Joseph Seefried fell in love with white water rafting in his late teens during his first trip down the Penobscot River rapids.
“I was on the Penobscot River with my family and was blown away that the guides were getting paid to have so much fun,” he said.
A few years later, he started guiding tourists as an employee at Penobscot Adventures, a white water rafting company in Millinocket.
When current co-owners Daniel McDonald and his wife Maureen told Seefried they wanted to sell the 15-year-old business to him, he jumped at the chance. He hopes to close on the sale by the end of December.
“I always dreamed of owning my own business,” said Seefried, 23.
Seefried said he wasn’t sure he had the means to buy it, but the McDonalds are only requiring a down payment at the closing, and lending him the rest of the money to buy the business.
Seefried said he hopes to continue to employ the current eight full-time employees and eight weekenders, who work seasonally from the end of May until the end of September. His mother will help with the business by taking reservations and doing other business functions. Seefried will handle operations and management.
Seefried and his parents live outside Millinocket. His parents are retired and are snowbirds, spending the colder part of the year in Florida.
And since the business is seasonal, Seefried soon will head west to Telluride, Colorado, to work on the ski lifts and ski during the off times.
Since Penobscot Adventures rafting has done well, Seefried plans to run the company as it has been run.
Maureen McDonald said she and her husband felt Seefried’s enthusiasm and the help from his family made him the ideal person to buy the business.
“It takes a lot of time to run the company, and we wanted to spend more time with our kids,” she said about why they sold the company. The McDonalds have three girls: Logan, 13; Lucy, 11; and Levi, 5.
Maureen said she will seek other work and her husband is a school science teacher.
“But we are going to enjoy summers with the kids,” she said.
She said the company, which is profitable, will be sold for $50,000 to $80,000. She declined to give the exact price.
“Dan and I have total faith that Joe will shape this company to successfully meet the challenges as they come downstream,” she said. “Moreover, my gut tells me he is going take what we started 15 years ago and make it even better.”
Other benefits of the Penobscot are that rafters have other outdoor options including the close proximity of Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin, the Appalachian Trail and the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Plus it has the only Class V rapids at Cribworks and Ripogenus Gorge.
“There is a real chance the Penobscot River will proudly become a true focus of the Maine rafting industry,” she said.
The number of white water rafting companies has been declining, McDonald said. She estimates about half went under in the last 20 years.
Overcompetition and the long hours it takes to run the companies seasonally figured into their decline, with the more recent drop off affecting smaller, less established companies, she said.
There are seven white water rafting companies on the Penobscot River, Seefried said. It is the only river with two Class V rapids, which are the most challenging. Other challenging rafting — but without Class V rapids — is popular on the Dead River and the Kennebec River.
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