Page 26 - WCM-2021-Summer-Flip
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   Above:A floating picnic on a lazy late summer paddle down the Saco River between Canal Bridge and Walkers Bridge.The bike is our less lazy transportation back to pick up the car.
Below: Packed and ready to go at the South Arm Campground in Andover on our way to a weekend wilderness camping adventure on lower Richardson Lake.
do you know the place? Need specialized gear? How about time? (Can you afford to get pinned down by high winds for a day or two?) Are you willing and able to portage, i.e. carry your boat and gear around non-navigable waters? How about a guide? And maybe most important for river paddling, what are the current conditions regarding river flow, and what’s in the forecast. Bottom line: the bigger the adventure, the more important the prep.
The Epic: Big Waters in Wild Places
From legendary rivers like the Androscoggin and Saco, to the meandering and pristine Crooked, to the intense Rapid, Wild and Sandy, a wet and wild world awaits us all. Many sections of the bigger rivers can be safely navigated in most seasons by mere mortals with basic skills. Others, such as the Wild and Rapid rivers can only be tackled by the expert or insane, during times with specific flow rates, mostly in buttoned-up, specialized craft. If you are an aspiring whitewater paddler, find instruction from local experts. Working your way into it, and learning where to go at any given time is crucial. Personally, I’ll leave the extreme whitewater for others, but suffice it to say that many locals have dialed in some high-adrenaline paddling in these crashing waterways. (See Stu and Andy’s Icy Adventure on the following pages.)
There are, however, many lovely rivers to run for the rest of us, with varying levels of challenge on any given day. The Upper Saco may be the most popular of all, with many easy access points, lots of sandy beaches to picnic or camp, and local outfitters to supply equipment and transport boaters back to their start- ing point. The Upper Saco also runs through one of the most biodiverse landscapes in the state, hosting an array of rare species and unique natural communities, which is hard to imagine when thousands of happy boaters descend upon the river on a hot summer day. Last August we were fortunate enough to paddle the seven-mile stretch, from Canal Bridge to Walker’s Bridge in Fryeburg, on an unseasonably cool day with almost no other boats on the river. It was an amazing trip, with wildflowers blooming along the banks, gorgeous views, and glistening water. But we could see how much pressure the river experiences as we picked up trash along the way, and pondered the abandoned campsites and picnic grounds. So maybe best to hit this one on a weekday or the off-season.
Another easily accessible yet spectacular river paddle is the Androscoggin between Gilead and Bethel. This river, once nearly dead from industrial pollution, is now a poster child for river restoration, and known for its excellent trout fishery. There are plenty of
little islands and beaches for picnicking and taking in the stunning views of the White Mountains and
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