Posted by

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


150th anniversary tour of The Maine Woods': Commemorating the travels of Henry David Thoreau and his Wabanaki guides

Rate this item
(0 votes)

GREENVILLE --- On May 16, a group of Maine Woods guides, members of the Penobscot Nation, scholars and others begin a 16-day canoe trip retracing the last of three adventures immortalized in Henry David Thoreau's iconic book 'The Maine Woods.' The expedition, organized by Maine Woods Discovery (, will traverse the Maine woods much the way Thoreau did 150 years agotraveling through a largely undeveloped forested landscape filled with vast lakes and wild rivers.

Published in 1864, after Thoreau's death, 'The Maine Woods' was one of the first published accounts of recreational travel through Maine's 'uninterrupted' forest landscape. Primarily organized to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this seminal work, the trip is also being mounted by Maine Woods Discovery and its partners to promote the outstanding recreational opportunities available in the Maine woods today.

'Reading The Maine Woods' as you paddle through this country it's amazing to see how little it's changed since he did his canoe trip over 150 years ago,' says Kevin Slater, co-owner of Mahoosuc Guide Service and lead guide for the 150th anniversary expedition. 'It's still wild, undeveloped and full of wildlife.'

Like Thoreau's trip, the 150th anniversary tour will begin with a visit to Penobscot tribal territory on Indian Island in the Penobscot River just north of Bangor. Overland transportation will follow the old stagecoach route to Greenville, where participants will set off for the two-week canoe expedition paddling the full length of Moosehead Lake, crossing into the Penobscot and Allagash River watersheds, down Webster Stream (through Baxter State Park) to the East Branch and main stem of the Penobscot River and south to the starting point on Indian Island.

Each two-to-four-day trip segment will feature a specific Thoreau-related focus with experts joining to provide context and commentary on themes ranging from Native American culture to literature, history, ecology, lumbering and conservation.

The project is being coordinated by the Northern Forest Center with guiding and logistics support provided by Mahoosuc Guide Service, New England Outdoor Center and the Appalachian Mountain Club. Financial support has been provided by: Elliotsville Plantation, Inc.; Plum Creek Timber; and Bangor Savings Bank. A partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism is helping to secure national and regional level media participation.

A central element of the trip involves engaging members of the Penobscot Nation as cultural guides to the Maine Woods.

'Thoreau never could have travelled in the Maine Woods as he did without the support of Penobscot guides, notably Joseph Attean, who led him on an 1853 excursion, and Joe Polis, who guided the 1857 expedition our group is retracing,' says Mike Wilson, senior program director for the Northern Forest Center. 'We're honored to be working with members of the Penobscot Nation to highlight the critical role their guides played in shaping Thoreau's experience in Maine and ultimately his perspective on nature and the environment.'

"This is our homeland, and it is a great honor to share our cultural knowledge with the people of the State of Maine,' says James Francis, Penobscot tribal historian and director of the Penobscot Nation Culture and Historic Preservation Department. 'This trip honors our ancestors and the guides whose contributions enhanced Thoreau's Maine Woods experience. Without them the true spirit of the Maine woods would have been devoid from Thoreau's senses."

Thoreau's experiences in Maine and with his Penobscot Guides profoundly influenced his philosophy and his thinking about nature and wilderness inspiring him to write:

'not only for strength, but for beauty, the poet must, from time to time, travel the logger's path and the Indian's trail, to drink at some new and more bracing fountain of the Muses, far in the recesses of the wilderness.'

"The Maine Woods represents Thoreau's most sustained and intensive exploration of wilderness and holds an important place in the history of conservation,' says James Finley, editor of the Thoreau Society Bulletin. 'It also provides detailed descriptions of his journeys along the trails, rivers, and lakes of Maine, full of particulars and relevance for, in Thoreau's words, 'those who may have occasion to travel this way.''

Finley is one of five scholars and historians from across the country taking part in the trip to both learn and share their perspective on 'The Maine Woods' and Thoreau's influence on American literature and attitudes toward nature.

'This trip is a great opportunity to promote the fact that the experience Thoreau had in the Maine woods is still available to visitors and remarkably unchanged more than 150 years later,' says Matt Polstein, president of New England Outdoor Center. 'A great part of this story is the way this landscape supports our forest products industry and Maine's outdoor and cultural travel economy. We're fortunate to have private landowners and conservation groups who have kept the forest and its waterways largely undeveloped and accessible and outstanding guides who are in the business of helping visitors experience the largest intact forest landscape in the eastern United States.'

'For today's consumers, travel is a big deal and in their perfect world, authentic and adventurous travel creates new connections and friends, it refreshes existing relationships and sets the groundwork for personal transformation,' says Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. 'The Thoreau-Wabanaki Tour is a wonderfully innovative example of like-minded businesses working together, with support from the non-profit sector, to provide today's consumers engaging, high quality, 'off-the-beaten path' guided tourism experiences in a truly unique region, the Maine woods.'

In preparation for this event, several detailed pages for the expedition have been set up at the Maine Woods Discovery website where the public and the media can review the day-to-day itinerary for the trip, read crew bios, and follow the live progress of the expedition using satellite mapping technology provided by Maine's Pinnacle Tracking. The public is also encouraged to engage with the crew when possible through social media on Facebook at and on Twitter @TheMaineWoods using #150Thoreau for all social media tracking.


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine