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Everyday, or close to it, I drive over the bridge that spans the Stillwater river . The Stillwater connects the mainland to the Island of Old Town/ Orono, named Marsh Island by the Penobscot Tribe.

Sometime last year construction began on a new hydro power generating facility on this site. There will soon be turbines spinning out water falling off the head of this dam. There is already a power station on river right and now there will be one on river left. When I saw the trucks, bulldozers, blast mats and excavators building a road down to the old Typewriter wave I new big changes were coming.

There have been many changes in the Old Town area on the Penobscot River recently, the most dramatic being the excision of a river wide, ancient dam at a location called Great Works. This monumental task, spearheaded by the Penobscot River Coalition ( and many community/civic leaders, opens up a section of dammed river to many species of fish previously blocked from their old travel routes. In conjunction with dam removal agreements, Black Bear Hydro puts in turbines to generate power lost on extracted dam sites. Seems like a good thing right? Until you see drills, dynamite and blast mats headed out to a wave you have a special connection with.

To the left of this new Hydro Station is a channel of water called The Elbow. This is one of the places I learned to paddle. In the fall of 92′ I took kayaking seriously enough to start paddling the Mystic that John Conolly at Eastern River Expeditions sold me. Every week Eastern took $50 out of my paycheck to pay for the boat and paddle. My best friend Nick Sapiel and I went boating for three weeks straight in April of 93′ and from that point on I was hooked. The Elbow is the perfect place to learn with its glassy, wide waves and somewhat pushy Class II current with two big eddy’s on each side of the river. Nick and I tore this place up, and a few other spots too. By tear it up I mean he would peel out into the current, immediately flip, and start to miss his roll. I would then peel out to rescue my friend, immediately flip and miss my roll. I would swim out of my boat and yell to him to see if he was ok and we would swim to shore, usually laughing and shaking from the cold water.

The other spot affected by this new hydro facility is called the Typewriter wave. I never actually had a special connection to the Typewriter Wave itself, just this area, but I know people who do and it was hard to watch the ledges disappear and get trucked away. The wave wasn’t too boat friendly after the boats started getting shorter but there is a slot in the string of ledges that spans this river that was blown out for passage of logs. At some levels, flood levels, this slot turns into a perfect lefty cartwheel machine. I haven’t caught it right in a few years but will be interested to see if it’s still there. I am hoping the tail waters from these new turbines will help fill The Elbow more often with water, giving the locals there river front aesthetic and the nesting pair of eagles close by a place to fish.


More changes recently had a dramatic effect on the local play boating scene in the nearby town of Orono where an old, brick, abandoned power station was retro-fitted with new turbines and the Owave was born. My first time there I just kinda blew it off as fast and shallow, but in Oct. 2011 I started to go there on the advice of fellow paddler Beau Peavey and he was right on. I was told by an engineer recently that this wave is a perfect example of hydrology 404. Variable inflow and variable tail waters make for a hard wave to catch at the right flow. The perfect place for a hydraulics class he said. I had not seen this wave since last summer when I was there in some warm water, perfect flows and river height.

Mike McVey and I hit it perfectly on Sunday and we even had a little sunlight on the hole/wave to encourage us to stay longer, shoot pics and try out some otter slides which is always good fun. This wave is close to home which is good because you need to visually inspect this spot to see if it runs; there is no way to check the station output and the USGS gauge in Enfield is ice affected and will be for another 6 weeks.

The Owave is a fast shallow wave that holds spins and blunts and the occasional Helix or front-flip. I have hit hard there unintentionally sadly denting my 2013 Allstar. I definitely thought I broke it but Jackson Kayak’s plastic held strong, so no problem. The new Allstar is perfect there. It is fast, loose and stable which a paddler really needs in a unforgiving wave. It doesn’t take a lot of ribbing to get Mike in the Allstar and he likes it too. I think the steepness and speed at the Owave matches the Allstar really well and I am so happy to be throwing this boat around late winter. This coming weekend looks sunny and 40’s which is a heat wave for central Maine so it should be a good one! Wicked balmy!!