several exciting initiatives that have benefited the waterway and its visitors. One of its most significant accomplishments was funding the state of Maine’s purchase of the 40-acre Lock Dam lot.

When the Waterway was established in 1966, the East Branch Improvement Company retained ownership of the land encompassing Telos and Lock dams. Ownership of the land at Telos was transferred to the state in 2000, but Great Northern Paper remained the owner of the Lock Dam parcel. The AWWF negotiated a fair price with the most recent owner of the Lock Dam lot, Katahdin Forest Management. In a three-way simultaneous transaction, the foundation paid Katahdin Forest Management for the acquisition and the title of the lot was transferred directly to the state. State ownership of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is now complete from Telos Dam to West Twin Brook. 

One of the most recent achievements of the AWWF has been the publication of the Allagash Explorer, a historic and cultural resource companion guide for visitors to the waterway. It is a high-quality, spiral-bound pocket guide that describes the many historical sites and cultural resources along the Waterway. It truly is a must-have guide for those visiting the historic waterway.

Introducing young people from the St. John Valley to canoeing has been a high priority for the foundation. They have organized youth trips on the Allagash since 2016 (except last year due to COVID-19 concerns). The group works with local school districts and Chewonki Foundation to get young people out on the river to learn basic canoeing, camping and leadership skills. The hope is that once these students are exposed to the natural wonders in their backyard, they will become lifelong paddlers and advocates for the conservation of our natural resources and the Waterway.

The Foundation’s short-term priorities are the following.

The Natural Resources Inventory and Monitoring Project.

Youth on the Allagash, three-day, two-night middle school student trips on the waterway.

Canoeing and Water Safety Day Camp, a pilot project for fourth- to sixth-grade youth in the St. John River Valley.

Classroom to River, supporting middle school curriculum development based on the Allagash Explorer in the St. John River Valley school districts.

Allagash Explorer incorporated into a downloadable app map/guide of the Allagash in           partnership with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. 

First Light Learning Journey, a collaboration between the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac Communities and Maine conservation organizations.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation’s 10-year anniversary.

I have been working for the Bureau of Parks and Lands for over 44 years and have seen many friends groups start and then fall by the wayside. I can honestly say that the AWW Foundation has been supportive of the waterway’s mission and of me personally since the group formed. They have been a pleasure to deal with and have raised money for many worthwhile projects that the Waterway budget could not support. 

During my tenure on the Waterway they have financially supported the following projects: An assessment of environmental impacts at campsites, in cooperation with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail; purchase of the Lock Dam lot; the 50th anniversary of the AWW; Youth on the Allagash trips; AWW visitor survey; and “Storied Lands and Waters – Interpretive Plan and Heritage Resource Assessment” and “The Allagash Explorer – Take Along Companion for Maine’s Wilderness Waterway.”

If you love the Waterway and want to support the AWW Foundation’s work, please consider a financial contribution to that organization. See www.awwf.org for more information about the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation.

Waterway notes: To view the AWW annual report, read the visitor survey and for up-to-date ice conditions on the Waterway go to: www.maine.gov/allagash .

Matt LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a Registered Maine Guide and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at 207-695-2169 or at matt.laroche@maine.gov.

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