Fletcher Mountain Outfitters -
Kennebec Ferry Service 2011 Final Report
I am happy to report that the 2011 Ferry season has come to a close without major injury or incident of any kind. We had a very good season, with high hiker numbers. Due to work being done at Wyman Dam, and also on Central Maine Power Company’s transmission lines south of Bingham, there were a few interesting days on the River. At times, due to fluctuating power production, water levels were either higher or lower than predicted, proving once again the dangers of the Kennebec. Because of extremely heavy rains, there was also a day and a half, from the afternoon of September 7, through the afternoon of September 8, when the Ferry Service was completely shut down. It simply was not safe to be on the River. There were also several days when several of the streams north of the Kennebec were simply uncrossable. Thankfully, most hikers were able to manage the delay without too much inconvenience, but it proves once again that those who hike in Maine should prepare for anything. The ones who carry ‘just enough’ food, minimal equipment, or are on a very tight schedule, are the ones who have trouble.
During the 2011 season, which ran from May 27, through October 10, Fletcher Mountain Outfitters safely ferried 1,397 hikers across the Kennebec, plus a few day hikes who made two trip across in the same day.
The final numbers for the season break down as follows:
Southbound through hikers, 209
Northbound through hikers, 591
Flip Flop through hikers, heading south when they crossed the River, 54
Flip Flop through hikers, heading north when they crossed the River, 12
Section hikers, 502
Day use hikers, 29
Total hikers using the Ferry Service during the 2011 season, 1,397
We also took 22 dogs, 1 cat, and 1 goat across the River this season.
These numbers include three hikers who were taken across after the regular season ended on October 10. There still seems to be some confusion over this late season service, with several hikers nearly demanding to be taken across the River, not only in late October, but also through November, and even into early December. They do not seem to realize that late season service is only available through October, and then only time and weather permitting. They seem to simply expect me to show up when they call. They also do not seem to understand that late season service is not underwritten by the ATC, and that hikers need to pay for service at this time of year. This is a situation which will likely need to be addressed in the future.
As in seasons past, a small minority of hikers chose to ford the River this year. Although there may have been a few more, I can confirm that 14 hikers forded the Kennebec this year. This is about average. Every year we seem to get about one percent of the total who cross the River without the Ferry Service. Thankfully, there were no [reported] fatalities. However, at least one hiker very nearly died. I didn’t see him cross, but I did get a chance to speak to him a day or two after his crossing. He told me that he wasn’t sure why he was still alive, and after hearing his story, from his own mouth, I’m still wondering myself why he didn’t drown.
Again this year, the Ferry Service benefited from the dedication and experience of Registered Maine Guide, Craig Dickstein. Craig worked an average of one day per week on the Ferry Service. Craig’s skills, and his knowledge of the trail, have made him a great asset to the Ferry Service for the last several years. Also this year, the Ferry Service benefited from the knowledge and skill of long time Ferry Operator, Steve Longley. Steve came back in 2011 to fill in on a few occasions, and I am grateful for his help.
While we didn’t have any major incidents at the Ferry Crossing this year, it is worth mentioning that there were several accidents along the trail near the River, where the Ferry Service was enlisted to help.
In one case, I received a call from a hiker who was traveling with another hiker who had a severe foot problem. This hiker was stuck at Bald Mountain Pond with toenails that were falling off. He could not even put his boots on. They expected that ‘The Ferryman would bring a boat.’ I explained that I did not have a boat that was suitable for the job at hand, and I put the hiker in touch with the Maine Warden Service. I am told that the Warden’s made a successful rescue, by boat.
In another case, we had a hiker fall and break an ankle between the Pierce Pond Road and the River. Thankfully, the hikers just behind him were trained medical personnel, and were able to stabilize him while his partner came on to the Ferry. I sent him to the Post Office in Caratunk, where Postmaster Marie Beane was able to call emergency crews. It was a long afternoon, but with help from other hikers, a crew from the Pleasant Ridge Fire Department was able to carry the hiker to a waiting ambulance near Pierce Pond.
The third incident was much sadder. I was contacted one afternoon by the Maine Warden Service. They were looking for personal information on a hiker who had crossed the River heading south. Thanks to the release forms that we require every hiker to fill out, I was able to give them the man’s name, home address, and tell them when he crossed the River, as well as where he came from and where he was headed. Unfortunately, I was told that the hiker was deceased. The information provided by the Ferry Service helped the Warden Service to determine the time and the nature of the incident. It appears that the hiker simply misplaced his foot, and took a bad fall. A very sad situation, and a reminder to us all.
We are looking forward to a much safer year on the trail in 2012. Next Years schedule shapes up as follows:
May 25 – July 12 9 am to 11 am only
July 13 – September 30 9 am to 11 am and also 2 pm to 4pm
October 1 – October 8 9 am to 11 am only
As always, we will be “on call” time and weather permitting, during early May and late October. Hikers should call well in advance if they want to try to cross the River during these early and late season periods. They should also remember that there is a good chance that service simply will not be available before or after the regular season, and that all early/late season crossings cost $50 per crossing. [One or two hikers per crossing.]
Looking forward to next season,
David P. Corrigan
Registered Maine Master Guide
Fletcher Mountain Outfitters
82 Little Houston Brook Road
Concord Twp., Maine 04920