From the Long Sandy campsite, return to the main stem of the Penobscot. You are entering a more built-up area with opportunities for land excursions, resupply, restaurants, and seeing other boaters. From the Birch Stream boat launch on ME 116 it is 2 miles out to the Penobscot River. From the Long Sandy campsite it is about ¼ mile to the river. From there, it is 2 miles to the Milford Dam, just past Indian Island, Alenape menehan, The People’s Island, where a large population of the Penobscot Indian Nation resides.
The dam in Milford/Old Town requires either a short, steep portage or a longer carry. The longer portage goes from the Old Town boat launch, river right, through town to Binette Park. The short, steep portage is on river right just below the bridge to Indian Island by a large brick mill building, and goes to the park.
A convenience store, restaurant, and public restrooms face the park. Across the river from the park are a small island and larger French Island, linked by ME Rt. 2. French Island, aka Treat and Webster Island, Matewanikanok, Place for tanning hides, is residential. At its south end is the next campsite, owned by Jim Mitchell, just past Shad Rips, river left, Class II/III at medium water. You can approach the campsite from either side of French Island: From river left, east, Shad Rips; from river right, west, French Island Falls, Class II/III at medium water, which may be too high and dry at low water. Both ways can be a challenge. The campsite is between the SW tip and the closest house. completed
From French Island it is 1 mile to Great Works Rapids, Macewessis, Bad falls, one of the most challenging rapids on the Penobscot River Paddling Trail, Class III/III+ at medium water. Scout it from river left to pick a line, which will vary with different water levels. These rapids were the site of the Great Works Dam, removed in 2012 by the Penobscot River Restoration Project.
You are paddling along Marsh Island, on river right, Wasahpskek menehan, Slippery ledge island, named for the stretch of Class I/II rapids along here, Wasahpskek Rapids, Slippery ledge, because a slippery ledge gave a bad pole-hold, noting that this stretch of rapids was difficult for the canoeist poling upstream. Three miles past Great Works, at the bottom of Marsh Island, the Stillwater River, Mskithtek, Place where the water is still, comes into the Penobscot on river right, beginning the half-mile Basin Mills Rapids, Nalemsakehekan, Falls where the river forms a channel, Class II/III in medium water. One mile below it, past Ayers Island on river right, is the Orono boat launch. Take out here or continue 1 more mile to “Penobby” campsite, river right, on Penobscot Valley Country Club land.
For additional descriptions of the rapids in this reach, visit Maine Trail Finder