Trip Report: Maine’s Kennebago River

We sat around the breakfast table watching the rain pour down outside. While enjoying my Eggs Benedict I casually mentioned that if folks would prefer to call off our planned paddling trip I didn’t want to make it a forced march.

Kennebago_put-in“I love paddling in the rain,” said Alan Stearns, Northern Forest Canoe Trail board president. “Besides if we are going to come all this way we might as well paddle. Otherwise we could just have had a conference call.”

Our board of directors and staff had come to Rangeley, Maine for an in-person board meeting along the trail. The previous day there was full sun as we toured our newly named Halfway Hilton lean-to on the Gull Pond Stream Trail in the morning, and then spent an absolutely gorgeous afternoon inside a meeting room. It would seem that the schedule was backwards as the paddling portion of our gathering was to now take place in the rain and grey. Only four of our eleven-person board were able to be there for the Sunday paddle and one had already dropped out on account of the cold and rain.

Kennebago_AlanStearnsApparently the rest of us remaining were made from the same stock and no one was willing to be the one to back down. So three intrepid board members and one hardy spouse set off with five NFCT staff to paddle the Kennebago River, a tributary of Cupsuptic Lake which is an arm of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. As we piled into the back of the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust pickup truck to shuttle to the access road, the rain fell harder.

“The rain is bouncing…now it’s officially sleet,” said Alan making us all laugh.

Kennebago_WillJeffriesThe forecast promised that the weather would let up at 9:00 am and for once in New England the meteorologists were right. As we put our boats in and set off down the river, the precipitation stopped entirely. I took note that my hands actually felt warm as the sun strained to burn through the heavy layer of clouds.

“Look, there’s a spot of blue sky,” I pointed out.

“Zip Kellogg would call that a sucker hole,” replied board secretary Nicole Grohoski. “Fortunately we are not suckers today.”

Kennebago_Karrie&NicoleKingfishers fought angrily for their nesting sites. We followed a gaggle of ducks for a while. The river meandered gently through conserved land past deep green spruce and the bright spring flush of False Hellebore. We enjoyed each others company and relished that we had overcome the temptation to stay inside.

At the take-out we all agreed that the trip had been too short.  When trail director Walter Opuszynski made the suggestion, we shuttled and put-in again adding a quick shot down the Rangeley River which was freshly swollen from the rain.

Indeed, the weekend was much better than a conference call.


We thank the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust for lending us canoes and shuttling us to and fro. We also thank Bald Mountain Camps Resort, the Maine Forestry Museum and the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum for hosting us.