If you only plan on one river paddle during the summer, let me suggest that you consider a delightful trip along the Maine-New Hampshire border.

Start in Wilsons Mills, Maine, head down the Magalloway River into Umbagog Lake, and then down a short section of the Androscoggin River to Errol, N.H. Or, for that matter, try any section of this quiet and scenic paddle.

Before you head across Route 16 from Oquossoc to the headwaters, or over through Grafton Notch from Bethel to the take-out, you’re faced with a couple of decisions.

First, will it be a canoe or kayak excursion? There’s a lot to recommend either option, and my family has experienced both for very good reasons.

The canoe allows you to travel in the company of a companion (with the cooler right between you), and, for me, it provides a more stable fly fishing platform. Slightly more difficult to propel than the kayak, especially if you plan to do any up-stream paddling, a day on the water in a canoe is still hard to beat.

Your kayak, on the other hand, glides seemingly effortlessly through the water, especially with the current. I’m always amazed at the difference in the perspective as you sit at water level. It always makes me feel slightly more at one with the environment than if I’m even a foot above the surface in a canoe seat. But maybe that’s just me.

The second important choice is whether to take along two vehicles, leaving one at the take-out to provide transport back to your launch site. If you only take one, there’s always the good chance you can hitch a ride north to your car on the well traveled road, especially if you’re seen on the shoulder carrying a paddle. But it’s a chance I’ve yet to take.

Our first trips on the waterway were short forays up the Androscoggin for a few miles on calm, slow-flowing water from a launch site a couple of miles north of Errol. A stop on the way at Errol’s answer to L.L. Bean, Louise and Luc Cote’s LL Cote, to pick up a sandwich and to peruse the eclectic mix of fishing gear, clothing, food, firearms, boats, snowmobiles and other assorted goodies is a must.

The paddle up to Umbagog Lake is about five miles, and you’re assured of seeing not only various wildlife, but some eagles at the confluence of the Magalloway and Androscoggin rivers, just as you enter the lake. One year, we were treated to the sight of both American and golden eagle pairs and their young, circling and feeding on, we were told by other paddlers, the carcass of a dead moose on a sand bar.

Shortly after arriving at the lake, a turn north takes you into the Magalloway, and you can paddle upstream as long as your energy and time allow, before turning to drift back to your launch site.

Taking two vehicles, or opting for the chance to pick up a ride back to your car, allows you to experience the best of both rivers.

The best place to launch for the down-river trip is the grassy slope next to the bridge on Route 16 in Wilsons Mills. You’ll reach this point by heading west from Oquossoc past the dam on Aziscohos Lake. The water levels, and speed, vary depending on whether or not there has been a release from the dam, a few miles north of where you’ll put in. You may even encounter a few skilled whitewater kayakers who’ve tested their technical skills in the rapids above. But your best family outing will start below the difficult section above the bridge.

This section of the Magalloway moves fairly rapidly, even if there hasn’t been a release, and in only a few minutes, and after a couple of miles, you’ll pass under a covered bridge near a charming camping area that has never, in our experience, appeared to be too crowded.

From there, it’s 10 miles or so on the water to the bridge across the river at the Maine-New Hampshire border, then it’s a few miles south to the offices of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in Wentworth Location.

This might be a place to launch for your first trip on the two rivers, as there’s a parking lot and launch site that will allow you to put in there and paddle about eight miles down to Umbagog.

This option also works best if you take two cars, and it makes for a wonderful opportunity to experience about 13 miles of slow-flowing beauty and lots of wildlife between Wentworth Location and the take-out above Errol.

The refuge comprises more than 10 miles of shoreline on the two rivers and much of the 7,000-acre Umbagog Lake.

Refuge guidelines ask paddlers to refrain from disturbing or harming wildlife in the area. During the April-July nesting and breeding season, you are asked to stay out in the center of river channels, instead of hugging the shoreline and exploring the backs of coves, and staying out of nesting areas indicated with signs.

The trip down-river to what is known as Leonard Pond, the complex of islands and channels at the confluence of Umbagog Lake and the Magalloway and Androscoggin Rivers, is a paddler’s paradise, where you’re apt to spot moose and great blue herons. Among the waterfowl you might encounter are ospreys, black and ring-necked ducks, mergansers and one of the highest concentrations of nesting loons in New Hampshire.

Remember, if you plan to fish along the way, you’re in two different states that each expect you to be carrying the appropriate license.

Two states, two rivers and an abundance of nature’s wonders await the paddler who ventures west to this special treasure.

John Christie is an author and a year-round explorer of the Maine outdoors. He and his son, Josh, will share this space this summer to highlight places to enjoy the beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]