Saco River Kayak Camping Weekend
Kayaking/Canoeing DATE: 07/15/2016 - 07/17/2016
Trip/Event Location: Center Conway, NH
Trip Leader(s): Gandalf
Max # People: 100
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: Yes, but only to cover shared expenses, and I too am paying
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Using the Landing campground as our base for car camping, we can use rented kayaks to paddle a section of the Saco River each day. RSVP on the website and with Saco Bound as soon as possible as this...
From Boston, MA to Center Conway:
Take Rt. 95 North to Rt. 16 North, Spaulding Tpke.(exit 4 in Portsmouth, NH off 95) Follow Rt. 16 N for appx. 80 miles to the town of Conway, NH. From the lights in Conway, take Rt. 113 East for approximately 5 miles and Saco Bound will be on your right. Note: At the lights in Conway by the Irving gas station, Rt. 16 N. takes a sharp left. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS! Continue straight on Rt. 113 East which also becomes Rt. 302 East.
From Portland, ME to North Conway: Take route 302 West through Fryeburg. Go 2 miles west of the Maine/New Hampshire state line to Saco Bound, on your left.
To The Saco Bound Landing:
From Saco Bound, continue east on 113/302 into the town of Fryeburg, ME. Bare left on route 5 north. Continue about 3 miles and you will go over the Saco River at Canal Bridge. The Saco Bound Landing will be the first left just north of the bridge. Look for Cornshop Road. The entrance to the Landing is a small dirt road on the left marked by a sign. A permit is needed prior to camping at the Landing that you pick up once you register at the Saco Bound Base.
From New York City to North Conway:
Take I95 North to 91 North to 84 East to 90 east. Take Rt. 95 North to Rt. 16 North, Spaulding Tpke.(exit 4 in Portsmouth, NH off 95) Follow Rt. 16 N for appx. 80 miles to the town of Conway, NH. From the lights in Conway, take Rt. 113 East for approximately 5 miles and Saco Bound will be on your right. Note: At the lights in Conway by the Irving gas station, Rt. 16 N. takes a sharp left. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS! Continue straight on Rt. 113 East which also becomes Rt. 302 East.
This past weekend, we finally had the opportunity to do the Saco River of Maine with a group of members. If you’re looking for lots of rainbows and a pretty nature views – there is not much of it on this trip!
So to start, you first must understand what the Saco is. It is (in its most basic element) the Jersey Shore of the North from June to August every summer. It’s a frat party on steroids! Thousands and thousands of people [including eye candy] descend upon this once lovely river with an abnormal amount of beer, pool toys, dilapidated floating things, and absolutely no common sense. For any half-sane outdoorsy person, it’s somewhere between “People of Wal-Mart” and a full out horror movie. Or better yet… a car accident. You just have to stare and wonder what went wrong!
Phil arrived at the Saco Bound Landing Campground near Canal Bridge first and found this ideal campsite for our group…secluded, shady, and lots of room for our group. Not many sites had a picnic table and fire pit and got that too! As we were setting up we realized this campground did not have any running water so we had to make a run to the nearest store to buy a few half gallons of water.
As we waited for everyone to arrive, Jon and I took a swim in Saco River and sat in our beach chairs enjoying the sunshine! Mike got his paddle board on the river and did quite well given that it was his third time on it. Eventually everyone arrived, we cooked up dinner and enjoyed the comraderie that takes place beside a roaring fire. It was a beautiful night with almost a full moon.
Our plans for the weekend was to carpool to Saco Bound to pick our kayaks and paddle downstream 10.2 miles back to our campground. Then the next day we would hop back into our kayaks and continue a 7 mile paddle downstream to Walker’s Bridge where Saco Bound would pick us up and bring us back to their base.
When we woke up, Matt had to leave unexpectedly and drive to Connecticut due to a family emergency. Matt, we hope everything is OK. We missed you!
It turned out to be a beautiful day as we drove to Saco Bound to pick up our kayaks. We drove across the street to leave our vehicles, get our kayaks and put into the river. Unfortunately there was about a 45 minute delay because they did not have enough touring kayaks so we had to wait until they got more. You can almost instantly tell that you’re going to be in for some type of adventure spending 45 minutes at the launch looking at everyone getting the vessels into the water. In that short time we saw inflatable versions of the following: banana, alligator, swan, killer whale, and a few unidentifiable pool creatures.
After about 45 minutes of people watching and finally getting our kayaks, we finally pushed off. After about 30 minutes we started to get warm so we pulled into a sandy bar for a swim. The water temperature was perfect…warm but also refreshing!
Because we left later than expected, all the crowds were ahead of us so actually had sections of the river all to ourselves! We saw a lot people on the sandy beach at Weston’s Bridge and it appears this is where the tubers finish. After the Weston’s Bridge, we enjoyed the solitude of the river with views of the surrounding mountains. We even encountered a Great Blue Heron.
At the Swan’s Falls Dam, we had to portage around it. We saw a raft supported by two canoes with a gas grill, coolers full of beer, and chairs. This was just the beginning of what we would see next! Soon after we hopped into our boats we found the first sand bar for lunch and swimming.
It appears that during the portage while dragging the kayak, Jon’s kayak punctured in the rear so he had to stop a few times to drain it. I’m not really sure how to sum this next section up. It was just something. Hundreds and hundreds of drunks floating, singing, laughing, smoking pot, and having a great time! I had woman flash me her tits while other members saw a group of topless women swimming in the river.
We got to the dock of our campground around 4pm and it could not be soon enough for Jon who was paddling harder than the rest of us with his kayak filling up with water. We realized that Saco Bound was arriving for a shuttle pick up at 4:30pm so we waited and were able to swap Jon’s boat with another kayak that was being dropped off. Sweet! Back at our campsite we relaxed, had dinner and enjoyed another roaring campfire under nearly a full moon. We decided to join the crazies so we lit up some sparklers and each did a sparkler dance! It was funny enjoying everyone’s innovative and at times, sexual moves. Ummmmm….I tried my best to capture this in pictures.
It poured overnight with Phil breaking camp at the break of dawn before we even woke up. It was still pouring at 8AM and we were thinking about cancelling the kayak trip for Sunday. After coffee, it stopped raining so we walked to the river and saw a patch of blue sky. We decided to go ahead with the paddle and Sam decided to chill out the campsite. We now were down to the three musketteers: Rob, Jon and myself. Next time we'll bring our costumes and fit right in!
After paddling beneath Canal Bridge we saw the Fiddleheads campground with lots of tents. I’m not talking about a huge area here – it’s simply a beach a few hundred feet long. After a few more minutes of paddling we pulled into a sand bar for a refreshing swim.
We encountered more beaches with tents and smoldering campfires. We saw this amazing raft that was supported with 12 canoes, had three levels and included a water slide! This part of the river was fantastically loaded with downed trees, curved and was fun to navigate. We reached Walker’s Bridge at 11:30 am, got picked up by Saco Bound around 12:30pm to get brought back to Saco Bound, and then drove back to our campground to take down our tents.
The Saco is a good time with chock-full of drunk meatheads and eye candy that add to the experience. There were also a lot people like us, out for an enjoyable day on the river. We saw a lot of families with kids and everyone was cool.
We had an amazing camping weekend and it was great hanging out with fellow GO members. Loved kayaking on the Saco River…it felt like I was young again partying with my fraternity brothers! There is beautiful scenery on the river. Saco Bound does need improvement with making sure enough kayaks are on hand, how they charge people, and making sure they don't take kayaks by mistake...they took Sam's at our campground. That said, can’t wait to do it again!
Trip report and pictures by Mike
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