Dead, Maine, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||31 fpm|
|Max Gradient||47 fpm|
|Dead River near Dead River, Maine|
|usgs-01043500||800 - 13000 cfs||II-III(IV)||00h34m||594 cfs (too low)|
Located in an isolated corner of Northern New England, the Dead is one of the longest continuous
sections of whitewater in the Northeast. With approximately thirty rapids along a fourteen
mile stretch it is an incredibly popular summer whitewater run.
The river is primarily release controlled, although it also runs after periods of heavy rain. The difficulty of the river changes greatly depending upon release level. At lower levels (1200–1800) it is primarily class II (except for the very first, and last couple of rapids). At medium levels (2000–3500) it is class III; and at higher levels (4500–8000) class IV. The higher releases are generally during May, early June, September, and October. Expect huge crowds of rafters and boaters during these high-water releases. Summer releases are normally in the low-to-medium range.
The river is mostly boulder type rapids with lots of holes and pourovers. There is simply too many features and rapids to be completely described. Only the highlights have been documented.
The shoreline and river bed are totally different from the neighboring Kennebec river. There is little shear wall cliffs on this river but thick vegetation grows right up to the rivers edge. This makes it very difficult to rescue swimmers and equipment.
Put in elevation........1000' Take out elevation......591' Total drop..............409' Average drop/mile.......31' Distance................13.35 miles 1st mile drop...........22' 2nd mile drop...........26' 3rd mile drop...........43' 4th mile drop...........27' 5th mile drop...........9' 6th mile drop...........19' 7th mile drop...........37' 8th mile drop...........33' 9th mile drop...........34' 10th mile drop..........38' 11th mile drop..........35' 12th mile drop..........32' 13th mile drop..........47' 13.3 mile drop.... .....7' (20' average) River width average.....120' River geology...........small to medium granite boulders River water quality.....Good, clear except for higher water releases. Scenery.................Excellent mountain and forest scenery. Wildlife................Occasional deer, moose, hawks,
|The Forks, Maine.|
|Map by Mark Lacroix|
1. Webb's Dead River Campground & Shuttle Service: Shuttles to the Dead put in, campground
with showers. To book a site at Webb's campground or shuttle call River Drivers to make the reservations. That phone number is:
207-663-4475. The cost is $8.00 per person, per night, plus 7% State tax.
2. AppletonÃ¯Â¿Â½s restaurant: Pizza, subs, ice cream, breakfast (207) 663-2114 .
3. River Drivers: Rafting, etc 207-663-4475.
4. Paddling shop: Dead River Outfitters
5. BerryÃ¯Â¿Â½s General Store: Gas, Beer, food, supplies, pizza, subs
6. The Ball field campground: Primitive campsites, porta-poties, no showers. Take out for Lower Kennebec.
7. Crab Apple Camping Rafting, hot tub, bar, food.
8. Public Picnic area: also used as Lower Kennebec take out.
9. The Marshall Hotel (Hotel Cocktails): Food, bar, horse shoes, pool table.
10. Dead River takeout.
11. Majic Falls Rafting: Raft trips, camping
12. Three Rivers Whitewater & Kelly Brook campground
13. Northern Outdoors Camping, Rafting, restaurant, hot tub, bar, entertainment
14. North Country Rivers Rafting, etc.
15. Professional River Runners: Rafting, etc.
16. New England Outdoor Center: Rafting, paddling shop, etc.
17. Indian Pond campground
Not on map:
Moxie Gore cabins: : $30 per night
Moxie Outdoor Outfitters: 866-663-2646 Large cabins $75 per night
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|1.4||Quatro Wave Train||II|
|1.5||The Mine Field||III+|
|3.1||Haydens Landing (Lunch)|
|4.3||Gravel Pit Put-in|
|8.0||Pine Tree Beach Rapid||II+|
|8.4||Pine Tree Beach (Lunch)|
|8.9||Mile Long Rapid||III+|
|9.6||Evil Nasty Hole||III+|
|10.7||Upper Spruce Ledge||III|
|11.0||Lower Spruce Ledge||III|
|11.4||Race Course Put-in|
|11.6||Upper Popular Hill Falls||III+|
|11.9||Lower Poplar Hill Falls||III+|
|14.0||Public Parking Area|
|14.8||Downtown West Forks|
Slightly longer rapid with some surf waves.
This is one of the best play spots on the river. It is a short ledge drop named for the series of surf waves that form at 3500 and up. Quattro lies on river right after a rather wide sweeping left hand turn. Catch the eddy on the right shore to setup to catch the waves. At lower water levels a nice wide smooth wave forms at the top of the eddy. There is usually enough room for up to 4 boaters to surf at the same time. Other waves below the Quatro wave form and can be surfed but these are more defined at the higher release levels of >5500 cfs. At that level up to a dozen boaters can be surfing at the same time within a very short distance.
Good lunch spot here. After the large eddy below Haydens the river narrows back down with a few waves and holes along the way. Just above the drop there is a nice beach/campsite on the right often used as a lunch stop. Immediately after this beach the river drops sharply. The best route is river left over the large haystacks but move towards river right about halfway down to avoid a large trashy hole. There are many other smaller holes as you move to the right that need to be avoided.
Another easy class 2.
A short rapid half-way thru The Basin.
Another easy one. (Mile 6.42–6.62.)
Enchanted Rapid blends into Elephant Rock Rapid at 2400 and higher. (Mile 7.04–7.3)
Look for the rock a few feet of the river-right bank at the base of the rapid. Usually a pour-over, there is a huge surfing hole extending from the rock towards the center of the river that attracts rafts. At higher levels a hydraulic develops here. Best route thru the bottom of the rapid is in the center. Stay left through a nice series of haystacks. At the bottom you can go far right to run "Pinball". This is a narrow slot between the "Elephant's foot" and the river-right wall. (Mile 7.55–7.75)
Easy rapid below Elephant Rock. (Mile 7.80–7.85).
Another easy one. (Mile 7.90–7.95).
A popular lunch spot for rafting trips. Look for the beach on river-left just below the rapid.
As the name suggest this is a long rapid that gradually increases in difficulty as one heads downstream. At high release levels this rapid is full of holes, some sticky. The biggest ones are at the bottom of the rapid. The best route at the bottom of Mile Long is in the center along the boiling wave train. Note: After GPS measurements during 2007 and 2008 it was determined that Mail Long Rapid is really only 3/4's of a mile long. (Mile 8.9–9.67).
Near the bottom of Mile Long Rapid there is a very dangerous hole and hydraulic. This was the site of a fatality in October 2005; a near drowning in September 2006 that required an airlift evacuation; and numerous other close calls where both raft guides and passengers were trapped and unable to get free without outside assistance. Additionally the fatality in June 2017 was reported [second hand] to have occured here as well.
|Evil Nasty Hole at 5500 CFS|
|Photo taken from river-left shore on 9/2/07.|
|Bottom of Mile Long at 5500.|
|Downstream river-left shore view; Evil Nasty Hole in the foreground, FBI Hole on river-right in background. Photo taken on 9/2/07 from shore approximately 10 yards upstream of hole.|
The name "Evil Nasty" is one name for this feature. Individual rafting companies and
paddling clubs may have their own names for different rapids and features. Regardless of what you
call it, this is the well-known dangerous spot on river-left near the bottom of Mile Long Rapid.
The problem hole is fairly benign looking (especially from above). Just looking at it you would not expect it to cause these type of problems, but it is surprisingly retentive with a strong recirculating current. Only after passing by is the steep drop-off and strong hydraulic visible.
The hole is formed by a big, flat, round rock left-of-center. The resulting hydraulic is huge and deep,
with a visible horizon line and a "frowny face" characteristic of dangerous holes of this type (sometimes
called "drowning machines). At lower release levels the hole does not exist. At 2500 CFS the rock forms a slight
pour-over, at 3000 CFS a hole has formed, by 4500 CFS it forms a dangerous hydraulic; at 6000 it's downright nasty.
The victim in the 2006 accident later described himself as "fighting like mad", trying to go up, down, left
and right to get free before he lost consciousness after being recirculated many times. If a paddler does find
themselves in the hole the best approach is to attempt to stay in their boat. The highest risk is to swimmers
since the hole is so deep; the hole surges and objects floating on the surface eventually tend to get flushed out.
This is a wide section of the river, this is not the only hole in the vicinity. The bottom of Mile Long is full of holes, including one big wide one near the bottom on river-right called the "FBI Hole". However these have all been generally described as "very flushy" and unlikely to hold someone for long. There is also another raft-surfable hole just upstream of Evil Nasty, so people sometimes may mistake the Evil Nasty one as being surfable. (This hole upstream of Evil Nasty can also flip boats and rafts, depositing swimmers directly into the path of the bad hole.)
Above Big Nasty is a relative calm section that may draw paddlers towards the left side in an attempt to avoid the large boiling wave train down the center. However the short calm section ends with Evil Nasty Hole followed by a final ledge drop into a flat area on river-left. With several "mean" holes on the right, and Evil Nasty on the left, the cleanest line thru the bottom of Mile Long is generally straight down the boiling wave train in the center of the rapid (although it doesn't appear so from the approach). Some people prefer a right-of-center run as the currents sometime push you left and a larger safety-margin is preferred.
Some descriptions place this hole as much as a quarter-mile below the bottom of Mile Long Rapid. Others place it just before the end of the rapid. These differences are attributed to the lack of a definitive location as to the exact end of the rapid. (Depending upon water level, the characteristics of the rapid can change greatly.) However, below Mile Long the river gets wide and flattens out with a huge open area and eddy along river-left where paddlers and rafts stop and regroup. (This flat area is also immediately above a very recognizible long rock wall lining the left bank.) The problem hole is located on river-left a few dozen yards above the flat area with a narrow channel between it and the left bank. In a hard boat it is fairly easy to skirt the hole between it and the bank, but rafts tend to be drawn back into the hole when this is tried.
At very high levels (7000 CFS and higher) two really big wave-holes form in a row just right-of-center at the end of Mile Long. One kayak was stuck in one of these at 13,000 CFS for a reported 10 minutes until it was literally flipped into the air.
Upper Popular Hill Falls can be identified by a marked rock on river left. This rock is painted red and has a black insignia on it that looks like a flag or could be a "P". The rapid after this is Upper Popular. The river picks up the pace here, the rapid is much steeper then prior sections. Look out for a number of rocks and holes near the bottom. This rapid can be just as difficult as Lower Popular should you chose a poor route through the rapid. There is a large river wide hole at the bottom that can easily be punched.
Class IV above 5000 cfs. This is the biggest rapid on the river. The river channels to the left bank and drops through a long boulder and hole strewn path. Boat scouting is the easiest way to run. Lookout for a nice wave train that leads right into a hole at the top.
There was a fatality here in May 2016 where an adult raft passenger fell out of a raft when the raft tilted going thru a big breaking wave left-of-center in the first quarter of the rapid (about 50-100 yards above the Fry-o-lator hole). The passenger immediately went unresponsive after entering the ~45-degree water; and was pulled into the raft within a minute. No heartbeat was detected, CPR was started immediately and continued throughout the trip to the hospital. Swims are common in this rapid; there are no significant river features at the site of the accident that appear to pose an undue risk. The victim was wearing a full wet suit, but since this is the final rapid of a long 12-mile trip, exhaustion or cold are likely the most significant contributing factors to the accident.