When you and your team climb into the raft and shove off into the river your heart starts to race a little faster. You swallow hard and look ahead to see the river current picking up speed. From around the bend you hear the excited shouts of rafters that left before you. You’re sure they must have reached the first dip in the water’s insistent flow as the roar of cascading water grows louder.
In a moment the surging current swirls your raft around and your guide barks orders for you to dig deep and pull hard with your paddle. You dig deep and pull hard because you know there’s no turning back now. Your whitewater rafting ride has begun.
Whitewater rafting has become one of the most exciting Maine experiences. Rafting began when lumber companies stopped using the rivers to transport logs from deep in the forest to processing mills in 1976. Each year thousands of rafters return to repeat the thrills of plunging down the roller coaster ride of the river rapids.
Most of Maine’s rafting takes place on the waters of the Penobscot, Kennebec and Dead Rivers. They are controlled by regular dam releases so the water levels and speed will assure the greatest challenge and most fun.
There are dozens of rafting outfitters throughout the state. Several are located at The Forks, Millinocket, Bingham, Caratunk, Greenville and Fryeburg. All you have to bring to the river is some basic water clothing, some gumption, little nerve and the desire to have a great time. A towel and change of dry clothes is also a good idea. The outfitters supply the rest…the raft, paddles, wetsuits, instructions and basic supplies.
Most are connected with campsites and resorts and provide a hearty meal after your river ride, along with overnight accommodations, restaurants and other vacation facilities.
The rafting season begins in mid-April and goes through October. Each river has its own personality. They may have sections of raging water and steep drops followed by tranquil stretches. Many rivers have repeating current patterns and have earned names, such as “Magic Falls,” “Three Sisters,” “Big Mama” and “Whitewasher.” Watch out for the “Exterminator.”
Your whitewater rafting trip can be a one day event or part of a longer stay. While some level of coordination is helpful you do not need to have previous experience to enjoy the thrills of the ride.