Canoeing in the Wilderness

In the summer of 1857, the American writer Henry David Thoreau – best known for his book Walden detailing his experiences of living in a log cabin for two years in the wild – went on a canoe trip in the still unspoilt regions of Maine, with a friend and an Indian guide from the reservation of Old Town.


Canoeing in the Wilderness is the recounting of this two-week journey, in the form of a diary.

Mount Kineo on Moosehead Lake, Maine. By Jesse Lee Tucker [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Think of our little eggshell of a canoe tossing across that great lake, a mere black speck to the eagle soaring above it!

Canoeing in the Wilderness by Henry David Thoreau

It’s the classic canoeing trip: the rain showers, the instability of the canoe on open water when the wind whips up the waves, shooting through rapids and clambering over fallen trees on the portages… camping by the waterside, a dripping tent and nights disturbed by mosquitoes… cooking over fire, picking raspberries, waking to bird song at dawn… getting lost in the woods and suffering an upset stomach. All this accompanied by Thoreau’s vivid observations of nature, the plants, animals and landscape – not to mention the ways and character of his Indian guide.

You feel like you’re right there in the woods with him.

Mount Katahdin, Maine. Photo by tpsdave [CC0 public domain] via Pixabay.

I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest.

Henry David Thoreau’s Journal, 16 November 1850

You might also like: 
⇒ Adventure 101: Canoeing the Allagash on National Geographic
⇒ Canoeing in the Wilderness on the Gutenberg Project
⇒ Quotes from Henry David Thoreau on the Walden Woods Project
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10 thoughts on “Canoeing in the Wilderness

    1. I don’t think I’ll ever have the good fortune to visit Maine to go canoeing there but Thoreau certainly made me want to. While I was reading his account, I wanted to do a post without any commentary, just taking quotes, making a map of his route and accompany it with photos – but I couldn’t find enough images on the internet that were free to use. Nevertheless, the two above are already sufficient to make anybody want to go there; I envy you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a wonderful little spot in Greenville, on the southern shore of the lake, where the town built a memorial to Thoreau and his excursion. If you explore Greenville on Google Earth you’ll find it. It’s a great little place to watch the Katahdin tie up after her sunset cruise.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OK, I looked on Google Earth but I have to admit I couldn’t find it. I googled instead and found a couple images with a black block of stone with two birds on and some inscription. One of them seemed to me standing on a canoe placed on rolling logs (or possibly wheels)! Is that the memorial you meant?

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          1. Ahh, as I read on, I find you are from Spain. I was stationed in Rota, Cadiz with the US Navy. As much as my work let me, I traveled the area. Malaga, Cadiz, Jerez, Seville, El Puerto de Santa Maria.
            I love Spain. My heart’s desire is to return someday to explore the rest.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Amigo, you have to read on a bit more – I’m not from Spain. 🙂 Although I love Spain and as for Cádiz, actually, I’m literally writing a post right now about a book that was set in Cádiz in 1811-12 – a very interesting period in Spanish history. You have to give me a couple of days to complete it… and I hope you’ll like it.

              Of the towns you mention I’ve only been to Cádiz and Seville but we’re going to Seville for the Semana Santa this year and mean to visit Jerez (I wanted to go to La Rábida where Columbus planned sailing to America but it seems we won’t have time for that this time).

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I will read on, I like your writing. It’s interesting too, that I’m writing about Spain, in a way. My draft novel takes place in the Philippines and Thailand, but centers around the love between an American Sailor and the Spanish girl he fell in love with and married.
                I apologize for monopolizing your writing time! Thanks for your time 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

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