On Maine Whitewater Guides and the West Branch of the Penobscot River

Avid outdoorsman, Registered Maine Guide, editor of the Maine Northwoods Sporting Journal, and co-host of “The Maine Outdoors” radio program, V. Paul Reynolds pens a column for The Piscataquis Observer on Penobscot River Whitewater Guides — featuring Northern Outdoor’s icon Todd “Penobscotman” Mercer.

Maine’s whitewater rafting guides are a special breed

This section of the river is a Maine outdoor gem, for salmon anglers and whitewater thrill seekers alike. From the put-in place behind the McKay Power Station down on through Rip Gorge, the Crib Works, Big Ambejackmockamus Falls and on to the Nesowadnehunk Deadwater, the river is a winding, frothing, boulder-strewn hydro-tempest that offers any whitewater follower every challenge in the book…

You can’t help but admire the grit and respect the skills of the professional rafting guides, who earn a living taking adventure-seeking clients down the West Branch day after day for most of the summer season.” Read on…

Whitewater Rafting the Penobscot River

Like Katahdin, Todd has become part of the landscape of the West Branch of the Penobscot River. As the “Penobscotman” said in his guide profile:

“I’m a child of the Penobscot. I grew up in Bucksport Maine, watching the Penobscot River drain into the ocean. As a child my father brought me on fishing trips to places like Saboomook and Caucomgomoc in the upper reaches of the West Branch of the Penobscot River drainage basin and I watched the river pour from the spillway of Roll Dam and explode into a rainbow filled curtain of mist. The feel of the earth shaking in response to the power of the raging current was exciting in a way I’ll always remember.”

The Penobscot is Truly an Outdoor Playground

As challenging as the West Branch is for a guide, the play spots are unparalleled. Northern Outdoors’ experienced guides like Todd have mastered the art of raft surfing (spills and flips are all part of the craft!) Guests often talk about guides’ raft surfing skills in their reviews, like this trip report from habitual Penobscot rafter Colleen:

“We surfed like no other raft out there! Todd was able to hold a surf for a long time and not flip us. We played A LOT at the playground. We were able to get our raft straight up in the air and not flip!! It was AWESOME!!! We even got to go down a little rapid on our butt.”

Here’s some raft surfing in action at Nesowadnehunk Falls, which Todd described as “a unique place where my kids can jump into a rapid and I feel safe about it. If you are interested in feeling the power, the fury and the beauty of moving water, this is an incredible place to immerse yourself.”


Thanks to The Piscataquis Observer and V. Paul Reyonolds for highlighting the spectacular outdoor playground that is the West Branch of the Penobscot River, and the expertise of the Whitewater Guides sharing the beautiful Katahdin region every day all summer long.

Join us for the Adventure of a Lifetime on the Penobscot River!


Share this post with your friends who are up for riding Maine’s wildest river.


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