August 17, 2019
Portland Latest News | Samantha Paradis | Bangor Metro | Martha Stewart's Maine | Today's Paper

The Saco River’s got a reputation for summer parties. Now’s the time to enjoy a quieter paddle.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Goose the dog acts as lookout on the Saco River near Brownfield on Sunday as I paddled along side my buddy Darren Fishell. Goose is a good at his job. He sees and hears the snags way ahead of me.

My friend and former c0-worker, Darren Fishell, and I usually paddle around the Brownfield Bog in April. It floods and we’re able to get to parts of it that are unreachable the rest of the year. We arrived this past weekend to find it still frozen over. We made a quick change of plans and decided to do an overnight on the Saco River instead. We paddled from Fryeburg to Brownfield. It’s a stretch of water that’s heavily used in the summer. It has a well-earned reputation for drinking and partying. I’d never paddle it in July or August. It’s just not my scene.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
In the above left photo, I used a tripod, timer and long exposure to make a picture of myself (on the right) and Darren standing around the fire. The stars and moon shine overhead. Firelight glows on the trees around our tents in the top photo. The dark river fades in the dusk in the above right photo.

This weekend, it was just about perfect — though we did have to trudge through knee-deep snow getting our boats in and out of the water at either end of the trip. The current was swift, the water was dangerously cold and there were a few spots where we had to be very aware of snags but we made it without too much excitement. Our campsite along the way was high and dry. We saw many birds including ducks, geese, eagles and kingfishers. A ton of beaver-tail slaps let us know they were watching us. One even swam along side us for a stretch.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Darren gets the evening fire going Saturday night on the banks of the Saco River.

We paddled just shy of 20 miles in all. The best part was: No other people. It was quiet and peaceful.

If you’re interested in following in our paddle strokes, please be careful. Last spring, Fryeburg Police Officer Nathan Desjardins died on the river while trying to rescue some unprepared boaters. One of the boaters died, too. Wear a life jacket, and a wetsuit if you’ve got one — and please don’t drink while you’re on the Saco River. It demands your respect, always.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Darren paddles his kayak on the cold and flooded Saco River on Sunday.


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