North Maine Woods
My wife, Susan, and I travel extensively (with our dogs) for upland bird hunting. We enjoy remoteness; hunting all day with little human contact. Not concerned about the dogs running out on a busy road or sitting quietly on a stream bank eating lunch make for memorable day afield. There is a destination that provides all of that and it’s called The North Maine Woods.
The North Maine Woods consists of 3 ½ million acres of forest land. Those 3 ½ million acres are actually owned by 26 individual land owners. Prior to 1970, each land owner had their own method of managing recreational users visiting their property. By recreational user, I mean fishermen, hunters, campers, hikers, canoers, backpackers, etc. It was difficult to navigate through the properties; I know because in 1968 and 1969, I was doing it in my Volkswagen camper. In 1970, the landowners got together and decided it was time to bring order to recreational use of this huge tract of land. In 1971, the North Maine Woods (NMW) organization was established.
The mission of the NMW is stated as follows: To provide the visiting public with high quality, traditional outdoor recreational experiences that are compatible with providing renewable forest resources which sustain approximately 20% of Maine’s economy. Forest recreation, when managed properly, is compatible with harvesting forest products. In 1971, to launch the NMW, each land owner was assessed an amount based upon the acreage they owned. That self-assessment amounted to approximately $750,000 from 1971 to 1986. Since that period, the program has become self-sufficient. That self-sufficiency is primarily the result of visitor fees.
Visitor fees are a small price to pay for use of this magnificent tract of land. For 2018, the fees are as follows: Under 18 and 70 and over, there is no daily use charge. For all others, a daily use Maine resident fee is $10 and a daily use non-resident is $15. There are additional fees for overnight camping. Also, there are seasonal use passes available for purchase. And, a reduced rate pass for sportsmen staying at sporting camps.
I, personally, have no issue with the fee system. The opportunity to hunt all day in this magnificent tract of land for a small fee is a good deal for any sportsman, in my opinion. My wife and I are ruffed grouse hunters. Good grouse habitat consists of continuous new forest growth. Harvesting wood products through renewable forest management is a constant activity in the NMW. In fact, I know of no other tract of land in the United States, the size of the NMW, that is continuously harvesting wood in a manner that ultimately benefits the ruffed grouse (and many other species).
Access to the NMW is via a gate system; checkpoints are the official name and there are nine checkpoints beginning, in the South, at Pittston (20 Mile Checkpoint) and ending in the North in Allagash where you’ll find four checkpoints.
The Allagash Wildnerness Waterway flows through the NMW. However, it’s actually managed by Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands. You can get information on accessing the Allagash Wildnerness Waterway through both the NMW website (www.northmainewoods.org) and the Bureau’s website (www.maine.gov/dacf/parks).
If you’re visiting the NMW, there is one important subject that must be addressed. Logging is a constant activity so there are Rules of the Road. Give all logging trucks the right of way! The roads in the NMW were built to move wood products. When you see a truck coming from either direction, please pull over to let it pass safely.
No article on the NMW would be complete without mentioning the historic Maine sporting camps that exist within the boundaries of NMW. Many pre-date 1900. Fishing and/or hunting from one of these camps should be on any sportsmen’s bucket list. The three I’m most familiar with are Libby Camps, Chandler Lake Camps and Bradford Camps…all have a fine reputation. For a complete list, go to www.northmainewoods.org and click on Business Links and then Sporting Lodges & Camps.
Finally, before making your first trip to the NMW, go to Amazon and buy Bound for Munsungan by Jack Ahern. You won’t be disappointed.
Copyright 2018 Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller is a life-long sportsman. He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German shorthaired pointer in 1961. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.