Kennebec2021-04-11T10:30:08-07:00

Kennebec River Rafting

With regulated flows, the Kennebec delivers reliable thrills of big volume boating. The most popular section, The Gorge, is a short 3.5 mile run with back to back Class III and IV whitewater. Below that the river mellows out with scenic Class II on the Lower. A highlight of the Kennebec is Turbine Test Days, which happen just four times a year where the power company tests their turbines at full capacity, spilling 8,000 CFS into the river, which is about double the normal flow. As the dates approach, the anticipation of these releases is similar to Christmas, as it’s the only thing you can think about.

About this guide

This guide outlines the two most common runs in consecutive order starting with The Gorge and then the Lower.

River Info

The Gorge puts in right below the reservoir and is pretty much non stop Class III and IV action for 3.5 miles.

Once you finish the Gorge, you can takeout at Carry Brook or continue through onto the Lower, which is a much mellower, longer section that provides ~8 miles of beautiful Class II whitewater.

Safety

The Kennebec is a challenging run that features large hydraulics, the potential for long swims, and a steep canyon that is difficult and if not impossible to exit. You should be comfortable in Class IV+ whitewater and go with someone who has recent Kennebec experience. Finally, if you are unfamiliar with the Kennebec, then do not go during Turbine Test Days.

Permits

A permit is required for private boaters on the Kennebec River. More information can be found here.

Flows

Flows are very consistent and scheduled on the Kennebec. The normal rafting flow for the Kennebec is in the 4,000 CFS range, which is typically released in the morning. Generally speaking, in the afternoon the water drops, and some rapids get harder as waves turn into holes, often described as “sticky.” Turbine Test Days, described below, will bring the water up to 8,000 CFS which changes the river dramatically.

For up to date flow information schedule, please visit this link.

Turbine Test Days

A gift from the River Gods, Turbine Test Days is when the dam throttles up the release to 8,000 CFS to test their turbines. This infrequent and much-anticipated event happens just four times a summer and it is marketed and sold as a special event by commercial outfitters. And for good reason, because at 8,000 CFS The Kennebec turns into an amazing high water river. The high flows are manageable and the waves are enormous. These scheduled releases are figured out far in advance. Each year we publish a post outlining the dates, or you can navigate to this page to find the PDF.

Sometimes the USGS flow image breaks. If this happens, here is a direct link.

Kennebec River Flow
Gage data provided by USGS

Kennebec River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment. Go with someone with recent Kennebec experience.

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include eddys and streams.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves and swim areas.

Campgrounds

Nearby camping areas.

Kennebec Gorge – Class II, III & IV

This is the main run for the Kennebec as it has the majority of the whitewater. Just a minute after the launching, the rapids come in fast succession, one after the other. Many kayakers prefer to take out at Carry Brook and lap the gorge, while most rafting trips will continue through to The Forks.

Length

Harris Station to Carry Brook is 3.49 miles.

Difficulty

Moderate to Advanced.

Feet per Mile

Harris Station to Carry Brook is 40 FPM

Shuttle Time

Harris Station to Carry Brook is 24 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Indian Pond Campground: Indian Pond Campground is located right next to the Harris Station Dam and is open April 15 – October 15.

Mile 0.00 – Harris Station Put-in: River Left. The put-in is a long series of steps with rails just below Harris Station. This dam was completed in 1954 and is the largest hydroelectric plant in Maine. Click here for a detailed description.

Mile 0.36 – Taster Rapid: Class II. First rapid on the run, featuring Ball Buster wave.

Mile 0.63 – Rock Garden: Class III+. The ‘garden’ is on the left side of the run. Stay to the right to avoid it.

Mile 0.80 – Chase Stream Sluice Eddy: River Right. Catch this eddy for a quick regrouping pause if you need it before you drop into Big Mama, which is just downstream.

Mile 0.91 – Big Mama: Class IV. Also known as Three Sisters. This rapid features the biggest waves on the river.

Mile 1.05 – Whitewasher: Class III. Avoid the big holes by staying to the left.

Mile 1.11 – Alleyway Rapid: Class IV. Alleyway features a long wave train.

Mile 1.41 – Pocket Eddy: River Left. Look for the ‘pocket’ eddy on river left.

Mile 1.55 – Cathedral Eddy: Thank God you made it. The river takes its first big pause in this large area of slack water.

Mile 1.61 – Chase Stream: River Right. Chase Stream comes in on the right here and marks the end of Cathedal Eddy and the beginning of Z-Turn rapid.

Mile 1.63 – Z-Turn: Class II. Named after the dramatic bend in the river, Z-Turn is a short rapid.

Mile 1.96 – Magic Falls: Class IV. The left of center line (known as The Highway) will avoid the Magic and Maytag Hole.

Mile 2.86 – Dead Stream: River Right. Dead Stream cascades into the river here. This is a fun place to pause and check out the creek.

Mile 2.97 – Dead Stream Rapids: Class III. Read and run Class III.

Mile 3.49 – Carry Brook Launch: River Left. The river mellows out considerably past this point and the next takeout isn’t for another eight miles.

Lower Kennebec – Class II & III.

Once out of the gorge, the Kennebec is seemingly an entirely different river as it eases into Class II and III. This section is typically done as a continuation of the gorge, however, if you have younger paddlers with, or those that are new to whitewater, than doing the Lower Kennebec as a standalone trip is a good option.

Length

Carry Brook to Forks is 8.11 miles.

Difficulty

Beginner to Moderate

Feet per Mile

Carry Brook to Forks is 16 FPM

Shuttle Time

Carry Brook to Forks is 42 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 3.49 – Carry Brook Launch: River Left. Putting in at Carry Brook allows you to cut out the large rapids upstream, which means this section is a good fit for younger passengers.

Mile 4.19 – Black Brook Stream: River Left. Black Brook Stream comes in on river left, which is fed from Black Brook Pond which is a short distance away up the creek.

Mile 4.26 – Black Brook Rapid: Class III. This is the largest rapid on this section, read and run.

Mile 4.44 – Dory Hole: Class II. Read and run.

Mile 5.44 – Swimming area: While the Lower has plenty of swimming opportunities, by this point you’re downstream of the whitewater so it’s a great opportunity to jump out of the raft and float.

Mile 8.74 – Cold Stream: River Right. After a sharp left turn, Cold Stream comes in on the right.

Mile 9.03 – Moxie Stream: River Left. Moxie Stream is home to the largest waterfall in Maine, Moxie Falls. The falls is 90 feet tall. You can’t get to it from the river, but it is an easy hike post trip.

Mile 11.60 – Forks Takeout: River Right. Just upstream from the bridge.

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