’89 creates maps of water trails that traverse four
states and Canada. (courtesy Kate Williams ’89)
Paddling through history Kate Williams ’89 educates travelers
along old water routes
For Kate Williams ’89, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail isn’t
just a place to paddle. The stretch of waterways in northern New
England is also the site of thousands of years of Native American
history. And Williams is working to bring it to life.
As the director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a nonprofit
in Waitsfield, Vt., Williams oversees the maintenance of its 740
miles, giving prospective paddlers recommendations for lodging and
gear and arming them with maps that have information on everything
from the local Native American tribes to glacial formations. The
hope is that canoeists and kayakers can traverse the water trails
and get a sense of local and Native American history while they’re
“Our mission is to help the recreational paddler listen
to and connect with the stories that are still flowing in the waters,”
says Williams, a history major and Outdoor Action enthusiast while
at Princeton. Running from Old Forge, N.Y., to Fort Kent, Maine,
the Northern Forest Canoe Trail traverses 22 rivers and streams,
56 lakes and ponds, and four states, plus Canada. It follows routes
used by various bands of Abenaki, Native Americans who navigated
the waterways to travel to hunting grounds, Williams says.
When European settlers arrived, the waterways quickly became what
Williams calls “huge highways” for trade, and towns
cropped up along the rivers.
Since she took over the organization a year ago, Williams says
she has focused on fund raising and creating extensive maps for
each of the trail’s 13 sections. The organization is also
planning to create specialized itineraries, even for less-seasoned
paddlers, like a trip linking bed-and-breakfasts.
Although two small children and her administrative duties keep
her from thinking about paddling all 740 miles, Williams has managed
to get out on the water in four states. “While I would love
to paddle all of it, the greater challenge for me right now is to
breathe collective energy into it,” she says.
By Anne Ruderman ’01
Anne Ruderman ’01 is a journalist in Concord, N.H.