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Difficulty II-IV
Length 12.5 Miles
Gauge Mattawamkeag River near Mattawamkeag, Maine
Flow Range 300 - 25000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 3 weeks ago 1390 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/15/2003 5:59 am

River Description

The following was posted on the NPMB by "pjbuehner" on 5/13/03

Went to the Mattawamkeag today. It was at 6250cfs last night but I think it was down to about 5800 or 5900cfs by the time we got on it today. The road is open except that the campground caretaker had to leave so he locked the gate at the park. It is easy to park at the gate and hike down the power line to put in. It means that you miss the initial Class 3 warm up option but no big deal. There really are only three signficant rapids on this river at the level today. Quite a bit of flat water separates them but it is moving quickly and goes by without a problem.
First up is Slewgundy heater, a gorge that is about 1/4 mile long. this reminded me of the Kennebec that had some obstacles thrown in to make it interesting. The lead in is a wide channel right of a small island. I eddied out right and Keenan and Mike hit the left eddy under the island. With about another 2 or 3 thousand CFS I think I would have been sitting in a large whirlpool.
Play on the wave part way down that channel then eddy out one more time river right. Ferry into the middle splitting two little holes and then ride a big wave train to the end.
There are lots of funky currents and diagonal waves that make it much more interesting than it sounds. the only big feature was over on river left (big hole) but I don't think even that would hold you (didn't test my theory) 1/4 mile of flat and then Upper Gordon. We eddied right to scout it since guidebooks put it somewhere between class3/4 to 5+
It wasn't near class V at these levels but then again we made our lines. Basically right of center to an eddy right. Peel out high and catch a little curler to surf you to the center of the river. Come in behind a big exploding wave, then look down into a huge trough. Hit the line right and your right hip hugs a hole and you Ride a monster Big Mamaesque wave that immediately is followed by another wave with a good foam pile on top. Keenan reassured me that the only really nasty stuff was on river left. "Nothing would hold you over here Peter" So as he casually came down as number 2 (I was in the eddy right already)and missed the eddy I figured he was trying to prove his point. Well once he missed the eddy (he thought it was going to be easier to catch) he really got his boogie on to get left. In my estimation, there was really one line to run if you were out in the business. River left has a couple of huge pourovers that block that side. river right is one long pourover with lots of water going over it. No thanks to either one. I also think there might be a sneak route extreme left but we didn't look. So, it seemed that he was too far right. From the eddy you can't see what is happening as the drop is too big. So apparently he practiced his roll about four times but got just far enough left to avoid a good spanking (he swears he wouldn't have) Mike and I had clean drops. Just this one rapid-when you are riding the lip of a wave with a monster hole beside you and get a clean run is so exhilarating. It makes the relative lack of whitewater so worth it.
Lower Gordon was a straight forward left to right wave train avoiding the big purover at the top right.
Casual paddle in quickwater to the trucks and home. Nice day, beautiful river, no one else within sight. No houses lining the banks, good friends
See you out there
If anyone is curious, at this level I think that it is a class 3/4 run. the water in Slewgundy is definitely funky but the right side is quite easy to manage
Upper Gordon has a big line to hit and it's pretty easy to get to if you can use the water to help you. Missing it would not be fun at all.

The following was posted on the NPMB by "mikejohnson" on 5/14/03

"I ran it at 15,000 in late April..." and it didn't seem that much different than you described. We had to run the whole 12 mile section, but since the water was howling it wasn't that bad. The Heater section was pulsing like crazy, but things were pretty much avoidable. I agree that several of the holes on the left were terrible. I was out of breath at the end due to manuvering around things. Killer surf wave at the end.
Gordon also sounds similar. We ran it center right to center left trying to skirt the monster wave holes. Neither of us got left fast enough and got a pretty good whitewash. This drop really reminds me of Locsha Falls in ID. The power of the water was remarkable for an Eastern River.
The place I has the most trouble was at lower Gordon. I let my guard down and hit the left hole sideways and had to surf a minute before endering out and rolling up.
I had a great time on this river. It was raining that day and we just couldn't think of anyplace I would rather be on a rainy day. Lots of flatwater, but the drops were so unique to Maine.
I really can't rate rivers that well, but I would say at 15k it was a solid 4,maybe a hair higher due to the length of the Heater drop. I could be way off though, I have only run a few class 5 drops.

Rapid Descriptions

Wilderness Camp Put in

Class - II Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

At the end of the Wilderness Camp road you will find Wilderness Camps (imagine that). Stop at the check in point, the website says boaters will be charged for use of the road and put in but I have never been, just buy a muffin or cookie from them and they are usually happy. If you hike about 150 yards up river from where the people at the check in tell you to park you can catch a small warmup rapid. If you put on in Kingfield appartently there is one more rapid you can catch called "Rams Head". Apparently this is an excellent surf spot but I have never thought all the extra flat water was worth the play.


Class - III Mile - 1.4
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The heaters initially lead into a small gorge where tricky boil lines can throw you for a loop. At extremely high waters (above 20,000cfs) the water can pulse 4 or 6 feet up and down the walls. Either side of the island on this section is passable. There is a small wave that can be surfed near the top of the river left side of the island. Once the gorge opens up the challenging part of the heaters begins. Because the river can be run at such a variance of levels it is difficult to say which line is the easiest. Typically if you stay right to center right things are safe but there are fun lines all over. You can get a real bird's eye view of everything from the scenic outlook on the Wilderness Camp road.

Upper Gordon

Class - IV Mile - 3.2

Upper Gordon is certainly the most intimidating rapid at any level. It is essentially a class 3-4 drop into a huge wave/hole. To the river right is typically a nasty pour over and the left can consist of many unpleasant things at most levels. Run center right until you pass the worst the left has to offer then start making your way river left. If done right you can slip into the huge eddy on the left after the main falls. This is deceivingly difficult to do. Many choose to hit the wave instead for a more intense ride, there is little worry of recirculation and the river is plenty deep at most levels. If catch the left hand eddy, surf the last wave and don't forget to look upriver at the falls you just conquered. This section is easily scouted from the Wilderness Camp road.

Lower Gordon

Class - III Mile - 3.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This rapid is easily scoutable from the Wilderness Camp road also. There is a big angle hole on the right that is easily avoidable and a nasty hole center left at the end when the river is above 7000cfs. There is an excellent play spot right next to the island on river left. Around 3000cfs its a fun little surf hole but around 8000 its a fast and bouncy wave. The problem is as the water gets high the eddy gets harder to catch and around 7000 cfs the hole behind it becomes a problem especially if you miss the eddy. The wave improves with more water but so do the consequences. This location can be used as a take out if you don't want to float the next 4 miles into town assuming the Wilderness gate is open.


Gage Descriptions

According to "Appalachian Whitewater" Volume III minimum runable level is 300 cfs.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Bellows Falls (VT) Flow Study Reveals Hidden Whitewater

Robert Nasdor

A hardy group of northeast boaters climbed into the natural river channel below a hydropower dam to participate in a flow study designed to assess whether whitewater flows should be restored to this dewatered river reach on the Connecticut River. While significant obstacles remain, this site has the potential for providing instruction, playboating, and a big water feature that that could be run throughout much of the year and provide a much needed boost to the local economy. 

article main photo


Nick Lipowski


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190623 05/15/03 n/a n/a