Connecting Youth to Nature on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway

This year, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation (AWWF) partnered with Chewonki of Wiscasset, Maine, to offer two all-expenses-paid paddling and camping trips on the Waterway for youth living in gateway communities of the Waterway.  With the generous support of local partners, the Quimby Family Foundation, and the Defoe Fund, 18 students from the Katahdin Area and the St. John River Valley took a three-day, two‑night river excursion at the end of summer break and during Harvest Season. The trips were guided by Chewonki trip leaders with significant experience guiding youth trips in remote areas of Maine.

The classic canoe trips through Maine’s North Woods took students to some of the most spectacular wild and scenic lands in the state. The Waterway—the nation’s first state administered National Wild and Scenic River—was made famous by Henry David Thoreau who traveled through the area and wrote about his adventures in The Maine Woods. Traveling along historic native routes by canoe, students experienced the same river that Thoreau visited nearly 160 years ago and learned about the region’s long human history, which reaches back 10,000 years.

In recent decades, visits to the Waterway have increased, yet local residents—and particularly local youth—have not been visiting, and there is a concern that these youth are losing an important connection to this stunning natural resource right in their own back yard.  Both national and county-specific research, combined with AWWF meetings with local leaders, school administrators, and outdoor organizations, point to an unmet need.

Youth in the Waterway’s gateway communities rarely, if ever, have the types of extended paddling, camping, and environmental leadership experiences that connect them with nature.

That is why AWWF’s Youth on the Waterway Initiative is so important.  Our long-range goal is to ensure that every young person who lives in the Waterway’s gateway communities has the opportunity for a multi-day experience on the Waterway before he or she graduates from high school.

By engaging youth today, the AWWF strives to ensure a future generation committed to preserving the Waterway’s wilderness character and the values it represents.

To realize this goal, AWWF is establishing and supporting strategic cross-sector partnerships with educators and school administrators, business leaders, and nature-based recreation organizations in the Waterway’s gateway communities and beyond. But we also need your help.  Please consider including AWWF in your giving plan.