History of Allagash Canoe Trips

The History of Allagash Canoe Trips

In the beginning: the 1940s

Herb Cochrane made his first trip down the Allagash River in 1941. He purchased three Old Town wood canvas canoes, and along with five others, embarked on his first venture into the northern Maine woods. World War II came along and between the call of duty, rationing, and restricted travel, Herb was forced to sell his canoes. He was employed by Camp Wassookeag in Dexter, Maine, as their waterfront director for the remainder of the 1940s. After many years of coaching high school sports in the Northeast, Herb became athletic director and head football coach at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut in 1948.

The 1950s and 1960s

Herb Cochrane, founder of Allagash Canoe Trips with his son Warren. Herb's first trip on the Allagash was in 1947, and Allagash Canoe Trips is the longest continuously running guided canoe trip service in Maine.

Herb Cochrane, founder of Allagash Canoe Trips with his son Warren. Herb's first trip on the Allagash was in 1947, and Allagash Canoe Trips is the longest continuously running guided canoe trip service in Maine.

1950-1952 found Herb and his son Warren on the Allagash for three week-long trips working for Keewayden, a Vermont boys camp. Herb's love and passion for the woods and waters were evident in his desire to be there often and share his adventure with others. In 1953, Herb founded Allagash Canoe Trips. During this time, trips were six weeks in duration, starting on Moosehead Lake and padding/portaging and poling their way north to the St. Francis river. Many boys on the trip consider their six weeks on the Allagash with "Coach" and Warren the most influential time in their youth and continued to keep in touch for years to follow.

Letter to Herb from Xandi 1963
"Dear Coach, I guess no one really appreciates the trip until after it's over, then we really understand why it is so important to us. It really helped me appreciate life, it lets me see how life is in comparison with what it could be"

Running the rapids in the old days

Running rapids on the Rupert River, circa 1970.

1959 was a major milestone for Allagash Canoe Trips when Herb purchased an old sporting camp on Sugar Island, on Moosehead Lake. This became the basecamp for the next decade and enabled the canoe trips to offer three sections for different age groups and trip lengths. Herb's dream to introduce the woods to young men had become a reality.

In the mid 1960's Warren led the first "family trip" on the Allagash, another milestone for Allagash Canoe Trips and the start of a new 64-year tradition of bringing adults and families on the river. At the same time, Warren began leading more advanced trips on the remote rivers in Quebec.

The 1970s and 1980s

The 1970s saw many changes. The last six-week boys' trip was in 1971 as Allagash Canoe Trips started focusing more on family and shorter teen trips. The first co-ed teen trip was offered in 1973. After passing the business to Warren and his partner Beverly several years earlier, Herb's last trip on the river was in 1977 with grandson Chip as his apprentice. Warren's sons Chip, Tristan and Bucky began paddling/guiding for the business, after spending many summers learning from Warren and Herb. Chip's first trip was in 1971 as Herb's apprentice. Chip guided his own first trip in 1977 with the help of his brothers. This started a legacy for Chip, who has been on the river every summer from 1971 to present, except 1974. Herb passed the business to Warren in 1973, the second generation continuing Herb's legacy.

Warren's wife, Linda, joined the family in 1984, and worked as trip organizer and guide with Warren. Together they explored more rivers in Canada, while Chip, Tristan and Bucky establish the third generation of family guiding. Many summers, Chip and Tristan led canoe trips while training for the U.S. Ski Team.

Chip's wife, Lani, joined the family in 1988, learning the traditions of the Cochrane family business.

The 1990s and into the 21st century

Allagash Canoe Trips continued to thrive under Linda's tenure. We have been fortunate to have many repeat trippers, and multi-generational families join us on an adventure. In 1999, Warren and Linda led their last Allagash trip together. Warren retired after paddling more than 120 Allagash trips during his 48 years of guiding.

Chip Cochrane, Allagash Canoe Trips guide

Chip cooking and baking dinner over open fire day 5 at Five Finger Brook North campsite, Allagash River

2000 marked the first year Allagash Canoe Trips was operated by Chip and Lani, continuing the legacy from Herb to Warren to the third generation. Chip and Lani's children, Chloe and Czari, started becoming active in the trips, and joined as the fourth generation apprentices in 2002. Lani and Chip now organize all the trip logistics and have brought the trips into the 21st century through social media and continued marketing research. Lani has 30+ years of canoeing experience and guides many trips solo.  Chip has had 45+ years of paddling and poling on the Allagash surrounding waters.

2011 was the first year for Allagash Canoe Trips' new base camp on Scammon Road in Greenville, Maine. This four-year project allows the business to continue organizing trips, and offer camping for some of our youth trips. 2017 was one of our busiest seasons ever, with trips on the Allagash, St. Croix, Penobsoct, and Moosehead Lake. This summer Lani will have paddled the Allagash over 95 times, Chip over 175...

hot coffee on the river

Coffee on the campfire