Kennebec River Ferry Service
The Kennebec River is the most formidable un-bridged crossing along the entire 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail.
The Kennebec is approximately 70 yards wide with a swift, powerful current under the best of circumstances. However, as a result of releases of water from hydro facilities upstream, the depth and current of the river surge quickly and unpredictably. You cannot cross faster than the water level rises
DO NOT ATTEMPT
ATC is in the process of securing a new ferry service for the Kennebec River crossing
and will have the service available for the 2016 hiking season. – Updated 2-3-16
MATC thanks David Corrigan for his help with this essential service over the past several years.
The following will be updated once a new service is in place.
- This ferry service — not fording — is the officially sanctioned means of crossing the Kennebec River on the Appalachian Trail. The A.T. was located here originally because of the existence of a ferry to provide access to Pierce Pond for visiting sportsmen.
- Hikers must meet the ferry on either the east or west banks of the Kennebec River at the point of the AT crossing. If the ferry is on the opposite side, a signal flag will be provided to alert the ferry operator.
- Hikers will be required to sign a release form, wear a life jacket, and follow the instructions of the ferry operator. If river conditions or weather make the crossing dangerous in the judgment of the ferry operator, the service will be discontinued until conditions improve.
- Large groups please call ahead to indicate when you will need the ferry service. No camping and no fires are permitted within the Trail corridor on either side of the Kennebec River. Camping and fires are permitted only at designated campsites.
- This service is provided only for users of the Appalachian Trail and is not available to the general public.
Fletcher Mountain Outfitters
I am happy to report that the 2015 Ferry season has come to a close without injury or incident of any kind related to the Ferry Service. However, there were several incidents at the Kennebec this year, which I will touch on below.
We had a record number of hikers this year.
The final numbers for the season break down as follows:
- Southbound through hikers, 307
- Northbound through hikers, 1,007
- Flip Flop through hikers, heading south when they crossed the River, 83
- Flip Flop through hikers, heading north when they crossed the River, 68
- Southbound section hikers, 331
- Northbound section hikers, 360
- Day use hikers, 25
- Total hikers using the Ferry Service during the 2015 season, 2,181
- We also took 35 dogs across the River this season.
- Confirmed Forders/Swimmers, 43
- Confirmed hikers who crossed with private boaters, instead of waiting for the Ferry service, at least 20
According to my conversations with hikers, shuttle providers, and my own observations, we also had a large number [somewhere between several dozen and several hundred] of North bound hikers who hitch hiked or shuttled completely around the Kennebec district this year.
As in seasons past, a small minority of hikers chose to ford the River this year.
I confirmed 43 forders, and suspect there were probably several more. This is the highest number [and also the highest percentage of total hikers] to ford the Kennebec since we began keeping records.
Last year we had the lowest total number of forders in our recorded history, and this year it is just the opposite. I believe this can be attributed to several factors. We had a totally different type of hiker on the trail this year. The attitude that rules and safety warning simply didn’t not apply to them was quite prevalent among this years class of thru hikers. We also had some record low water on many days, due to work on a dam downstream. This encouraged more people to try their luck against the River. Also, the number of idiots writing false information about the relative safety of crossing the Kennebec, both in shelter logs and online, seemed to be higher this year. Many hikers seem to be getting their information primarily from social media rumors, instead of researching facts. An alarming number of hikers told me this year that they had never even seen our schedule or safety warnings, even though they are in every guide book, posted on line, and are also posted in every shelter in Maine. This is an area where we will need to work harder in the future to ensure that hikers are getting the right information. We also had many hikers who simply did not want to wait during our lunch break, or wait in line while we were in operation, so they forded, or attempted to ford, the River. This is going to be a huge problem in the future if hiker numbers continue to rise, and especially if large numbers of those hikers are new to the hiking community, as seems to be the current trend.
There were several incidents with hikers nearly drowning this year while attempting to ford, including one that had to be rescued by another hiker outside of Ferry Service hours. There were also several incidents of hikers being severely intoxicated when they reached the River. Many hikers, both stoned and sober, refused to fill out release forms. As per my contract with the ATC and my insurance requirements, these hikers were not allowed to get in the canoe until the form was filled out. There were no instances of a hiker refusing to do the paperwork, and then fording, but there were several instances of hikers becoming belligerent when asked to fill out the release form. We were able to keep things calm and get everyone across safely. After nine years of doing this job full time, I can tell you—the ‘average hiker’ on the Trail these days is not the same kind of person that they were just a few years ago. This is something that the entire A.T. Community is going to need to be aware of as the number of users increases.
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 many years.
This is the part where I generally outline the times/dates for next season. I can not do that at this time. Our numbers this year were up about 15% over last years numbers, and last year was a record year, as well. With the attention that the A.T. is getting in theaters and in the media, numbers will certainly be higher next year. This year we often ran at, or even above capacity, for the scheduled hours. During the course of the season, I personally put in several hours of un-paid over time to make sure that everyone got across the River safely this year.
It has become apparent that we have reached a tipping point, and the old schedule simply will not work in the future. If the Kennebec Ferry Service is to continue to provide safe, reliable, and adequate service for the growing number of Hikers on the Trail, we will need to increase both the hours and the manpower for future seasons. I have already made this clear in my periodic updates to the ATC/MATC. I will be putting together a proposal and a schedule shortly that I hope will address the concerns that we all have.
I am very proud of our long tradition of safety and service at the Kennebec Ferry, and I am looking forward to working with the ATC and MATC to ensure that this Service grows with the times and continues to provide excellent service to the Hiking Community for years to come.
Looking forward to next season,
David P. Corrigan
Donations to help defray the cost of providing the Ferry Service are welcome.
Click the Donate Now Link or
Send your donation to the MATC, P.O. Box 283, Augusta, ME 04332.