Friday, July 2, 2010

Kennebec River from Augusta

Why do the sturgeon jump from the water? No one really knows, but we were headed to the Kennebec to see the fish jump. It’s always a hit or miss proposition, and we’ve never had any luck getting our kids to see them.
Usually we see the fish on the seventeen mile Fort to Fort paddle, but we didn’t participate in that this year. The Fort to Fort commemorates Benedict Arnold's attack on Quebec, but goes in the easy direction. He went upstream; the Fort to Fort paddle goes downstream, a much easier proposition.
There are other attractions Augusta, however sturgeon were our goal, an evening adventure was our plan. I’ve heard sturgeon jump most in the evening, so ideally we would enjoy a dinner at Panera and paddle.
We launched from the East Side Boat launch, which is tucked behind Fort Western off Howard Street. All the parking there is deep spaces which allow trailers. There are restrooms, but the stalls don’t have doors and on multiple occasions the toilets have been toilet paper free and clogged with paper towels. These are clearly restrooms which cry out for air dryers. I didn’t even check them on this visit; we just planned on them not being available.

The East Side Boat Launch

The sturgeon were jumping, I saw them even as we got our kayaks ready to launch. But we never had a fish jump when we were near and the largest fish we saw was only three feet long.
I don’t know if we were just unlucky or if this reflected a reduced sturgeon population. Last year we had six solid weeks of rain and several sturgeons were found dead at the mouth of the Kennebec.
We launched at about 5:30PM, high was supposed to be 7:30PM. As a note, that high was five hours behind Bangor’s high, so it was definitely worth checking the tide charts. If I was doing it again, I would launch closer to high, as at the old dam site it took everything we had to make it through. As we drifted back we saw the water was just enough higher to level out that passage. Not that the current disappeared. No matter how far you plan to go, upstream first would be a good idea.
We went upstream and made it beyond the route 3 bridge, which was our goal. There were some shallow sections, some fast moving sections, and some shallow fast moving sections. There were a few eagles, lots of osprey and up to four herons hanging out together. The herons would be outnumbered by osprey on the downstream trip (much faster) when seven osprey circled above.

Since we were sure of our paddling abilities we continued on down as far as the old Maine Insane Asylum. It was a stately gray building, with heavy screens on the windows, and looked to be totally abandoned.

We saw jumping sturgeon primarily between the bridges. In truth, it would have been just as easy to sit on the shore and watch for them. But it was more fun to get out on the water and beat our way upstream, while we worked off some of our dinner.
Some great shots of Kennebec Sturgeon.

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