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Rafting the Kennebec River

Location: The Kennebec River in northwestern Maine
Region: Kennebec Valley
Activity: Whitewater Rafting
Family Friendly (check with individual outfitters on ages that kids can participate)

You’ve been stuck in your living room for waaay too long. Time to have fun in the wilds of Maine. It’s time to run the Kennebec—with a little help.

While Maine has three big rivers famous for whitewater rides—including the Dead and the Penobscot—the Kennebec is certainly the most popular. Why? It’s the river’s broad fun factor. It provides loads of thrills while still being approachable for folks with little or no experience in whitewater.

The Kennebec’s best-known section starts at Harris Station Dam, the state’s largest. The dam provides a strong, controlled supply of water that surges into Kennebec Gorge, a cleft that narrows and channels the water into big rolling waves, tumbling rapids and deep troughs.

Sound intimidating? It is. But it’s a lot less so when you go with a crew. Most boaters ride the river in rafts with one of Maine’s accomplished and licensed whitewater guiding companies. Virtually anyone can be guided down the river, including families with kids (check with outfitters for minimum age requirements). Rafters learn the basics of paddling in a team before heading off under the command of a professional boat guide.

Some of the Maine companies guiding on the Kennebec this year include: Adventure Bound; Magic Falls Rafting Company; Moxie Outdoor Adventures; Northeast Whitewater; North Country Rivers; Northern Outdoors; Three Rivers Whitewater; and US Rafting.

Besides the rough stuff, this popular run also includes stretches of slack water where people can relax and hop overboard for a swim and a float. Many outfitters also provide meals, either during the trip or at the end. For the real hard core, there are a handful of bigger water releases each season, when the dam flues are opened wide. These limited, high-water days provide especially wild rides that are prized by river runners. Check with outfitters to get reservations.

Kennebec trips continue through summer and into the fall, when trees along the river provide vibrant views.

Driving Distances:
From Bangor: 90 miles
From Lewiston/Auburn: 105 miles
From Portland: 130 miles

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