Lobsters, lighthouses and L.L.Bean are the first things that come to mind when most people think of Maine. But for travelers in search of outdoor adventure, there is a lot more waiting to be discovered. The state’s interior — with miles of pine forests, pristine lakes and spectacular rafting rivers — is a vacation destination on its own.
This region of unspoiled wilderness offers all kinds of opportunities for outdoor recreation including hiking, mountain biking, canoeing or kayaking, skiing and snowmobiling. But perhaps it’s best known for its whitewater rafting. Every season, thousands of people make their way inland in search of frothy thrills on the mighty Kennebec, Dead and Penobscot Rivers.
“With daily scheduled dam releases, Maine is one of the best places east of the Rockies for summertime rafting,” says Russell Walters of Northern Outdoors, the pioneers of rafting in New England. “You can choose a roller coaster thrill ride, easy rapids, or just a scenic float down a quiet stretch of river.”
For those who think you have to be an experienced rafter to take part in a rafting trip, think again. According to Walters a day of whitewater adventure, which includes all equipment, a professional Registered Maine Guide and a noontime riverside cookout, will appeal to anyone who is in reasonably good health and has an adventurous spirit.
Northern Outdoors, which has been leading raft trips since 1976, has the most comprehensive range of trips available and operates three campuses in the region: The Forks Resort Center on the Kennebec River, Eagle Cove Condominium on Wyman Lake, and the Penobscot Outdoor Center near Baxter State Park.Their Forks Resort Center, located on the shores of the Kennebec River, is a good choice for families, or anyone who may be new to the rafting experience. Beginners, including seniors, will find trip options that allow them to sample relatively easy whitewater and enjoy the dramatic scenery at the same ?time. Families can choose among several midweek adventure packages with activities like easy floats on the river, guided hikes up Pleasant Pond Mountain, and short kayaking trips.
The 120-acre complex offers everything from luxury cabins, hotel rooms, canvas cabin-tents, tent sites and an area for RVs. It’s a full-service resort with an onsite restaurant, its own brewpub, a swimming pool and sauna. And when you’re not rafting, there is easy access to a network of mountain biking paths, a nearby lake with available canoes and kayaks, a ropes course, and guided rock climbing and sportyaking trips.
For more adventurous souls and college-aged rafters, the Penobscot Resort Center is a good starting point for budget trips designed to include thrills on the more challenging Class IV and V rapids of the Penobscot River. This wilderness resort, designed to appeal to the more independent traveler, is located just two miles from Baxter State Park with its miles of scenic hiking trails, and is what Walters calls “a modern reincarnation of the old Maine sporting camps.”
The Eagle Cove Condominiums are located just a short drive south of The Forks Resort Center, nestled directly on the shore of Wyman Lake. The Eagle Cove Complex includes 6 modern lakeside cabins, 4 luxurious guest houses and the main Osprey Lodge.
Most outfitters will tell you that the “shoulder season” — May, June, September and October — is the prime time for the best bargains and the finest water conditions. “Early and late season whitewater trips are truly the best kept secret in the rafting industry,” explains Walters. “For those in the know — it’s the best time to go. The prices are lower, there are fewer people, and the whitewater is awesome.”
For more information, contact Russell Walters, president, Northern Outdoors, P.O. Box 100, The Forks, ME 04985 USA, phone: (207) 663-4466, fax: (207) 663-2244, e-mail: [email protected], www.northernoutdoors.com
All photos courtesty of Northern Outdoors