Last weekend, I joined a band of misfit boaters for a weekend of Maine paddling. What a blast! We headed out late Thursday evening and put on for the first river on Friday. The first river was called the Rapid, and that is what this post is all about. Enjoy!
The Rapid is a dam-released class IV river in a secluded part of Maine (release schedules). It’s got a long flat water paddle into the river and a slightly shorter (though still long) flat water paddle out, but both are worth it for the 3 miles of whitewater in between. This is also a good river for those wanting to step up to class IV with little consequences (minus one rapid) and is fun for playboats. The Rapid is a great way to get your first big glance of Maine with lots of beautiful scenery and wildlife. On a clear day, you can see the forested mountains for miles. Getting there is a little tricky as it’s mainly private logging roads. HAVE HIGH CLEARANCE on your car!
Once you get through the lake paddle in, you’ve got a class II+ surf spot at the old dam.
AW has pictures of the building that used to be there, but it was torn down several years ago for safety. Past that, you’ve got the main stretch called the Pitches–first through third (they may also be called the ledges). These are all good read-and-run big water rapids with great wave trains and a couple holes to avoid (or hit at lower levels). Next is a very fun surf wave called Smooth Ledge. This is the perfect place to play and siesta after lots of driving/paddling. You can also walk through some woods and just play here all day as some locals tend to do. At 1300 cfs when we ran it, a seam in the wave tends to push people off, but at 1800 the seam disappears. A big eddy on river right with beach and long stretch of slow water allows for easy boat retrieval, making this a great wave to practice all sorts of boating skills and surfing.
Last two rapids are S-Turn and Devil’s Hopyard. S-Turn is another read-and-run like the Pitches with waves and holes but a little narrower and very shallow with jagged granite rocks so don’t flip. Devil’s Hopyard is just a fun class III+ stretch of surf spots with a couple holes to watch out for. Get all your surfing out before you hit Lake Umbagog and have your flat water paddle out.
The Rapid is a fun way to familiarize yourself with Maine Rivers. The rapids are fast, the scenery is beautiful, and it’s just one of many rivers up there to enjoy. Get out there and experience it! See you on the river!