Compared to the Allagash , the St. John River is more remote, less crowded, and more difficult. For those reasons, it’s best attempted by experienced canoeists or those traveling with a registered Maine guide . The traditional point of access is Fifth St. John Pond, accessible by a logging road north of Rockwood on the west side of Moosehead Lake .
From there, the river begins its wild ride northward, taking in several Class I and II rapids in its 114-mile course. The river saves the best for last—right before the take-out point in Dickey are the aptly named “Big Rapids,” a Class III.
Because the river isn’t dammed, it is only navigable by paddlers for a brief period in May and June. The best time to hit the river is in early May before the black flies hatch—otherwise, bring plenty of Deet. Like the Allagash , the river is lined by a number of well-maintained camping areas, available for an $8 fee per night.