Monday, March 4, 2013

Saco River Camping – Center Conway to Hiram

I’d like to do a camping trip this fall, and I don’t think the Allagash trip with the RICKA crew is going to work out – too bad.  I' m thinking that one option would be to do easy trip on the Saco River in ME. Probably two nights, and mid-week to avoid all the crazies. Here is a trip that Doug suggested on NPMB from Swans Falls to Brownfield: 
The put in is at Swans Falls and first campsite is on the Old Course just below the covered bridge. The Saco has mile signs posted on trees and a sign for the Old Course - turn river left. Go up about a mile or so and just below the covered bridge on river right is a lean to.  It is private land but we have talked to the owners and they do not mind paddlers staying as long as it is clean when they leave.  From there, go back to the main channel and just above Pleasant Pond we found a nice site to hang out.  At Walkers Falls/Rip there is also an established camping area. I’m not sure who runs it as we never used it, but it is there, and in off-season we have never seen anyone there. Just saying! We have taken out in Hiram in the past but now use Brownfield - a good takeout. Going to Hiram the land is posted heavily and there are not many places to camp. From Swans to Brownfield is about 25 miles give or take.
Tommy did this one from Conway to Brownfield:
We did two nights - Hiram would make three.  We put in behind the Conway Police Station on Meetinghouse Road in Conway, NH.  The rips below were boney. Some folks lined those. We carried Swans Falls - I'll bring wheels next time. Took out at the Brownfield Bridge in Brownfield, ME  It was about 29 miles – would be another 13 to Hiram Bridge.
There are lots of options in terms of put-ins and take-outs, it's just a question of matching up the campsites.  According to the AMC Guide, you can park cars at Saco Bound on Rt. 302, at Swans Falls, at the Canal Bridge on Rte 5, at Walker’s Bridge on Rte 302, at the Brownfield Bridge on Rt. 160 and on the at the Saco Valley Garage in Hiram.  Distance from Rt. 302 in Center Conway is: 
  • Swans Falls - 10 miles
  • Canal Bridge – 14 miles
  • Old Saco – 17.5 miles
  • Walkers Bridge (Rt. 302) – 21 miles
  • Walker’s Falls – 23.5 miles
  • Lovewell’s Pond – 25.5 miles
  • Brownfield Bridge (Rt. 160) – 30 miles
  • Hiram Bridge – 43 miles
Paid campsites along the river include:
Fiddlehead which is right on the river looks cool, and there is always free camping along the river as well.  One trip suggested by the Saco Canoe Rental Company is Canal Bridge to Hiram (3 Days, 2 Nights; 26 miles):
Start at Canal Bridge and paddle 8 miles to the more secluded Walker’s Falls Camping Area. This small campground offers porta-toilets, fire rings and a swim hole. On your second day you can paddle 10 miles and stop at Shannon’s Sanctuary for a full service campground. ($30 for river front site)  Day 3 would include an 8-mile paddle to Hiram to finish your trip.
Here are a couple of ideas that I had:
Start at Rt. 302 in Center Conway and paddle 14 miles (with a portage at Swan Falls) to the riverside campsites at Fiddlehead. On the second day paddle 10 miles to the Walker’s Falls Camping Area (with a side trip up the Old Course). On the third day paddle 7 miles and take out at the Brownfield Bridge (Rt. 160).  An easier overnight trip would be to put in at Swans Falls and Paddle 13 miles to Walker’s Falls.  On the second day paddle 7 miles to Brownfield Bridge (Rt. 160).
Looks nice, and since I've never been up there, using an outfitter for the shuttle and reserving sites would make things easier.  There are several outfitters include:
Water Levels:

100 - 450 cfs - very slow moving water 

450 – 1000 cfs - gentle current
1000 - 1200 cfs - quicker water
1200 - 1600 cfs - easy rapids

 Plenty of time to think about it.


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