Blazes mark the boundary lines of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Credit: Courtesy of Trevor O'Leary

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway has more than 200 miles of boundary lines. These lines mark the edge of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway restricted zone or state of Maine ownership. The restricted zone varies in width from 400 to 800 feet from the normal highwater mark. The primary purpose of the restricted zone is to preserve, protect and develop the maximum wilderness character of the watercourse.

The waterway had a full-time crew establishing the boundary during the early 1970s. It has been a challenge — to say the least — to keep these boundary lines well maintained. A blazed and painted line should be refreshed (re-blazed and painted) about every 15 years. After 20 years, the line can become difficult to follow, and a lot of time must be spent looking for evidence of the line, which slows the work.

I work in an office that includes the Maine Forest Service, so I hear complaints come in about harvesting trees too close to brooks and streams or people cutting trees on someone else’s property. Most of these situations are not intentional and could have been avoided if the landowner would have had a well-maintained boundary line. It has been said that good boundary lines make good neighbors. If you own a woodlot, this is so true.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway has had a few cases of cutting over the line, but not very often, and they have almost always been self-reported by the abutting landowner. All the major landowners use a GPS when laying out harvest blocks, and most of the wood harvesting contractors have GPS units in their harvesting equipment. This greatly reduces the chances of cutting over the boundary line.

I have cleared, blazed and painted many miles of boundary lines over my career with the Bureau of Parks and Lands. I always enjoyed the work, and it was a task that could be done during the offseason. One of the things I liked about doing line work was that it would take me through nice open hardwood stands, swamps and thickets (I didn’t really like the thicket part so well). An added bonus was that I got to see where the wildlife sign was heaviest.

I was re-blazing and painting boundary lines on the 2,300-acre Lobster Lake property a few years ago with another ranger. I was blazing and my partner was painting, and we were making good progress going down the side of Lobster Mountain on snowshoes. We came to a steep rock face that the line went straight down. We marked the line as far as we could, then we took off our snowshoes, threw them over the ledge and slid down over the cliff on our backsides. It was slightly dangerous, but fun.

On another fall boundary line adventure, I was refreshing the line that went down along the river near Churchill Dam. The line took me through some good deer country. You would have had to have been blind to not notice the deer trails beaten right down to bare ground. I ended up hunting that area for several seasons, shooting two nice bucks in that area while I was stationed at Churchill.

If you own your own woodlot and don’t know where your boundary lines are, I suggest that you hire a surveyor to establish the lines. If your lines are established but not well maintained, making them difficult to follow, I suggest that you get out there and re-mark your lines. It is not difficult work, it will get you out in the woods and you might be surprised to find some wildlife sign.

Here are some things to remember when doing line work. Never alter an old blaze; it is evidence should a boundary dispute arise. Put a new blaze above or below the old blaze. Don’t reach for a tree to mark if there aren’t any close to the line. if you are standing on the line you should not reach more than 2 feet off the line to blaze a tree. See the Maine Forest Service boundary line information sheet for more tips.

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

Matthew LaRoche is Superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a Registered Maine Guide and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at 207-695-2169 or at