Select Page

Photo: Kayakers father for a winter paddle on the Kennebec River​

When thinking about a whitewater kayaking trip, rarely do I hear paddlers mention a trip to Maine. As a whitewater kayaker that learned to kayak in Maine, I’m here to tell you why you should consider a trip to this beautiful state that is filled with quality whitewater.

​Maine Rivers:

​There are two rivers that run all summer (and winter) long, the Kennebec River and the Penobscot River. The Kennebec River is located in West Forks, ME and is home to a beautiful class III gorge of high volume fun. This river is not only beautiful but full of fun surfs and big waves, perfect for freestyle kayakers and river runners of all types.

The Kennebec River is dam controlled and releases from 10am to 1pm every day. There are additional afternoon flows guaranteed on Saturdays from May through October, with bonus flows often released for electricity generation. You can find the flows for the next day any time after 4pm at: Flows of 2500-8000cfs are my personal favorites with 5000 being the standard daily release April-October, with high water days being 8000cfs. Flows of 2500-4500 are great for a plethora of downstream surfing, while flows of 6000-8000 are big wave bliss (less surfing). Many paddlers still enjoy lower flows (below 2500) but these flows are slower and feel more “natural” for the gorge, less of a high volume feel.

Surfing sandy wave

The Penobscot River is located about 2.5 hours from the Kennebec River, near Millinocket, Maine. This river boasts some of the most technical whitewater on the East coast and is also dam released. The Penobscot River runs all summer long, all day long. Flows during the commercial rafting season usually vary from 1800 (good beginner class IV levels) to 3200 (more difficult class V levels). There are big meaty holes, technical rapids, fun surfs and even a park and huck waterfall on the Penobscot, that allows paddlers to choose their own adventure. A bonus is that this beautiful river is located at the base of Mount Katahdin and within Baxter State forest, allowing visitors the opportunity to hike and camp in the beautiful Maine wilderness. Flows are available through a Brookfield site as well:

Fall Fun on the Kennebec

​If you’re looking to visit these the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers, you might be able to plan your trip to allow a paddle on our third major river, the Dead River. This river releases eight times per season, with four releases scheduled in the spring, and another four in the fall. This river is 12 miles of class IV fun, including big hits and awesome surfs. This year’s releases are scheduled for Saturday May 8, 15 and 22, (6,000 cfs) Sunday, May 30 (6000 cfs), Saturday June 5 (4000 cfs) Sunday September 5 (5500 cfs) , Saturday September 18 (3500 cfs) and the grand finale, Saturday October 2 (6000 cfs). I personally like flows of 5500cfs+ on the Dead river for maximum surfing and downriver play. One may also consider a trip to Canada Falls (III-V) (release schedule: and the Seboomook (III) (release schedule: Saturday of Labor Day weekend of 1,500 CFS between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM).

Paddlers father for Maine Whitewater Championship Penobscot Race with Katahdin mountain in the background

​If you’re lucky enough to visit Maine during the Spring run off season (late March/April), you’ll also have a plethora of creeks to explore and some big wave surfing to enjoy. Some favorite creeks in Maine include: Gulf Hagas (V), Sandy Stream (IV), Souadabscook Stream (III), along with many others. Some park and play surf spots worth checking out would include Madison Wave, Sandy wave, Sheepscot Reversing Falls and T-wave. To keep your finger on the pulse of these seasonal goods, join the Maine whitewater page called “Maine Flows.” Though the whitewater kayaking community is small, they’re often welcoming to kayakers visiting the area. For more details on these rivers, check out Maine’s American Whitewater page.

Playing on the Kennebec River

Maine Races:

​Each spring there is a steep creek race called Smalls to the Wall the occurs on Smalls Falls outside of Rangely, Maine. This race is ¼ mile long and includes five waterfalls. The race has quickly become a must-do for New Englanders and paddlers from all over. This year the race will be held on April 24th. Check out their Facebook page for more information: Smalls to the Wall 2021.

Racers getting ready for the Maine Whitewater Championship Kennebec race

​There is also a series of whitewater kayaking races held each summer called the Maine Whitewater Championship. One race is held on the Kennebec River in June (June 20th this year) and the other is held in late July/early August (July 31st this year) on the Penobscot River. These two races are a highlight of the whitewater season in Maine and bring together the community for friendly competition and celebrations. Check out their website and facebook page: or Maine whitewater Championship on Facebook.

We hope you’ll come visit this beautiful state and enjoy all the whitewater there is here!