If you’re already on this page you’ve discovered an epic new whitewater canoe race in northern Maine. I wanted to tell the story of how this all got started. It starts in a little cabin in a place known as raft camp in a small town called Oak Hill, West Virginia.
2021 marked the beginning of the 5 years long FERC re-licensing process of the lower West Branch of the Penobscot. Included in this project is the notorious section of the Penobscot commercially rafted by many outfitters and which holds the legendary class V rapids of the Ripogenus Gorge and Cribworks. This project also contains two lesser-known reaches of the Penobscot River, “the backchannel” and Millinocket Stream.
Back to southern Appalachia at raft camp in the little cabin. I was working as a raft guide for the Gauley season after a long summer of managing and raft guiding on the Penobscot. When the first round of comments from the public concerning the Lower West Branch was to be accepted by FERC. I decided to contribute my two cents because when this re-licensing project is over, all the rules and regulations that were determined during the process will sit in place for the next 30 years.
In writing these comments I spent a lot of time asking for flow studies to take place between Ripogenus Dam and McKay Hydro Station. Which holds a mile-long stretch of high-quality heart-pumping class V whitewater. When it came time to write about the whitewater qualities of Millinocket Stream, Nostalgia swept over me as I reflected on my early days of whitewater kayaking in 2011/2012 and the awe and excitement I felt on those journeys up the Staceyville Road to run what we called the Millinocket X-Stream. These early runs on the stream significantly contributed to a personal lifelong passion for whitewater boating that is allowing me to live a happy fulfilled life. In the end, I just want more people to experience those same feelings on Staceyville Road and on the Millinocket Stream, especially young people.
While writing about Millinocket Stream it dawned on me that it seemed to be an ideal venue for a very unique, high-level, canoe race. Unique in the fact that racing the stream would comprise of not just navigating a small handful of rapids followed by long sections of flat water. But competitors would face many class II/II+ drop pool rapids for about 4 miles which then culminates in a long ¾ mile long class II/III rapid known as Turtle Pit, with a 2ish mile sprint of flatwater/quick water to the finish line in downtown Millinocket. I realized this stretch of river will keep the most veteran racers busy picking their lines while more amateur paddlers will be tested and challenged in their river running skills in a relatively friendly environment.
So began the process of piecing together a canoe race and what it would take to get a race going. I have hit the ground running and the presence of this website proves the progress the race has made since raft camp last fall. Ultimately we want more people paddling this beautiful stretch of river, especially young people. That is why The Millinocket X-Stream Canoe Race has partnered up with the Outdoor Sports Institute to hopefully in the future raise money for organizations that help local and indigenous youth get the skills and equipment they need to recreate in the Katahdin Region. Hope to see you on race day.