Maine Rangeley Lakes canoeing expeditions explore the picturesque waterways of western Maine. This 9-day journey is an opportunity for young teens seeking a fresh challenge in a unique wilderness environment and a collaborative team setting. On the lakes and rivers, students learn to camp and travel simply, relying on each other and what they can carry with them.
In a phased teaching progression, instructors will introduce beginning, intermediate and advanced skills in lake navigation, paddling technique, woods craftsmanship, weather observation and campsite selection. Regular group discussions allow for reflection on each day’s progress, and ensure that leadership and responsibilities are shared so that every crew member is integral to planning the next day.
On this course you will expedition through the picturesque and historic Rangeley Lakes of western Maine. You will depart the base camp on the first or second day of the course and not return until the end. You will carry what you need for as much as a week in your backpack and you will paddle nearly every day. You do not need to have previous canoeing experience. We will teach you everything you need to know to travel comfortably, including how to pack a canoe, maneuver a canoe, set up a wilderness campsite, rock climb, and navigate using a map and compass.
Arriving physically fit will enhance your experience and ability to do well on the course and ultimately allow you to take full advantage of the expedition.
Through living and working closely together, students learn far more than wilderness travel skills. The habits learned and strengthened through this backpacking and canoeing expedition will serve students for life, and for whatever challenge is next.
Safety management and basic first aid
Navigation with map and compass
Ropes and knots
Stove use and maintenance
Leave No Trace wilderness ethics
Nutrition and ration planning
Care of canoes and paddles
Flatwater paddle strokes
Weather signs and forecasting
Paddling in convoy
Leadership and decision making
Followership and expedition behavior
Individual and group goal setting
You will canoe in the upper reaches of the Androscoggin watershed. The Androscoggin is fed by Aziscohos Lake, the Magalloway River, and the Rangeley Lakes: Cupsuptic, Mooselookmeguntic, and Richardson. Indigenous Abenaki peoples used the Androscoggin as both a means of transportation, between winter habitats inland and summer living on the coast, and as a source of food. Later the Androscoggin River was used to move logs to mills downstate during the logging boom of the nineteenth century. These days the lakes and rivers are used primarily by canoeists, fisherman, and other recreationalists. Some of the portages you may encounter have been in use for centuries, such as along the Rapid River.
Initially, your instructors will focus on teaching the skills of canoeing and campcraft, navigating and coaching your team through the art of moving through the Maine waterways safely and efficiently.
The instructors begin to hand over technical responsibility for day to day running of the expedition while they continue to teach more advanced skills, and coach you in the finer points of leadership and teamwork.
Near the end of course, if you and your group have demonstrated the necessary leadership, team problem-solving and wilderness living skills, you may be given the opportunity to travel without your instructors participating in decision-making. Many of our students tell us this phase of the course is the most rewarding, as the group learns to work together, solve problems, and accomplish a goal independently, utilizing all the skills they have acquired.
Part of your course will be focused on learning wilderness canoe expedition skills. You will canoe on lakes and rivers, learning paddle strokes such as the draw, pry, and J-stroke. You will likely learn the skills of portaging (carrying the canoe on your shoulders), and lining (guiding your canoe down un-runnable rapids) as you travel through some of the amazing waterways of Maine. In learning to work and communicate well with your paddling partner each day you will discover the power of two people truly working together.
To travel between lakes, your group will work together as a team to carry packs and canoes over trails. Portage trails are rugged and often rocky or hilly. They vary in length from a few hundred yards to a few miles. The group will work to come up with a portaging plan that sensibly and safely distributes all of the responsibilities.
The solo experience is a standard element of Outward Bound courses. With sufficient food and equipment, you will set up camp at a site on your own for a few hours or overnight. Your solo site is chosen to offer as much solitude as possible, yet be within hearing distance of other group members. You will not travel during this time and will be mostly alone, however your instructors will check on you occasionally. The solitude and break from the fast pace of your expedition allows for rest and personal reflection, which is necessary to make the most of your experience.
During your course you will spend a day rock climbing on one of this area’s many cliffs, known locally as “Little Bear,” “Bald,” “Table Rock,” and “Square Ledges.” You will learn to use climbing equipment, tie knots, climb and belay each other, while instructors provide overall supervision of the site. Climbing gives you a chance to practice your balance, coordination, and flexibility as well as the group’s ability to trust and encourage each other.
We typically end our courses with a Final Challenge Event—an individual final physical push. This might take the form of a run or a triathlon activity.
Nine-day courses for 13- to 14-year-olds are designed to introduce young teens to Outward Bound. Supportive instructors teach the skills of wilderness travel, and guide the formation of the group into an expedition team. As the students’ abilities grow, the instructors intentionally and progressively challenge them to take on more responsibilities, try out more leadership roles, and develop a heightened sense of self and purpose. Under the close supervision of caring instructors, students are permitted to share ideas, experiment, triumph…and sometimes fail. While safety is conscientiously maintained, students may feel moments of frustration, disappointment, cold, wet and tired. At such times, the instructors coach young teens to review their choices, weigh the results, decide what changes to make, and try again. We find this teaches decision making, responsibility and resiliency, and ensures that the group knows that all successes are truly theirs! Students return readier to fully participate and positively engage at home, at school, on teams, and in their communities.
While students need to be physically fit and motivated to learn and work together, no previous travel or outdoor experience is necessary—all wilderness and leadership skills are taught from the beginning, taking into account younger teens’ shorter attention spans and need to really engage with a skill to understand it. Through more structured days, time to explore, and clear expectations, these courses are designed to show younger teens that there is so much in them than they know.