Maine Whitewater Rafting Trips

Penobscot River Cribworks Rapids

The “Cribworks” rapids, located in the west branch of the Penobscot River.

A “TO-DO” list for visitors to Maine is bound to include white-water rafting along with seeing a moose, eating a lobster and visiting a lighthouse.  Maine is home to the only Class III to V white water in New England with guaranteed water flows from May to October.  The Kennebec, Dead and Penobscot Rivers are dam controlled for power generation allowing good whitewater rafting even during the driest of summers.

Rafting is for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. You need not be an Olympic athlete. Each paddler is an important crew member, helping to power the raft through the rapids.  For this reason, a minimum age of 10 is established to raft the entire length of the Kennebec River and 12-15 for the Dead and Penobscot Rivers.   For those who want to paddle and float through milder rapids and enjoy the natural surroundings and wildlife viewing, lower river trips are available.  To protect the environmental quality of Maine’s wilderness rivers and insure an enjoyable trip for all rafters, the State of Maine limits the number of rafters on the rivers each day, so it is a good idea to make reservations well in advance. Click here for a list of whitewater rafting outfitters in Maine.

Rafting the Kennebec River

Maine’s most popular rafting river, the Kennebec is located in The Forks, Maine along The Old Canada Road Scenic Byway midway between Portland Maine and Quebec City, Canada. The drive to the Kennebectakes visitors along the route of Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec.  Rafters will also pass the 45th parallel-half way between the Equator and the North Pole.

A typical day on the Kennebec starts with check-in at the outfitter’s base camp between 7 and 9 am.  Rafters gear up with paddles, helmets, life-vests and wetsuits (if required) and learn the basics of paddling and river safety.  Then it’s off to launch at Harris Station Hydropower dam.  The first four miles of the 12-mile Kennebec River trip flows through Class III-IV white water through the Kennebec Gorge culminating at famous Magic Falls. The second half of the trip features smaller rapids, ideal for swimming or taking a turn at guiding the raft.  The take-out is in The Forks at the confluence of the Kennebec and Dead Rivers.  Depending on your choice of outfitter, a hearty meal of a choice of steak, chicken, fish or veggie burger with salad, rice, rolls, beverage and dessert will be served riverside or back at base camp.  A post trip slide and video show of the day’s adventures are ready for viewing after the trip.

Rafting the Dead River

The Dead River which flows into the Kennebec at the Forks offers the longest stretch of continuous whitewater in the East.  The 16 mile trip begins at Grand Falls and runs through Class IV and V whitewater ending at an extended stretch of rapids called Poplar Hill Falls before flowing into the Kennebec at The Forks.  Rafting levels on the Dead are scheduled for only seven times per year, four times in the May and early June, Labor Day weekend, mid September and Columbus Day weekend. Minimum age to raft the Dead is 12-15 as established by your outfitter.

Rafting the Penobscot River

The Penobscot River is located in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest Mountain and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  This 14 mile river trip is technically challenging and starts out with Class V rapids through Ripogenus Gorge. Rapids are aptly named the Staircase and The Exterminator. This upper reach of the river ends at the famous Cribworks Rapid.  The lower stretch of the river is filled with Class II to IV rapids.  The Penobscot’s season runs from mid-May to mid-September.  A double run trip of Ripogenus Gorge known as Double Trouble is a favorite with the ultimate thrill seeker. Minimum age to raft the full length of the Penobscot is 15.

Along with whitewater rafting, many outfitters offer other adventure sports including rock climbing, ATV tours, inflatable kayak tours, guided hiking and fishing, overnight wilderness camping and wildlife safaris.

Western Branch of the Penobscot River

Whitewater on the west branch of the Penobscot river in Baxter State Park.

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