By Chris Gill
Here’s a trip report from a late season overnight paddle I took in 2010 to Grand Falls Hut on the Dead River (NFCT Map 9, Rangeley Lake to Spencer Stream). I stayed at the Maine Huts and Trails facility so there was no need for camping gear, just a pack, extra clothing, snacks, and a sleeping bag. This would be a great trip for a family with young kids.
I put-in at the Big Eddy campground but a better choice for this trip would be about 0.7 miles downstream at Spring Lake Landing. A dirt road about 0.3 miles before you reach Big Eddy leads to this put-in.
From the put-in, the Dead River heads generally north through very pretty and remote country. The paddling is flat water with great views of the surrounding hills. After about 2.75 miles Halfway Brook enters from the left, I paddled upstream a little ways until I came to a beaver dam. This spot offers a wonderful view of the Bigelow Range far to the south.
Soon after passing Halfway Brook the river turns to the east and begins to meander a bit offering good views of Basin Mountain. There are occasional stands of large white pines on the shore as well as a few solitary elms. I did this trip on Columbus Day weekend so I missed peak foliage but some of the red maples were fantastic.
After about 5.5 miles from the put-in the river splits around an island, a right turn here leads to the Maine Huts and Trails boat dock. I stored my PFD and paddles under my overturned canoe and headed out on foot following the MH&T trail that follows the river and eventually leads to Grand Falls Hut. Soon the trail crosses a footbridge over the Dead River that offers an excellent view of an old logging dam.
After crossing the river the trail follows the left bank and soon reaches a lookout with a fantastic view of the very impressive Grand Falls. After taking some pictures I continued on the well-marked trail to the bridge over Spencer Stream. The NFCT head up stream here but I turned right and followed the road a short distance to the rafters’ parking lot. After the parking lot the trail continues for about 0.75 miles along the river and then heads uphill on an old overgrown logging road that eventually leads to the hut. The walking along the river is fantastic.
I checked into the hut and decided to take a short nap. Unfortunately while I was sleeping a big bull moose appeared and several other guests got some good pictures.
Dinner was excellent as was the conversation with the other guests most of who walked to get to the hut. After dinner I enjoyed a warm shower and went to bed early.
It was a real treat having indoor plumbing and a comfortable hot breakfast before starting out on the return trip. The hike back to the canoe was very enjoyable, the early morning sun highlighted the late foliage and the cold air was energizing. After a few more pictures at the falls I continued on to the boat launch and set out up river.
The return paddle involved battling a headwind but for the most part I could avoid the worst of it by hugging the shoreline. Along the way I watched a bald eagle soaring and a belted kingfisher searching for its breakfast. I arrived back at the put-in and set off on the 5 ½ hour drive back home.
Chris Gill is a member of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and a frequent paddler on the Trail. He, his wife and two kids have camped and logged many water miles on the NFCT. Read Chris’s blogs Outhouses of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and The Gill Adventures. All photos for this post were taken by Chris Gill.