Camden, Maine is more than just a stop off between Portland and Bar Harbor. Camden is a great destination to use as home-base for outdoor adventures. A Kennebec Whitewater River Rafting trip with North Country Rivers is a great adventure and an easy day trip from Camden. It takes two hours to get there. You raft all day and then drive back to Camden in time for dinner. Alternatively, you can eat in any number of interesting places between Bingham and Camden.
Late in the spring of 2015, when our daughter and her best friend’s family came to visit, the young adults traveled to Kennebec Whitewater River Rafting for the full day trip. We were not able to sneak away from our Camden Bed and Breakfast, the Hawthorn Inn. I was somewhat glad that I could not sneak away because the day they chose was cold and rainy. When they returned, they raved about the amazing time they had. Whitewater rafting had been on my bucket list for a long time. After hearing their stories, a day trip to Kennebec Whitewater River rafting was higher on my list.
North Country Rivers provides everything you need for a thrill of a lifetime experience. The guide in each raft is a trained and registered Maine Whitewater Guide. This was very reassuring in that my husband and I had never whitewater rafted and we are not getting any younger. North Country Rivers provides all river equipment including life jackets, paddles, helmets, windbreakers, wet suits (for rent), wet suit booties, rafts and safety equipment. A lead guide provides safety and orientation instruction before providing the equipment.
After everyone was suited up, we were assigned to groups for the eight person rafts. I must say they did an excellent job of pairing our group of four with another group of 3 young ladies and their mom to form the eight person team. The young ladies were about the same age as our daughter and her friend. The other mom was only a few years younger than I. The personalities were well matched. Our guide, Chris, rounded out the team.
Next, we boarded the bus for the 45 minutes ride to the drop off point, Harris Station. The bus ride did not seem long because the guide on the bus described the scenery and pointed out things of interest along the way. He also prepared us for our adventure. We learned the average river flow is 4,800 CFS (cubic feet per second). Harris Station was built in the 1950s and is currently Maine’s largest hydroelectric power plant. Electricity generated from the dam feeds into the New England power grid which services cities as far south as Boston. Consistent daily water releases from the Harris Station dam assure optimum flow levels for white water rafting throughout the season, April through early October, for exciting whitewater rafting.
Before entering the water, Chris instructed us on the important commands that he would be calling throughout the day. He made us practice each of the calls. Following the guide’s instructions and executing them with precision and synchronization provided us the confidence to enjoy the day’s experience. My personal opinion is that speed/excitement of the ride had something to do with the execution of the commands. The two folks at the helm (front of the raft), set the pace for the boat. The right side of our raft had a little trouble in synchronizing the execution of the commands, but we still had a great time.
Once Chris felt we had learned the commands, and it was our turn in the queue, we picked up the raft and carried it down the access staircase to the river. The excitement started when we entered the water. There are 10 rapids in all. Click here to see the map of the Kennebec River Gorge. There is only one class 4 rapid (Magic Falls) in this 12 mile stretch of the Kennebec. The others range from class 1 to class 3. The video clip shows the typical experience.
We stopped at various points on our way down the river. Cathedral Eddy provides the illusion of standing in a cathedral with a towering ceiling. At one point, we got out of the raft and the brave ones of the team stood under a chilly waterfall. After making it through all of rapids, Chris decided to teach us one more command, “shift right.” Following his direction the left side of the raft shifted right and we almost toppled as he intended. We all had a good chuckle at that. The hardier folks on the expedition floated in the chilly water as we continued downstream. It was not a hot enough day for me to try that. I am becoming more faint-hearted with age.
We ended the voyage with a fabulous cookout lunch along the riverbed. The menu included steak, chicken, fish, veggie burger, pasta salad, bean salad, bread and beverages. They also have gluten free options available. None of our party was gluten free but they did ask prior to leaving the meeting place if anyone had gluten sensitivities. After lunch, it was a short, lazy raft ride to the pick up point. As we exited the river, we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree; the end to a perfect Camden day trip to Kennebec Whitewater River Rafting. Once back at the facility, North Country rivers played back the video and slideshows of the adventure, all of which were available for purchase.
Click here to view other North Country Rivers YouTube videos. This was a great first experience for whitewater rafting. I would like to build upper body strength before next year to go rafting on a Turbine Test day when the water flow is 8,000 CFS. I would also like to try a Moose safari or snowmobiling!