Penobscot, S. Branch - Canada Falls Lake to Pittston Farm

Penobscot, S. Branch, Maine, US


Canada Falls Lake to Pittston Farm (Canada Falls)

Usual Difficulty III-V (for normal flows)
Length 3.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 45 fpm

The Face of Power

The Face of Power
Photo of Alex Harvey by Alex Harvey taken 05/15/87

River Description

Source: Greg and Sue Hanlon's Steep Creeks of New England, which has more info on this run. Text used with permission.

Located in the remote wilderness of northwestern Maine Canada Falls section of the South Branch of the Penobscot River is the latest success story for American Whitewater. The first summer recreational release occurred on Saturday July 2nd 2005. An agreement hammered out by AW director Tom Christopher with Brascan power, Plum Creek, and the Piscataquis and Penobscot Indian tribes guarantees releases every Saturday during July and August of each year for the next 50 years.

North Maine Woods Inc.

The Canada Falls section of the Penobscot lies in what is known as the North Maine Woods. North Maine woods is a consortium of private landowners (mostly paper companies), encompassing 3.5 million acres of working forest. It is rugged remote country many miles from the conveniences of modern day life. To get more information on access fees, gate locations and hours, camping information, etc. go to the North Maine Woods website.


It's not the easiest place to get to but the scenery is nice and the dirt roads are not too bad. You will want to start your trip into the small town of Rockwood Maine on the western shore of Moosehead lake.

To get to Rockwood 

  1. take exit 39 off of Interstate 95
  2. head north on ME 7
  3. In Dexter take a left and head north on ME 23
  4. In Guilford take a left and head north on ME 15/6
  5. This will take you to Greenville continue on ME 15/6 by taking a left in Greenville
  6. 15 miles will bring you into Rockwood
  7. Continue through the other side of town then stop at the Rockwood country store on the Moose river for supplies.


If you are coming up from the Forks area

  1. take ME 201 north to Jackman
  2. Take a right onto ME 15/6 to Rockwood
  3. It is approximately 50 miles from the Forks, there are other options to get here using logging roads but refer to the Maine atlas and Gazetteer for those options.

Once in Rockwood at the country store get all your supplies including food and gas up your vehicle there are very limited services within the North Maine Woods region.

From Rockwood to Canada Falls

  1. Approximately 23 miles to the put in
  2. From the country store head west ? mile then take a right on the bridge over the Moose river.
  3. Bear right on the otherside of the bridge, pavement will turn to a good dirt road within a mile.
  4. 20 miles on this road to the ?20 mile checkpoint? and gate run by a consortium of paper companies
  5. At the gate pay $8 per person per day ($5 Maine resident)
  6. Proceed towards Pittston Farm then take a left on Boyd road.
  7. About 1 mile you'll pass over the South Branch of the Penobscot, this is the take out
  8. After the bridge bang a left toward Canada Falls Dam and campground. This is the putin.


Camping at Canada Falls

Camp right a Canada Falls Lake Campground or use one of the DOC sites in the area. The one right at the Cabin Rapid is a personal favorite.

Rafting Outfitters on Canada Falls by Trip Advisor Score 

Rafting trips are provided on Canada Falls by the following outfitters:

Penobscot Adventures

Maine Rafting Expeditions

Northeast Guide Service

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-25 13:04:26


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.4Cabin RapidIV+Photo
2.0Upper Split DecisionIVPhoto
2.2Lower Split DecisionIVPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Surprise (Class IV+, Mile 0.8)

The Slide

The Slide
Photo of Tom Christopher by Mark Lacroix taken 07/02/05 @ 500 cfs

Probably the most visually intimidating drop on the river. As the river splits around a large island take the narrower right hand channel to the slack water just above a sharp horizon line. Take out on river right to scout or carry around. Just above the drop the two river channels meet once more then plunge over a slanted rock slab. The left side of the slide is a vertical wall that may be undercut. At the bottom of the slide the channel constricts to just about 20’ into a huge exploding boil. At higher levels a rather large keeper hole forms. The usual route is to start at the converging river channels above then run through the center of the slide down into the boil with a left lean as you hit the bottom of the slide. The rock slab on river right gradually angles down to the river bed forcing the water to push to the left creating the exploding boil at the bottom of the slide. Just below the boil there is a shallow spot followed by a large recovery pool.

Cabin Rapid (Class IV+, Mile 1.4)


Photo of Mark Lacroix by Sharon Lacroix taken 07/02/05 @ 500 cfs

After a fairly long section of class II and III water you may eye several exposed ledges protruding from river left. Take out in the large eddy on river left just above one of the ledges. Just downstream river left (and out of site from river level) is the South Branch campsite where you can access the river to scout before you run. The river drops sharply towards the right vertical river bank then takes a rather sharp left turn then drops over a two foot ledge into a very large keeper hole. The hole is nearly river wide with a passage on river left. Run the upper rapid directly to a river right eddy just below where the river hits the right bank and takes a hard left. You will need to be fairly aggressive to punch into this eddy. From the top of this eddy set up and execute a hard ferry to the river left eddy, once here it is a simple run to the left of the hole. Do not underestimate the power of the current here and get sucked downstream into the hole. Just after the slot the river splits around a midstream rock ledge then leads into a calm pool.

Upper Split Decision (Class IV, Mile 2.0)

Upper Split Decision

Upper Split Decision
Photo by Mark Lacroix taken 07/02/05 @ 500 cfs

Not far below SYBOF the calm water ends and you are once again in class II and III waters. A couple ledges and turns down and you will notice some rather large midstream rocks and obstructed passages. Pull out on river left and scout. The top of the rapid has a river wide hole, weakest on the left. Once past the hole the flow splits around a large midstream ledge, the left channel runs through a rather obstructed and shallow drop at the lower release levels. River left drops over an “L” shaped ledge easiest run on far river left. The more difficult line is up close to the midstream ledge where the flow piles up against and takes a sharp and steep left hand turn. I then drops into a two step drop with a trashy hole at the bottom of each. Do not hug up too close to the midstream ledge; at the bottom of the first step there is a large semi-submerged rock that may knock you back into the hole.

Lower Split Decision (Class IV, Mile 2.2)

Lower Split Decision

Lower Split Decision
Photo by Mark Lacroix taken 07/02/05 @ 500 cfs

This is really just the lower part of the same rapid. Shortly after the upper drop the river once again splits around some midstream ledges. The river left route has a steep drop by a large protruding ledge. Downstream from here the river is somewhat shallow at the lower release levels and requires some maneuvering to get through.

Megahole (Class IV, Mile 2.3)

Bill at Megahole

Bill at Megahole
Photo of Bill Smith by Mark Lacroix taken 07/02/05 @ 500 cfs

Towards the bottom Lower Split Decision there is a near river wide hole that is best run on the far left.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 11 2010 (2929 days ago)
Ryan GerryDetails
There is a gage available at The gage is never that accurate due
to the dam type but it will give you an idea. Also Brookfield's "Forecast" flow is very unreliable,
check the gage the morning you leave.

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

September 2013

Penobscot: Canada Falls
10:00 am -3:00 pm est

Penobscot: Canada Falls
10:00 am -3:00 pm est

Penobscot: Canada Falls
10:00 am -3:00 pm est


Penobscot: Canada Falls Rockwood,ME runs 07/05/08 - 09/21/13
[+] favorites

Associated News