Boat Load of Maine–Kennebec

Jeff posing in front of Harris Station Dam

Here’s the last in a series of Maine rivers that I did two weekends ago. Sorry it took a minute to finally post; I was busy boating last weekend! The last river we paddled on our way home was the Kennebec, which I’ve heard likened to the Grand Canyon in terms of huge waves and fast continuous flow. So here’s the post on the Kennebec. Enjoy!

The River

Like all the Maine Rivers I’ve posted so far, the Kennebec is another dam-released river.

The first taste of Kennebec whitewater at the putin.

The section we did is called Kennebec Gorge, which extends from Harris Station Dam to Carry Brook. This almost 3-mile stretch is class III at lower releases up to class IV at the higher releases (like 7200-8000 cfs). Both the put-in and take out are steep, long staircases entering and exiting the gorge. The Kennebec Gorge again is huge wave trains and big munchy holes. Try hitting the waves and avoiding the holes, and you’ll have a good time. Have a good roll as a swim here will be a long, long swim resulting in a sad drowned rat and most likely gear carnage.

The Rapids

This is what walking looks like!

You know, it might take me a couple times of running this river before I can actually discern any rapids from each other. All I saw for half the run was big-ass wave after big-ass wave and upside down kayaks. There are some rapids, though, and of course American Whitewater provides good information on them. The rapids are a gradual progression in difficulty from the surf Wave Taster (II+) and Rock Garden (III+) to a climax at Big Mama aka Three sisters (IV) and Alleyway (IV) before falling back to a little easier–until you get to Magic (IV) as the Kennebec’s finale. For the most part, avoid holes, hit waves, and above all, avoid Maytag (part of Magic rapid)  hole at lower levels as it’s retentive and super mean. If you run the river fast enough, you’ve got a chance for a second lap because you loved it so much.

NOTE: Despite it being a gorge and most boaters’ logical thinking that it’s impossible, you can choose to get out of the river if things are not what you’re wanting. It’s a long, steep, bug-infested, sketchy, possibly class V+ climb up the gorge to an abandoned, long, beaver swamp covered walk and swimming through Maytag is probably a better option, but you can do it. Here’s a better NOTE, though–don’t and be mentally and physically prepared for the Kennebec Gorge. The portage sucks, and you’ll feel like an idiot. First hand information.

If boating were a giant theme park, the Kennebec Gorge is the  Magnum XL-200  roller

Making the climb at the rapid right above Alleyway.

coaster. Overall, at least the part of the Kennebec Gorge that I did was HUGE. That’s really all I can say about it. I don’t get all excited for the big waves, but for anyone that does, make sure the Kennebec is top on the list of Maine rivers to boat because it will definitely please. See you on the river!


One response to “Boat Load of Maine–Kennebec

  1. Pingback: Boating Maine–What to Expect | Earthy Journalist·

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