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The Kennebec River Ferry on the Appalachian Trail

The Kennebec River Ferry on the Appalachian Trail
The Kennebec River Ferry on the Appalachian Trail

Northbound hikers on the Appalachian Trail reach the Kennebec River at mile 2037.6 (as of 2015.) This is the widest unbridged water crossing on the trail, 70 yards wide, with a swift and powerful current. As a result of upstream damn releases, the depth and current of the river can surge quickly and unpredictably. One hiker is known to have died trying to cross the river by themselves and many others have had very close calls.

Hikers arriving between May 22 and October 12 are provided with a free canoe ferry ride provided by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. The ferry service and not fording is the officially sanctioned way to cross the Kennebec River on the Appalachian Trail.

The Kennebec River Warning Sign
The Kennebec River Warning Sign

Early and late season service is also provided from May 1 to May 21 and from October 13 to October 31 for $50 per crossing, on an on-call and weather permitting basis. Crossing conditions outside of those dates become increasingly dangerous due to the onset of winter conditions in Maine, so section and thru hikers should plan their hikes so that they cross the Kennebec during the regular ferry operating season.

For information about ferry dates and times, see the MATC Kennebec Ferry Schedule Page.

Crossing the Kennebec by canoe is rather cool, actually. It’s pretty much the only time you can get someone else to transport you along the Appalachian Trail and still have the distance, even if it is just 70 yards, count toward your 2000 miler application

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  1. Do I need to tip the ferryman?

  2. I looked at some video of that crossing and there’s no way in the world I’d attempt to ford it on foot. I swim like a fish but have no desire to sleep with them.

  3. Ferry is for section hikers, real thru-hikers walk across.

  4. I was a 1973 SOBO thru-hiker. My kids both thru-hiked (2000 and 2004) and got me revved up to do a 15-year section hike that ended last year. My first hike required that I ford the Kennebec conventionally. Apparently that ford was somewhat upstream from where the canoe crosses now. They floated pulpwood in the afternoon, so we camped on the riverbank and braved the mid-thigh deep water the next day with our boots on. It was uneventful, but it was also among the more dangerous moments of my thru-hike. We got a kick out of the canoe crossing last year. The ferryman was pleasant and skilled. Within a few days, I hit the highway crossing near Monson which completed my section hike. I had done Katahdin and the hundred miles with my daughter in 2004. Kudos to the MATC!

  5. If you are going to arrive after October 12, is it possible to have someone else canoe you across (my brother ilves nearby)?

  6. It is not just tide that is a danger or risk of death. There is a young man who died here due to an extreme change in temperature. Even though his whole body was not submerged and even though it may be “uneventful” and seemingly able to be crossed, not every body can handle temperature change the same way especially if you never dunk your head. His body seized up and he went into shock and drowned. I think he maybe experienced cardiac arrest. I am sure you can Google it..

    I feel bad that I cannot remember his name, but you will see posters that his family has placed for awareness. His death is a tragedy and he was very young and fit. It just is not a risk worth taking and it ruins everyone else’s day and makes an unnecessary job having to go retrieve bodies when you could have just planned for the ferry.

    Just be smart. You do not have anything to prove to anyone.

    • There is no tide that far up the Kennebec. It’s the hydroelectric dam release up river that can catch you by surprise. Assuming the individual is foolish enough to try.

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