Known as Big Eagle by locals, Eagle Lake is 9,500 acres in size with a maximum depth of 124 feet. With outstanding conditions for fishing for brook trout, lake trout — also known as togue — and whitefish, the lake has beautiful, remote shorefront campsites scattered along the shoreline of the lake.

The many tributaries that flow into the lake provide extensive spawning and nursery habitat for brook trout. It has a large volume of deep cold water with abundant dissolved oxygen throughout the hottest part of summer, which is a perfect environment for lake trout. Brook trout more than 20 inches in length and 10-pound togue are not uncommon.

The largest togue I have ever caught was taken in the north basin of the lake in 1980. The fish weighed 10 pounds and was 31 inches long. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I was trolling with lead line off the north shore of the lake, but the wind blew me off course and I ended up out in the middle of the lake.

When I hooked on to that fish, I knew I had a good one. It actually came in relatively easy as I reeled the fish along the bottom. When I started bringing him up, the fight was on.

Several times, I would reel up a color of lead line, then the fish would take it back down. This went on for about half an hour before the big togue finally gave up and came to the boat. When the fish saw the boat, he went all the way back down to the bottom and we started all over again. It was quite a struggle, but I eventually netted my prize togue. Little did I know this would be the biggest togue I would catch for the next 35 years.

The campsites on Eagle Lake are some of the nicest sites on the waterway. On Thoreau’s third trip to the Maine woods in 1857, he made it as far north as Pillsbury Island. The campsite on the west side of the island is named for the famous naturalist.

My personal favorite campsite is Ziegler, located on the eastside of the north basin of the lake. The two camping units — or cells, as we call them — are nestled within towering pines trees that dominate the site, trees that are hundreds of years old.

There is a beautiful spring at Zeigler campsite that overflows with ice cold water. The water is so cold that it immediately condensates the outside of your water bottle. The water tastes wonderful but should be filtered or purified before drinking.

The two authorized canoe access points for groups wishing to enter Eagle Lake are at Churchill Dam from the north and Indian Stream from the south. You also can portage to Eagle Lake from Chamberlain Lake at Lock Dam and the Tramway.

During the months of May and September, access is allowed to the lake at John’s Bridge for day use only.

If you visit Eagle Lake, there a few “must see” attractions. The trains and tramway are located about halfway down the south basin of the lake. The two rusting locomotives sit only a couple of hundred feet from the shoreline, but you can’t quite see them through the trees. The actual location is marked by a beaver house. The coordinates for the trains are as follows: N46°19’22.8″ W69°22’29.9″.

There is a 0.75-mile scenic hiking trail up Second Ridge that starts at Pump Handle Campsite; a beautiful, secluded, 2-mile sand beach in Russell Cove to explore; and Smith Brook flowage is a great place to see wildlife, especially moose.

If you haven’t been to Big Eagle Lake, add it to your list of places to visit. It truly is one of the jewels of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

If you have questions about planning a trip to the AWW, visit the waterway website at maine.gov/allagash. There is a video series and a Google Earth link you will find very helpful. If you still have questions after reading the information on our website and watching the video series, call me at 695-3721 ext. 4, or send me an email at matt.laroche@maine.gov.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

For an information packet or general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, visit maine.gov/allagash or call 207-941-4014 or write to the Bureau of Parks and Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, 04401.

Waterway notes: A Northern Forest Canoe Trail work crew will be doing some erosion control work at several different campsites in the waterway during July and August. These sites may be temporarily closed while the work is occurring.

Matthew LaRoche is the superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.