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Saco River

Some Maine river dare you to jump in, hang on, and brace yourself. The Saco? Not so much. For most of its 136 miles, the Saco is a sweetheart. It’s calm. It’s relaxed. And in mid-summer, it’s as warm as Grammy’s bathtub. People bob down the Saco’s steady current in open kayaks, old canoes, wobbly float tubes and even home-made rafts. You’re welcome to ride along.

Boat liveries such as Saco River Canoe & Kayak in Fryeburgin Western Maine can rent you a watercraft, help you choose the best length for your trip, and even arrange a pick-up on the river when you’re finished. One day not enough? You can rent boats from campgrounds such as Woodland Acres in Brownfield, then spend the night once you’ve finished your trip. One of the river’s most popular floats is between Swans Falls in Fryeburg and Brownfield.

Sure, there’s some challenges. Hydro-electric dams force portages around some sections of southeastern Maine. Steep Falls and Limington Rips are notorious boat swampers, best left to advanced kayakers and whitewater canoeists. But you can avoid these by checking with the Saco River Recreation Council, which offers maps of the river and information about the best ways to enjoy it. The council also manages Fryeburg’s Swans Falls Campground.

Here’s a tip: come on weekdays. The Saco is one popular river. On warm, summer weekends, it can be really popular. A weekday float means fewer folks and a quieter experience.

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