Peter Macfarlane's 2023 Solo Paddle of a Circuit of the Androscoggin, Kennebec and Dead Rivers
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft


Day 8

21.6 miles

Sunday 28th May

Fairfield ME - Norridgewock ME


Day 8 route on Google Earth imagery

The dawn chorus woke me soon after 4:00 am, and the pleasant temperature soon had me up for a leisurely breakfast. Putting in at the northern tip of the island, where I had taken out, ensured that I would not have to ascend the last ledge in that part of the rapids for a second time. I ferry-glided across to my right, river-left, where the ascent of the remaining rapids looked easier. Apart from one part which I waded, where speed and depth of water defeated me, the rest of this section of rapids responded to paddles and poles, selected as necessary, and soon I was winging my way farther up this spectacular valley, leaving Fairfield far behind. The sky was cloudless once more, and, as yet, there was no wind, a welcome relief.

Looking back at my camping island

Kennebec valley

Even with the rapids, it took only an hour to reach Shawmut Dam, 2.8 miles distant. The carry here, although not signed, was well maintained, and above the dam the slack water allowed good progress without working hard. At the Hinckley boat launch I left the canoe and wandered up the road to the general store, being pleasantly surprised to find it open on Memorial Day weekend. My supply of jerky was running low, so I topped up with a couple of Slim Jims, a protein source to tide me over until my re-supply in Bingham a couple of days hence. I was also pleased to pick up a breakfast roll and to top up my water bottle.

Slack water above Shawmut Dam

Opposing current again

The next 8 miles to Skowhegan were beautiful. The temperature rose into the eighties (F) and the wind picked up mid-morning, although its direction was erratic. The final approach to Skowhegan was against some strong current before finally depositing me at the take-out near the waste water plant opposite Great Eddy. The trail leading to the Debe Trail system was unclear, and substantially blocked by fallen trees. Clearly this is not regularly maintained. Once in the Debe Trail system, the going was clear and brought me out, after a steep climb, to the road. Here I made a navigational error. Rather than checking my notes, I relied on memory, and turned right over the footbridge. Unfortunately this was not the Route 2 bridge that I had planned to take, so I was then discombobulated, and had to ask for directions more than once in order to find Island Dairy, the ice cream kiosk.

Once there, though, and with my bearings once more in order, I sat and ate lunch, topped off with an ice cream. A carefully posed selfie allowed me to exaggerate the size of the ice cream. As was typical of any town in Maine, a number of people stopped to talk, attracted by the canoe. Then, my water bottle once more topped up, I set off upstream towards Norridgewock. The wind had finally settled on a direction: southwest. And it had settled on a speed: 15-20 mph. This ensured that the next 5 miles were tougher than I had hoped, a more or less straight shot to the southwest with little chance of shelter.

Skowhegan Dam ...

... and gorge, from the footbridge

First of the trip

Above Skowhegan Dam

It was a little after 4:00 pm when I pulled into Oosoola Park in Norridgewock, reasonably tired. A quick scan of the park revealed few camping opportunities, together with a sign saying ‘No Overnight Use’. Regardless, I staked out a couple of trees by the parking for boat trailers, planning to wait until everyone had disappeared for the day before putting up my hammock. After killing some time relaxing in the shade of a large maple tree, I checked out the Mill Stream, a body of water that flows just behind the park and joins the Kennebec a little farther downstream. Just below the bottle redemption centre was some mown grass and a pair of perfectly spaced trees. This would be much more secluded. I resolved to move here later.

It was dusk as I set up camp and cooked a meal on the wood-stove, breaking pieces of cut brush to serve as fuel. I also exchanged further texts with Bob Donovan, and tentatively arranged to meet at Evergreen's Campground in Solon the next evening. Last night it was the blackflies that had put in an appearance. Tonight it was the turn of the mosquitoes. There must have been a recent hatch, and they were all ravenous.


Website design & Photography © Peter Macfarlane

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