John Connelly became the first Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) thru-paddler this season when he reached Fort Kent, Maine on Tuesday, May 24. He left Old Forge on April 16th, on the first leg of a 1,500-mile journey that combines the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), the Maine Island Trail, and the waterways that connect them.
Founded in 2000 and officially opened in 2006, the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail consists of 22 rivers and streams, 58 lakes and ponds and 63 portages that stretch from Old Forge to Fort Kent, winding through Vermont, Québec and New Hampshire. The trail follows traditional travel routes used by Native Americans, early settlers and guides. It is one of the longest inland water trails in the United States.
The 60-year-old Falmouth, Maine resident is calling his adventure “PaddleQuest 1500” a journey that he hopes will inspire other people to spend more time outdoors. He is documenting the trip on social media and in blog posts here.
Connelly is believed to be the first person to connect the NFCT and Maine Island Trail in one trip. He is one of numerous people who will thru-paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail this season. Most leave in May and June.
Mack Truax is another. A 2015 thru-paddler, the Michigan resident is attempting to become the first person to kayak the trail twice.
Truax hopes to finish the trip by June 9, so he can attend the NFCT Paddlers Freshet Fest in Saranac Lake June 10-11. The second annual paddlers’ rendezvous is expected to attract long-distance paddlers, including many who have completed the NFCT.
Overall, about 80 paddlers are officially registered with NFCT as thru-paddlers. For more information about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, getting guidebooks and maps, and how to become a member of the nonprofit, can be found online here.