Top Ten Kid-Tested Rivers

Saco River, Maine
By Buck Tilton

The Saco River, as it leaves New Hampshire and crosses southern Maine to the Atlantic coast, offers extraordinary family paddling opportunities. One of New England's cleanest waterways, the Saco's typically sandy bottom is an invitation to swim in summer. Tall trees shade numerous sandbar campsites. An abundance of put-ins and take-outs allow you to plan a trip as short as four miles or as long as 70 miles.

Twenty miles of river from Swans Falls near Fryeburg to the Brownfield Bridge on State Route 160 attracts the most paddlers, and summer weekends and holidays can be downright crowded. Brownfield Bridge to Hiram, about 14 miles, winds through peaceful countryside and sees medium use.

From Hiram to the coast at Biddeford, the Saco provides pleasant canoeing with scenic views for another 40 miles. The light use of this section is partially explained by the necessity of five short portages around dams, and the possibility of portages around a couple of rapids that can be treacherous at some water levels.


When: Fall, colored gloriously by the changing foliage, is an excellent time to see the Saco.

Canoe rentals are available. Permits are not required.

For more info: Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce, 180 Main Street, Biddeford, ME 04005; (207) 282-1567.


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