About Northern Outdoors
From fishing and hunting, to pioneering whitewater rafting in Maine, to carving out some of Maine’s best snowmobile trails- Northern Outdoors has been pivotal to the story of outdoor recreation in Western Maine. Meet the Hockmeyers, who started it all, and the team that has been created from their early dreams.
Founded on a Heritage of Loving Maine’s Outdoors
For co-founder Suzie Hockmeyer, her love of Maine’s wilderness started early–she spent every summer of her childhood at her grandfather’s farm in Belgrade, Maine. Fishing, swimming, hunting–you name it, Suzie did it. So it wasn’t a far stretch for her and her husband Wayne to start a backcountry expedition company in the mid 1970s running out of Moosehead Lake that offered hunting and fishing in remote areas. This was the beginning of Northern Outdoors as we know it. Watch her June 2016 Interview on WCSH6 TV here about Northern’s early days.
From Kennebec Whitewater Expeditions to Northern Outdoors
Shortly after Wayne and Suzie began their hunting and fishing sporting camps in rural Maine, they encountered the pristine Kennebec River. In 1976, Suzie and Wayne Hockmeyer knew that the Kennebec River was ending its role as a log-running river and could be used recreationally. It would possess some pristine fishing spots, but no one had ever rafted it, commercially or recreationally. After making elaborate plans to have a professional rafting team from West Virginia scout the river, they ended up rafting it solo because the WV team had to cancel. Scary, yes. Exciting? Definitely. That spring, Northern Outdoors became the first outfitter to raft the Kennebec River and the first commercial rafting trip in all of Maine. Imagine no helmets, no self-bailing rafts and bulky life jackets. Rafting was in its infancy in the U.S. when we became Maine’s rafting pioneers in 1976. And we were in love–with the Kennebec River, the rafting and sharing the incredible beauty of western Maine. In 1983, we became a year-round resort by adding snowmobiling to our repertoire and we changed our name to Northern Outdoors. Over the course of the next four decades, we added the Dead River and Penobscot River (we pioneered both those rivers, too!). With trips from May to September, grilled riverside lunches, experienced guides and amazing scenery, Northern Outdoors continues to offer a tradition of the best rafting adventures in Maine.
Northern Outdoors Timeline of Major Events
1976 – First rafting trip ever on the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers
1978 – First rafting trip ever on the Dead River
1981 – Jim Yearwood, now part owner, joined Northern Outdoors as river guide
1983 – Built main lodge in The Forks and changed name to Northern Outdoors
1983 – Russell Walters, now part owner, joined Northern Outdoors as a kayak instructor
1983 – Added snowmobiling to become year-round resort with year-round staff
1996–2000 – Added more cabins to the resort
1996 – Co-owner Jim Yearwood founded Kennebec River Brewery
2002 – Opened Kennebec River Campground
2008 – Connected ATV trail direct to the main lodge
2012 – Hosted Untamed Adventure Race in June, the largest adventure race in the U.S.
2016 – Celebrated 40 years of river running
2019 – Established Katahdin Adventure Base Camp at Big Moose Inn Cabins & Campground
Tradition of Excellence in Safety & Training
Since the beginning, we have stressed the importance of training and safety–our guides learn everything they need to know on the river and off. We train our people longer than most outfitters in Maine and our guides tend stay on for at least five years, sometimes decades. Our low turnover speaks volumes about us and our guides, with an average of two new full time first-year river guides joining our 20-25 full time river guide staff each year. See the years of experience for yourself- meet our Maine guides!
Our Year Round Staff
Many rafting companies are seasonal, as are their staff. As Northern Outdoors became more established, we knew it was important to hold onto our fantastic staff year-round. When we transitioned to a year-round resort, our first order of business was to hire the best staff and provide year-round employment with advancement opportunities. Our team are experts at what they do– on and off the river.
As we enter our fifth decade, our commitment to providing guests with a superior quality outdoor recreation experience continues with passion and dedication. That’s why almost 20,000 guests choose Northern Outdoors every year for their adventure vacation in whitewater rafting, ATVing, hiking, team building, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling.