In early spring or after a heavy rain, this overnight trip from the vehicle-access Fish Pond Campground on Spencer Lake outside to the confluence of Spencer Stream and the Dead River is a gem.
The lake itself is nestled between cozy mountains and almost unpopulated giving it the feeling of a secret world that no one knows about except you. It’s less than three miles to the paddle-up Spencer Beach campsites, the only camping between the launch and Little Spencer Stream. This makes for an easy first day, which is nice for people with a drive to get to the area and set shuttle.
A cluster of three campsites along the west shore perches around a sandy point with long views both north and south. The campsites are managed by Landvest, which employs a resident property manager. They are free, but must be reserved by calling ahead.
The paddle to the outflow of Little Spencer is less than four miles past a group of small islands and through a narrow gap that provides entry into the larger part of the lake to the south.
A tempting boat launch to the right of the dam seems like the best place to portage, but it is not open to the public. Due to disrespectful behavior by previous visitors, paddlers must use the trail about 100 yards left of the dam. This small landing is marked with a confidence marker and passes through the woods about .2 miles to skirt the dam. There is a convenient outhouse here, but no camping is allowed on the portage.
Once back in the water it’s worth paddling up to below the dam if the flow allows. The dam is built into natural cliffs and a small island forms a nearly complete circle of granite around the pool, again making it feel like you are sharing a secret with this remote landscape.
Below the dam, Little Spencer flows through a series of alternating stretches of river with class I-II rapids and three deadwaters. At high flows this could be a wild ride. The biggest potential hazard is down trees.
When Spencer Stream enters from river-right, you are close to the take-out. Take out at the wide steps on river-left a little over 6 miles from the portage just below the small bridge at the confluence with the Dead River.
Don’t miss the take out! Below here the Dead River flows through about 12 miles of class II-III rapids. There are scheduled releases that can be as high as 6,000 CFS, which increases the difficulty. There is no access to the river until you get to The Forks. Once in the parking lot, take a quick hike on the upstream trail along the Dead River to visit Grand Falls for an added bonus!
- For campsite reservations on Fish Pond or Spencer Lake, cal 207-243-3020
- Put in at Fish Pond Campsite, Jackman, ME: Longitude -70.30222 / Latitude 45.44325252
- Take out Dead River Access on Enchanted Road, Pierce Pond Township, ME: Longitude -70.221652 / Latitude 45.30054
- Outfitters and shuttle services in region
- Spencer Lake and Down Spencer Stream
- Trail Features