A Winter Visit to Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Two men cross-country skiing in Maine's Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Two men cross-country skiing at dusk in Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

In March, my friend Steve and I spent a few days in Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument shooting photos for a story that is in the Fall 2021 issue of National Parks Magazine. The story by Nick Lund really captures the spirit of a winter visit, so I highly recommend you read the article! (There’s more photos from our trip in the piece as well – these are just the outtakes.) Steve and I had visited in winter a few years before and stayed at one of the park’s backcountry cabins in addition to Bowlin’ Camps. This year, the park’s cabins were closed due to Covid, but we were able to make a return visit to Bowlin’ as well as nearby Shin Pond Village.

A man snowshoes across the suspension bridge spanning the East Branch of the Penobscot River between Bowlin Camps Lodge and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
The East Branch of the Penobscot River in winter in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Bowlin Bridge is a pedestrian-only suspension bridge providing access to the monument from Bowlin Camps Lodge.

The main way to access the park in the winter is via a couple dozen miles of cross-country ski trails (often groomed), that primarily follow the East Branch of the Penobscot River just east of the mountains that sit along the park’s border with Baxter State Park. Remote, thick forests are the norm here as is challenging weather. In our three+ days, we encountered sunshine with temps in the 30’s followed by heavy snow that turned to rain only to be replaced with cold sunshine and daytime temps hovering around zero degrees and wind chills much colder as the wind blew in the 30 – 40 mph range.

Two canoes stowed under the roof of a cabin at Bowlin Camps Lodge just outside Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Inside the the ‘Dinning Room’ cabin at Bowlin Camps Lodge just outside Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Ice on the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Billfish Mountain is in the distance.

After hunkering down for a day at Shin Pond Village when it was too cold and windy to really do much shooting, we rented snowmobiles for the day, something I hadn’t done it quite some time (it was fun:) There is a small portion of the park where snowmobiles are allowed and we rode some trails there which had some great mountain views.

Lenticular clouds at sunrise as seen from the front porch of a cabin in Shin Pond Village in Maine’s Northern Forest.
Aerial view of Shin Pond Village in Maine’s Northern Forest near Mount Chase, Maine and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Steve and I on our snowmobiles near Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The Traveler Mountain range is in the distance.
Paper birch trees (Betula papyrifera) stand near the banks of the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Steve braves -20 wind chills as the sun sets behind “the Traveler” mountain as seen from a trail near Bowlin Camps, just outside of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

There are a few drone photos in this collection (it’s hard not to shoot with the drone these days!) Drones are prohibited in National Parks (as well as most state parks in New England) without a special use permit. For the record, all of the drone shots you see here were taken from just outside the park – we did not fly in the park.

Have you been to Katahdin Woods and Waters in Winter? I’d love to hear about your visit.

Cheers!
-Jerry

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