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Kennebec River, Gorge Section (The Forks, Maine)

4 miles of class 3-4

The Kennebec Gorge is a fantastic big water wave-train at normal release levels (4,800 cfs). And it releases almost every day in the summer. Need I say more? To get to The Forks take Route 2 East to Skowhegan, Maine. Turn north onto Route 201 and follow it up the Kennebec Valley right into town. Once in town turn right onto Moxie Falls Road. After about five miles you’ll make a left (it’s obvious) onto Indian Pond Road. Follow this road for another five miles or so to the left turn that takes you down to the Upper Gorge takeout at Carry Brook (the turn is at an old first aid hut). Make sure you can recognize the takeout from the river or you may end up paddling the tamer 7-mile lower gorge section all the way to the bridge in The Forks. To get to the put-in continue along Indian Pond Road a few miles and you will come to the entrance checkpoint building. Stop here to sign the release waiver and pay the nominal usage fee for access at Harris Station. Continue ahead to reach the put-in below the dam. For water level information call (800) 557-3569.

Dead River (The Forks, Maine)

16 miles of class 2-3 in low water, or class 3-4 in high water

The regular run on the Dead is long and continuous. Dam releases throughout the year make it a dry season option. At low water (up to 2,500 cfs) it is a rather tiresome rock-dodging endeavor rating mostly class 2-3 with a definite bony feel. During high water releases, of which there are only a few yearly, the river becomes a delightful sixteen-mile class 3-4 rapid that is entirely boat-scoutable. There are several decent playspots and some less friendly holes.

The shuttle, however, is long. Start out at The Forks. Drive three miles north on Route 201 and turn left onto a dirt road. On a big release weekend it will be easy enough to follow others along the dirt roads to the Spencer Rips put in. Alternatively, check with a local raft company for up to date directions as logging companies alter the roads frequently. For information on scheduled releases from Flagstaff Dam see the American Whitewater website or call (800) 557-3569 for the most recent information.

West Branch Penobscot River, Ripogenous Gorge Section

2 miles of class 3-5

This is the most difficult high-volume summertime paddling in the Northeast, home to many big holes. It also has some excellent playspots. Mckay Station releases into the gorge every day of the summer, providing a great warm-water challenge.

Put in at the base of Mckay Station and without further ado bash through a couple of big class 4 rapids in Ripogenous Gorge. After this the river splits around an island with either side runnable. A few class 3 rapids with good play lead to a bridge over the river. Take out here on the left and scout Cribworks Rapid, the most difficult on the run. This is a big pushy rapid with ledges and a lot of sharp boulders left over from old logging operations. Below Cribworks are several playful class 3 ledges before the takeout at Big Eddy.

For release information call (207) 723-2328. Around 1,500 cfs is low, medium is 2,200 cfs, and above 3,000 is high. It is a stomper when its running high.

Below the takeout are nine miles of incredibly scenic flatwater peppered by a few class 3 and 4 rapids all the way down to Pockwockamus falls. To reach the put-in at Mckay Station, take Route 2 east into Maine and then Route 201 north of Skowhegan. Turn right onto Route 16 East in Bingham. Then take Route 6 north to Greenville and continue north as it becomes Greenville Road. It will turn to dirt and you will have to pay a nominal fee for access to Paper Company Land. About ten miles after this gate you will come to the Golden Road. Turn right and follow this road about eight miles to Mckay Station. To reach the takeout continue east on the Golden Road for a couple miles to the campground at Big Eddy.

West Branch Penobscot River, Seboomook Section

2.5 miles of class 3

The Sebomook section of the Penobscot has the same ledgy nature as the Rip Gorge Section, but is a bit tamer, both in terms of gradient and volume. The put in is at Seboomook Dam and the takeout at Roll Dam Campsite. It is runnable for most of the year, with a practial minimum level of 350 cfs. The run has good play at most levels but it is best at very high water (3,000+ cfs). For water level information call (207) 723-2328.

To get there follow the Rip Gorge directions to The Golden Road and then turn left (west) instead of right (east). After about fourteen miles turn left onto Seboomook Road. If you cross over the Penobscot you’ve gone about two miles too far. Follow Seboomook Road for about another thirteen miles and then turn right onto Poulin Road for access to the dam and the put in. Backtrack about 2.5 miles to the takeout at the campsite.

Other Maine Options

For more information on this region see Bruce Lessels’ Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide or the American Whitewater website. For water level information see the USGS website.

Last Updated: 10/21/12