Nesowadnehunk Stream, Maine, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||155 fpm|
Source: Greg and Sue Hanlon's Steep Creeks of New England, which has more info on this run. Text used with permission.
Directions: From Millinocket, drive NW to Baxter State Park. Unfortunately, the roads are
closed in the Spring. Guess when the Nesowadnehunk Stream usually runs! Sooooo...carry upstream
from the confluence with the West Br. Penobscot. Bowater Company owns the road along the West
Branch of the Penobscot (the Golden Road) and may charge an access fee to enter this area. Park
in the pulloff at Nesowadnehunk Falls and put in on the West Branch Penobscot. Paddle down to the
confluence with the Nesowadnehunk Stream. Hike 2.5 miles upriver on the Appalachian Trail to an
old dam site above Little Niagara Falls. Here's the putin.
Takeout: drive downstream from Nesowadnehunk Falls until the logging road joins the West Branch Penobscot at the Abol Deadwater. This is a convenient takeout.
If you're lucky enough to find the park roads open, enter the park at the Togue Pond Gate and bear left at the first fork. Follow this road past Tracy Pond. Take a left toward the Daicey Pond Campground; put in along this road.
River Description by Nate Warren:
Nesowadnehunk Stream flows down Mount Katahdin into the Penobscot River, directly below Nesowadnehunk rapid on the Penobscot. Depending on whether the roads through the park are open, the run can be hiked up, driven up through Baxter State Park, or accessed via the Golden Road on river right. This last option uses side logging roads off of the Golden Road to access the river, and the Delorme Gazetteer for Maine does not always match the passable roads on the ground.
If you are driving in, especially via the Golden Road, there is a good chance you will put in well above the first major rapid, Little Niagara. The few miles above are largely flat, meandering stream with the occasional rapid, including one longer class 4 drop.
Little Niagara is a large slide with a confusing and tumultuous entrance. The left side of the slide has more rocks than water, and the far right side has a narrow slot that your boat might not fit through. The center right, just left of the sieve/slot, finishes with a glorious boof into the calm water.
Shortly below Little Niagara is Big Niagara, a two-tiered 30(ish) foot drop. This one has a long class 3-4 entrance and a large do-not-miss eddy on the left directly above the drop. The hardest part about this drop is lining it up. Sitting atop the drop, there are no distinguishing characteristics to help figure out where to enter the falls. Enter too far left and risk pitoning, enter too far right (not far from too far left) and get thrown with the current onto the right shelf. Boaters who manage to enter in the right spot can get a great boof down the center to clear the hole at the bottom and find their way into eddies on the left and the right. Boaters who mess up the entrance will also end up down the center, though how they get there may be a little less pleasant.
The rapids below Big Niagara are the best class 4(+) slides in New England. If you know there is no wood, or have a local guide, all of them can be run blind. They are generally long, smooth, fast and fun.
Nesowadnehunk Stream is the closest thing to California (but without potholes!) that I have found east of the Mississippi. Generally speaking, I would not recommend making the commitment to heading into Nesowadnehunk Stream from 8 hours away (it is WAY up in Maine, and water levels are difficult to determine), unless you are feeling ready to take on the two big drops - which are larger in terms of vertical and volume than anything found in southern New England. That being said, combining a high water Gulf Hagas run with a top to bottom Nesowadnehunk may just lead to the best weekend ever.