Thursday, July 26, 2012

Whitewater Rafting With Penobscot Adventures

On Saturday, July 21st, I went whitewater rafting for the first time with Penobscot Adventures (PA). My friend Mike has arranged this trip for the 3rd year in a row, and I was excited that we were invited to go. I had no idea what to expect, but as the date grew near, I have to admit there was some anxiety. I can swim fine, but when it comes to underwater and being tossed all around or diving into water, its not my favorite thing - I much better prefer steep cliffs and tall mountains. 

We arrived at the campsite down the street from the PA Base Camp pretty late after the 5 1/2 hour drive to Millinocket. Most of the 16 people in our group were already there drinking beers around the fire acting funny, so we quickly joined for a couple before heading off to sleep in our tent. After hockey on Wednesday, Mike was kind enough to take our tent so he could set it up in advance. Thanks Mike!

The next day, it was a 7:30am meet-up time at PA Base Camp, which is located in a campground next to a general store. There were 2 other groups getting ready to head out in addition to our 2 boats of 9 people. I had brought my own Pro Tec Ace Water helmet, fitted with my GoPro mount. Everyone was fitted for helmets, life jackets, and we got a paddle too. 
Getting ready at Penobscot Adventures Base Camp
Next, we hopped in their big blue bus, and were off on the 30 minute or so ride to the put in point for the Ultimate (and other trips), which is McKay Station. At the beginning of the ride, we passed over a 1-lane bridge over the Penobscot River with a great view of Katahdin. As we were on the way, I was still confused on what to bring onto the boat. Some had large drybags, as I did with a change of clothes, and sandals for lunch and stuff. The guides will tell you to bring almost nothing, but you can still bring a few items, if you need to. During the first runs, I had brought my extra GoPro battery, a couple of mount pieces, and a couple of energy bars. During the second run, I didn't bring anything.

If you have some good water shoes that you can walk on land with, you really don't need to bring anything with you on the boat. The bus picks you up and takes you to the lunch spot, therefore you can access anything you bring on the bus at lunch, such as a towel or more comfortable shoes for land walking. You can bring your own waterproof camera or GoPro, but if you lose it, don't expect any sympathy or efforts to retrieve it, but its all good to bring it. Best bet it is to have it fully charged with a 16+ GB card. No need to bring your phone all day, because there really isn't service. Therefore, a good thing to go by is to just bring a towel, watershoes, maybe your phone, some snacks, and maybe a camera to base camp (and for the day). A good size bag to bring on the boat is maybe a small 1-liter Ultrasil dry sack that can clip around a rope on the boat. You can bring a separate bag for your items that stay on the bus.
Mt. Katahdin and Penobscot River 
Getting the boats ready at McKay Station 
The discharge at McKay Station 
Looing back at the Cribworks - Class V Rapid 
Keegan was our guide for the day, and Big Joe was the guide for our other boat of 9 people. My brother was on Big Joe's boat. Both of them were very professional, knowledgeable, informative, personable, and most importantly, lots of fun. One thing to keep in mind is that their job is to steer the boat and instruct how to approach the rapids. During the day there are several commands you learn, and two of them are "All Ahead" and "Stop". When paddling stops, that it when the guide can steer the boat the best. To get out of an eddy or get the boat moving in a certain direction, sometimes it will only take 9 people to do one paddle to get the boat moving. Its amazing how much coordination is required to get the boat to go where it needs to go.
Keegan - Our guide with Penobscot Adventures
These are the photos taken by Penobscot Adventures. These photos are available for purchase at the end of the trip on a DVD.

Trip Name: The Ultimate
River Name: Penobscot River (Upper)
Rapids Run: Ripogenus Gorge, which includes The Exterminator (Class V) , Staircase (Class IV), and The Heaters (Class III) - Trouble Maker (Class III), The Cribworks (Class V), Little Amberjack (Class III), and Big Amberjack (Class IV)
Number of times ejected: 0
Paddles broken: 1

I look forward to coming back sometime, and would definitely recommend Penobscot Adventures for your next or first time rafting trip!


  1. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Rafting Rishikesh

  2. Very nice post, I admire the help provided by this site.

    1. Hi Bruce, I'm happy to know that my post and information was helpful. Thank you for taking the time to post a comment, and let me know. I'm headed back for one of their other trips in about month!

  3. Replies
    1. Hey John, thanks! Would love to get out that way!

  4. Your article is really good and informative. Thanks for sharing with us.

    grand canyon rafting