From The Lookout, over the southern half of the monument.
Photo by Ryan Linn
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Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

Last week I took a trip into the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, a new addition to the National Parks system directly east of Baxter State Park. The Monument was designated in August, after years of effort by Elliotsville Plantation (the former owners of the land, a foundation set up by the philanthropist and former owner of Burt’s Bees to advocate for a National Park in the area) to donate the land to the National Park Service.

Ryan Linn       Trip Report       03/13/2017
Ryan Linn
Trip Report
03/13/2017

Last week I took a trip into the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, a new addition to the National Parks system directly east of Baxter State Park. The Monument was designated in August, after years of effort by Elliotsville Plantation (the former owners of the land, a foundation set up by the philanthropist and former owner of Burt’s Bees to advocate for a National Park in the area) to donate the land to the National Park Service.

There was, and to some degree still is, vehement opposition to the Monument from a loud and increasingly small part of the population in the region, but the local attitude now mostly seems to range from fully in support to indifferent, which is just fine by me.

A river winds through a frozen, snowy landscape.
Haskell Deadwater on the Penobscot River, with Bald Mountain rising in the distance.
Photo by Ryan Linn

I had been into Katahdin Woods & Waters twice in the past few years before it was a National Monument, but only for short day-trips. Now that it’s officially part of the National Parks, I wanted to do a longer trip into the wilderness before the wider world started showing up in larger numbers.

So for my goal of finding some quiet time in the deep woods, the trip was a wild success. I saw only a handful of people on the first day, but only one person (my friend Tom) during the three days after that.

side from the fine solitude in the Monument, how was the rest of the visit? While the Monument doesn’t have quite the wow-factor that Baxter does in many cases, it has plenty to offer.

On their own, KWW’s trails and campsite are pleasant in a low-key way. The trails I saw were mostly old logging roads, groomed so that Tom (on his fat-bike) and I (on my cross-country skis) could cover plenty of ground.

There are several lean-tos and tent sites in the Monument, many of them on the shores of the Penobscot River, accessible by foot, bike, or canoe, and I figure they are quite nice, and fairly easy to get to.

Sunlight illuminates whitewater on a rocky river.
Haskell Pitch on the Penobscot River.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A wood stove and stach of firewood sit inside a rustic cabin.
Wood stove in Big Spring Brook Hut.
Photo by Ryan Linn

There are also two cabins, complete with wood stoves and bunks. I stayed in one of the cabins for this trip, which, of course, is the most popular option in winter.

The Monument has a few fine viewpoints, although I only made it to one on this trip— a low mountain called The Lookout, with a nice view of the southern half of the Monument and some of the peaks in Baxter. You’ve probably heard from some of the naysayers that the only attraction in the Monument is a view of Katahdin, but you can just call them grumpy spoilsports.

There’s plenty of beauty to be found on trails along wild rivers and ponds, and through deep northern forests. Some people will always complain about the Monument because of their own political leanings, and they’ll probably never enjoy it. That’s their loss, but I won’t waste my time trying to convince them otherwise.

A person rides a bike through snow in front of two small buildings.
Tom leaving Big Spring Brook on his fatbike after a cozy night by the wood stove.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Another aspect of the Monument experience that I need to mention is staying at a Maine sporting camp. There are several lodges and sporting camps near the Monument, which are an old Maine tradition for hunters, anglers, snowmobilers, and other outdoor recreationists.

Think of them as semi-rustic hotels, generally small and family-run operations, with family-style meals and tons of local knowledge to mine. I stayed at Mt Chase Lodge for a night on either end of this trip, and it really added to the whole experience.

One of the primary arguments for the Monument has always been that it would boost the local economy by bringing visitors to the area to spend money, so I see staying at one of the lodges as a concrete way of showing my support for public lands in general, and KWW specifically.

And what do you know, since the Monument designation, there has been an increase in sporting camp visitorsreal estate sales, and new investment in the area. Imagine that.

So, one other point.

Our governor, who is known for many of his boneheaded statements over the past six years, is also known for being consistently opposed to just about everything related to public lands and conservation. I’ve talked about this before, so I don’t want to rehash too much.

He’s always been opposed to the Monument, despite the fact that the majority of the people in Maine support it. He even took it upon himself to ask the president to revoke the Monument status, even though it’s unclear that that’s even possible, none of Maine’s congressional delegation supports that, and even local politicians who were opposed are now more interested in moving forward with the Monument.

The governor loves to claim that the Monument will hurt local businesses, and that “it’s nothing but a cut-over woodlot” (meaning it was logged recently and the forest is mostly new growth). It’s easy enough to see that local businesses haven’t been hurt, although they weren’t exactly in a strong place for the decades before the Monument. As for the wood-lot claim, the governor seems ignorant of the fact that another famous park was also mostly clear-cut before being bought by a wealthy philanthropist and given to the people of Maine: Baxter State Park.

The most valuable part of the Monument, as I see it, is the fact that the forest within it will be preserved for future generations. Without one very forward-looking individual, Baxter State Park wouldn’t be what it is today. Give it a hundred years, and it will be just as wild as Baxter’s deep forests. In the meantime, it will still be a perfectly pleasant place to spend some time in the deep forests of northern Maine.

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Baxter State Park, Maine
Photo by Ryan Linn
Baxter State Park, Maine
Photo by Ryan Linn
Get our hiking guide for this area!

Walk lush forest paths, rocky coastlines, and towering peaks on New England’s trails.

Ancient mountain ranges, deep forests, and thousands of miles of hiking trails await you when you hike in New England. Our hiking guides include Maine’s Baxter State Park, Public Reserved Lands, and Acadia National Park. Mighty peaks in Maine, such as Katahdin and the Bigelows, offer up dramatic views atop rugged climbs, while the coastal hills can be just as wild and beautiful. In our White Mountain National Forest hiking guides, you will find New Hampshire’s 48 Four-Thousand Footers, over a thousand miles of hiking trails, and endless possibilities for hiking adventures. The variety of New England trails in many more scenic destinations are perfect for thru-hiking, section-hiking, day-hiking, or backpacking.

10 sections ($0 to $9.99 each)
Acadia National Park
…and more!
Explore the trails in New England
About the Author
A man wearing a backpack and carrying trekking poles stands on top of a rock cliff with a view behind him.

Ryan Linn

Ryan is also known as “Guthook”, which is where our apps get their name. Already an avid hiker, he hiked the Appalachian Trail, New England Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail before joining forces with Paul to create the Guthook Guides apps. Ryan handles iOS development for our apps from his office in Maine, and usually runs away to the forests and mountains throughout New England. He also volunteers with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Baxter State Park in Maine is his happy place.