First Time in Maine: The Dead River

Friend surfing one of the first waves on the river.

Cross another state off my list; I finally made it to Maine for boating. The trip–AMC lead and well organized–was to the Dead River, a 13-mile class II-III of big surf  and ultimate Maine wilderness. If you ever choose to run this, be ready for big whitewater (and nothing else), gorgeous scenery, and apparently moose (unless you’re me in which case you’re the only one in your group who never sees it).

The River

Lots of boogie water on the Dead.

The biggest thing to note about this dam-released river is how much the features change at  various water levels. Saturday, it ran at around 3,500 cfs, and Sunday was 2,400 cfs. Saturday’s level made for big holes and great surf waves (expect to see ridiculously happy faces on your surfing friends). Lower releases show more rocks, and some waves disappear, but it’s still a decent run.

The Dead is in no way technical. Think of an easier version of the Pigeon River in North Carolina. It’s a very wide river with most holes avoidable by 10s of yards and mostly punch-able at 3,500 cfs and lower. If you’re looking for technical, this is not a river to run. If you’re looking for surf, this river is perfect. The river is predominantly wave trains and decent eddy service at some of the better surf waves. The rapids also get a little harder as you move down the river, so a good looooooooooong warm-up followed by bigger and bigger waves/holes. NOTE: at levels above 4,500 cfs start avoiding those holes. I forget which one, but one of the holes on river left toward the bottom of the river has taken a couple lives, according to those I paddled with, because the hole becomes terminal. Below is fine, but just be wary of that should you run it at higher levels, which I’d imagine to be fun as all get-out.

Chilling at one of the stretches of flat water. Beautiful day!

NOTE: BRING ENOUGH WATER. This is a long run and even if it’s a colder day, the sun and continuous paddling can really dehydrate you, which is no bueno. Also have bring enough layers. When warm, this river offers a lot of fun, but if cold, it’s just a long, long run. Be smart about this river (as in the opposite of me), and you’ll probably have a good time.

Pay attention to the trees on the shoreline as you run the river, too, if you get a chance. The river is long enough to notice difference in forest types, which is really neat. The run starts out with mainly hemlock, cedar, and other coniferous trees. As you paddle down, the forest shifts into a more deciduous forest with lots of oaks and some maples, as well as more hemlocks. The change adds to the splendor of Maine, and boating is a great way to see it. See you on the river!

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One response to “First Time in Maine: The Dead River

  1. Pingback: Boat Load of Maine–Canada Falls | Earthy Journalist·

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