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View of the boats on North Haven Island of the Maine Island Trail

View of the boats on North Haven Island of the Maine Island Trail

View from North Haven Island

View from North Haven Island

North Haven Island

North Haven Island

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Paddling In Maine

Maine is defined by water. For paddlers, that’s a great thing.

Inland, you can meander across short flatwater stretches or push your horizons on multi-day canoe or kayak adventures in areas such as the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. For pure thrills, they have the state’s big three rivers – the Dead, Kennebec and Penobscot – for whitewater canoeing, kayaking and rafting. A few brave souls even try some sections of the big water on stand-up paddleboards.

Maine’s saltwater offers paddlers the same variety. Tidal rivers wind through fascinating stretches of shore land, much of it protected by refuges. More than 3,500 miles of coast runs from sand beaches in the south to the rocky bold coast Down East. A few brave souls even try some sections of the big water on stand-up paddleboards.

Kayaking opportunities abound – both inland for lake kayaking or at sea, as does canoeing. Maine lakes and rivers offer a wonderful escape for all sorts of paddling fun.

Sea Kayaking

Old forts, uninhabited islands, curious seals and ospreys: Maine’s 3,500 miles of coastline has just about everything an adventurous paddler would want.

The Maine Beaches region in the state’s far south is known, well, for its long, Atlantic beaches. But paddlers also enjoy its gentle tidal rivers and marshes, sandy coves and fun surfing. Outfitters including Coastal Maine Kayak lead tours through the area.

The Greater Portland and Casco Bay region hosts Maine’s biggest city. Given that, it’s a popular spot for paddlers given its easy accessibility. Accomplished kayakers enjoy the crossing to Fort Gorges, on tiny Hog Island. Built during the Civil War era and made of local granite, the fort was obsolete as soon as it opened. Local outfitters such as Maine Island Kayak Company, Portland Paddle and Rings Marine Service offer guided trips in the region.

Many paddlers visit the Maine Island Trail, a 375-mile series of islands and passages running up the coast. It includes more than 200 islands that trail members can visit using small boats. Often, the islands are uninhabited. Camping is encouraged. A number of local outfitters including H2Outfitters, Maine Kayak, Midcoast Kayak, Port Clyde Kayaks, Seaspray Kayaking and Tidal Transit Kayak Company offer tours and lessons.

Maine’s MidCoast & Islands region offers paddlers a wonderful variety of small coastal towns, islands and challenging passages.

The DownEast & Acadia region features some of Maine’s wildest coast along with one of its most popular destinations – Acadia National Park. The area is a huge draw for paddlers. Mt. Desert Island, which hosts much of the park, is popular because of its varied paddling and its spray of easily accessible islands. Farther down east, the ‘bold coast’ area provides a more remote experience. Outfitters including Castine Kayak Adventures, Coastal Kayaking Tours, Maine State Sea Kayak, Sunrise Canoe and Kayak and Water Walker Kayak provide tours and instruction.

Need more? Contact the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors to find guides and teachers throughout the state.

Fresh Water Kayaking

The problem with fresh water paddling in Maine isn’t finding a place to take your boat. It’s choosing a place. Maine has about 6,000 lakes and ponds, ranging from teeny to gigantic. In addition, there’s miles and miles of relaxing segments in Maine’s rivers and streams.

Suggestions? Here’s some.

  • The Saco River rolls through southern Maine to its rendezvous with the Atlantic. It has few rapids and combines a slow current with stretches of tree-lined flatwater.

  • Sebago Lake, the state’s second-largest lake, is a warm-water destination popular with boaters, swimmers and families. Sebago is a quick drive from Portland.

  • The Belgrade Lakes are perennial favorites for paddling, fishing and exploring.

  • The Rangeley Lakes in western Maine boast terrific views of the surrounding peaks. These expansive lakes have been drawing paddlers and anglers for more than a century.

  • Lake Saint George in Maine’s MidCoast & Islands region features scenic boating along with a popular state park for picnicking and camping.

  • The broad lakes surrounding Grand Lakes Stream provide plenty of rural paddling and world-class fishing.

  • The state’s largest lake, Moosehead, is so big it once hosted a fleet of steamships. While you can still sail on one of those restored boats, you can also spend plenty of time paddling to the lake’s many coves, harbors and islands.

  • The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is 92.5 miles of linked river, lake and pond sections and is one of the East’s great wild areas. Flowing north, it takes paddlers through one of the state’s remotest locations.

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