A canoe trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is usually rewarded with more moose sightings than most people experience in a lifetime. Maine has the highest population of moose in the lower 48 states, and the northern commercial forest is home to most of these stately animals.

The moose is the largest member of the deer family in North America. The population in Maine is thriving because of current forest practices, including cutting that creates young hardwood browse that moose feed on for much of the year.

During the summer months, moose are drawn to the AWW to escape the flies and feed on nutrient-rich water plants that grow in the lakes, ponds and river that make up the 92-mile wilderness canoe route.

In fact, one day in June last year, I counted 26 moose from Churchill Dam to Eagle Lake and return. When you see bunches of four or five moose, it doesn’t take long to add up to quite a day for seeing moose.

I’ve seen moose feeding out in the lakes with the water right up to their back. When they put their head under to feed, they disappear. Some moose will let you get pretty close if you paddle quietly along the shoreline. It is kind of cool to actually hear them munching on water plants and see the water running off their antlers.

Seeing a moose in its natural environment from a canoe where you can see, hear, and smell this majestic creature is a thrill that you will remember for a lifetime.

Where are the best places to see moose on the waterway? They are too numerous to list, but a few good places are: on Heron Lake within sight of Churchill Dam; Churchill Lake where Thoroughfare Book enters; Chamberlain Lake where Allagash Stream enters; and Round Pond where the river enters the pond.

One of my favorite places for viewing wildlife in general is the upper end of Umsaskis Lake. This marshy area just teems with waterfowl, birds of prey, beaver, muskrat and moose. There are many back channels to explore, and it seems like some different type of animal is seen around each bend in this swampy area.

Other wildlife that abounds in the waterway include beaver, muskrat, mink, otter, turtles, bald eagles and osprey. If you’re lucky, you may even see a whitetail deer, black bear or the endangered Canada lynx.

Actually, bears have been showing up really well this summer along the woods roads. On a recent trip from Churchill Dam to Allagash Lake and return, I saw five bear; two were good-size bruins.

August is a great month to get out and enjoy wildlife. Remember, they are wild animals; give them the respect they deserve. Don’t feed wild creatures and keep a safe distance.

For information on the AWW, visit www.maine.gov/doc/parks/ or call 941-4014, email heidi.j.johnson@maine.gov or write to the Bureau of Parks & Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor 04401.

Waterway notes

Mark Deroche has been hired to fill the Assistant Ranger position at Round Pond (Township 13 Range 12). Mark is a graduate of the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Rachel Carter has been hired to fill the short-season assistant ranger position at Churchill Dam. Rachel is a 2012 graduate of the University of Maine in Orono.

The first phase of the tramway restoration project has been completed by a volunteer crew led by Roger Morneault. The 12-person crew cleared, pulled stumps and grubbed the rail bed in preparation for the actual reconstruction in August. If you would like to donate time or money towards this restoration project, you can contact Matt LaRoche at 695-3721 ext. 4 or at matt.laroche@maine.gov.

The draft management plan for the AWW has been completed. It will be presented for public comment very soon. The draft plan, which will guide management of the waterway for the next 15 years, will be available to view online at parksandlands.com. Public comments are welcome.

Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.