The North Branch Dead River flows from the beautiful Chain of Ponds, near the Canadian border, south 25 miles to Flagstaff Lake. Its mix of lakes, flatwater, and rapids provide variety, and due to several access points, the river can be done as either a 2-3 day trip or as a series of day paddles. While its rapids are generally too low to paddle after mid June, most can be portaged or lined at low water. The river contains an interesting piece of American history. In 1775, Benedict Arnold and around 1,000 men paddled up the North Branch and the Chain of Ponds on their way to attack Quebec. For the modern paddler, the river offers wonderful views of mountains and forests, peaceful sections, as well excellent rapids for experienced paddlers.
Whitewater enthusiasts will love the rapids between Airport Road and the King and Bartlett Bridge, best navigated in the spring. For those seeking a mellow day trip, a paddle downstream of the King and Barlett into Flagstaff Lake provides stunning views of the Bigelows. A weekend trip starting at the Chain of Lakes is hard to beat. Set up a basecamp at one of the free, first come first serve campsites along the lakes, or continue on downstream to explore what the river has to offer.
- Trip Duration: 1 to 2 days
- Miles: 21
- Trip Portages: 2-4 (depending on skill level)
- Put In: Natanis Point Campground (fee required): Located at the start of the Chain of Ponds, find this access point by driving northwest on Route 27 and the campground is well-signed on the left. To avoid paying a fee, use Upper Farm Public Campsite: 3 miles down the Chain of Ponds from Natanis Point Campground, a dirt/gravel turnoff from Route 27 leads to the campground. However, it is not well-marked.
- Take Out: Flagstaff Road bridge: Turn off of Route 27 onto Flagstaff Road. Drive on this road until reaching the bridge. On either side of the bridge are informal access points that can be used to put-in or take-out. Or for a more formal access point, use Cathedral Pines Campground: Off of Route 27, on the right when driving northwest. Well-marked, private campground that has access to a public and private beach.
- North Branch Dead River
- Trail Features