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     Here in the Allagash region, the northern hardwood transition forest meets the boreal spruce-fir forest that sweeps across Canada and the top of the United States. Therefore, the forest types that dominate are spruce-fir (red spruce is more prevalent here than the more northerly white spruce) and northern hardwoods (maple, birch, and beech). In addition, there are pockets of aspen, areas of white and red pine, bog forests of black spruce and tamarack, swamps of northern white cedar, and northern riverine species, such as silver maple and elm.
    In the region of Allagash Lake and Allagash Stream, spruce and fir are dominant with some mixed hardwood. Cedar is also prevalent in swamps. Around the big lakes, the northern hardwoods increase. There are also three old-growth forests near the shores of Eagle Lake. Along the Allagash River, in addition to the spruce-fir and northern hardwood forest types, aspen and birch are more prevalent. And around Allagash Falls the northern riverine forest makes an appearance.
    When you travel through the waterway, look for key, or indicator, plants -- the species that are usually abundant and commonly seen -- to determine which type of forest you are in. Each type of forest also contains indicator species of herbaceous flowering plants.

Spruce-Fir Forests

    Trees and shrubs in this forest are hardy plants adapted to thin and nutrient-poor soils, acid conditions, shade, and cold temperatures. Balsam fir and red spruce are indicator trees. Other trees include white spruce, black spruce, northern white cedar, tamarack, eastern hemlock, white pine, red pine, jack pine, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, balsam poplar, white birch and red maple. Key shrubs include mountain maple, mountain ash, low-bush blueberry, elderberry, and sheep laurel. Most of the herbaceous species on the floor of the spruce-fir forest survive the cold temperatures and drying effects of winter by the insulating effects of snow. Indicator species include northern white violet, red baneberry, nodding trillium, one-sided pyrola, creeping snowberry, twinflower, bunchberry, Canada mayflower, goldthread, common wood-sorrel, clintonia, and starflower.

Northern Hardwood Forest

    Trees and shrubs in this forest are those that grow in the warmer, drier, and better-drained soils of ridges and south-facing slopes, such as the Churchill Lake side of Churchill Ridge. Key trees include yellow birch, white birch, sugar maple, American beech, eastern hemlock, white pine, red pine, northern red oak, pin cherry, balsam poplar, and red spruce. Key shrubs include striped maple and hobblebush. Because deciduous trees predominate in this forest, more light generally reaches the forest floor. The soil is better drained, darker, richer, and less acid than that of the spruce-fir forest. In spring many of the wild flowers bloom early before the trees leaf out and close the canopy, thus reducing the available light. Key species include painted trillium, goldthread, common wood-sorrel, pink lady's-slipper, and wild sarsaparilla.

Bog Forest

    The bog forest is a pioneer forest of trees and shrubs adapted to wet, acid, and nutrient-poor soils. You can canoe into a bog forest above the mouth of Pleasant Stream. Trees that do well in this forest have the ability to generate new trees by sprouting roots from low branches and trunks as they are buried by the deepening bog mat. Key trees include black spruce, tamarack, and northern white cedar. Key shrubs include Labrador tea, leatherleaf, and sheep laurel. Soils in this type of habitat can vary greatly in wetness and richness. In richer, more fertile soils, you may find bunchberry, goldthread, and starflower. In more sterile soils, you would be more apt to find pitcher plant, sundews, cotton grass and other sedges, creeping snowberry, three-leaved Solomon's-seal, and orchids (such as rose pogonia, calopogon, and white fringed orchis).

Northern Swamp Forest

    This forest can be found throughout the waterway; a good example lies along the trail to Priestly Lake. Trees and shrubs are adapted to a cool, damp, mossy environment. Key trees include northern white cedar, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, brown ash, red maple, white birch, tamarack, and black spruce. Key shrubs include high bush blueberry and red osier dogwood. You will find the species of plants on the floor of the northern swamp forest quite similar to those of the boreal forest. The herbaceous species include jewelweed, turtlehead, goldthread, starflower, jack-in-the-pulpit, and various orchids.

Northern Riverine Forest

    This is a floodplain, lowland forest and is especially noticeable above Allagash Falls. Key trees include American elm, green ash, red maple, silver maple, and balsam poplar. Shrubs include speckled alder and red osier dogwood. The vine, virgin's bower, also grows here. Key herbaceous species include jewelweed, turtlehead, swamp milkweed, and various sedges.

Old-Growth Forest

    Old-growth forests provide opportunities to go back in time and experience the character of the land as it may once have been before human disturbance. Generally such forests must be: free of evidence of logging or other disruption, of a sufficient size to constitute a forest, stable in composition and structure, and dominated by climax species of old trees that have attained at least half of their potential longevity.

Eagle Lake Old-Growth Forest

    Three old-growth forests, surveyed for Maine's Critical Areas Program, are near the shores of Eagle Lake. The largest is the Eagle Lake Old-Growth Forest (about one-hundred acres) and is near the eastern shore on a ridge opposite the southeast end of Pillsbury island. Here, some white pines are over three feet in diameter and up to one-hundred thirty feet high -- among the tallest pine trees in Maine. A few of these pines may have been growing in the late 1700s and were here when Thoreau canoed by them to Pillsbury Island in 1857. If you look carefully, there is one point in the lake where an eagle's nest is visible. If the nest is active, you should get no closer than one-quarter of mile from the nest to avoid disturbing the eagles.
    Six miles down the lake at the Ziegler Site you will find another smaller stand of old-growth white pine that covers eight acres. The understory is composed of white, or sugar, maple, white birch, northern white cedar, and red spruce. The age of one of the sugar maples is estimated to be over one-hundred eighty years, and an increment boring of one of the pines showed it to be one-hundred twenty years old. The pines range in size from a little over two feet to two and one-half feet in diameter.
    Across the lake on the Pump Handle Peninsula and behind a campsite by that name, you can find a stand of old-growth hardwood trees. You can easily reach it by hiking the scenic trail leading up to the height of land. This is an even-aged stand of sugar maple and beech, averaging one-hundred twenty-five years in age. The largest maple is two and one-half feet in diameter and sixty-five feet tall.