Whitewater Boating

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Rapidly Flowing Rivers

"Rapidly flowing river" means the following stretches of river: the Kennebec River between Harris Station and The Forks; the West Branch of the Penobscot River between McKay Station and Pockwockamus Falls; the Dead River from its confluence with Spencer Stream to its confluence with the Kennebec River at a flow level of 2400 cfs or higher; the Rapid River from the outlet of Lower Richardson Lake to 3/4 miles upstream from Umbagog Lake at a flow level of 1200 cfs or higher, and the Magalloway River from Aziscohos Lake to the first Route 16 bridge west of Aziscohos Lake at a flow level of 800 cfs or higher.

WATERLINE Fishing Edition - Call 1-800-452-1742

WATERLINE Boater's Edition - Call 1-800-452-1737

Whitewater Guide License Requirements

Anyone who seeks to work as a guide is required to obtain a Maine whitewater guide license and be employed by a licensed whitewater outfitter. These requirements are state law and are in place to protect the people of the state. If a member of the public pays dues or fees or provides any form of compensation to a person or persons for providing whitewater-rafting services or for operating a whitewater rafting organization, the trip is commercial. A whitewater trip would also be a commercial trip if a licensed whitewater guide received any remuneration for accompanying, assisting or instructing passengers on the river on whitewater trips. It is unlawful to hire an unlicensed Maine whitewater guide or outfitter to supply a commercial trip or to hire a licensed Maine guide who is working independently from a licensed Maine outfitter.

Whitewater Personnel Requirements

  1. Prerequisites for Applicant to be Examined for a Whitewater Guide's License
    1. Each whitewater guide applicant must be currently certified in American Red Cross Standard First Aid or equivalent. Proof of current certification is required.
    2. Each whitewater guide applicant must be certified in C.P.R.
    3. Each whitewater guide applicant must enroll in and successfully complete a whitewater guide training course consisting of the following:
      • For a Level One License (allows the holder to guide whitewater trips on any Maine river except that portion of the Penobscot River between McKay Station and the Big Eddy):
        1. A minimum of 7 days of instruction in river etiquette, whitewater safety, general local geography, and characteristics of whitewater rivers, and
        2. Guide training, to occur on at least two of the following rivers: Kennebec River, Dead River, Penobscot River, Magalloway River, or the Rapid River, and
        3. Five of the seven days of guide training must be on river training on the Kennebec River between Harris Dam, Indian Stream Twp., and The Forks, and
        4. Guide training shall include at least twenty training runs of the rivers identified in 4(b); from Spencer Stream to the Gravel Pit access point on the Dead River; from the Gravel Pit to the take-out on the Dead River; from Harris Dam to Carry Brook access point on the Kennebec River; from McKay Station to the Big Eddy on the Penobscot River (three runs of Big Ambejackmockamus Falls on the Penobscot River is equivalent to one training run, and two runs from Abol Pines to Nevers Corner on the Penobscot River is equivalent to one training run).
        5. A minimum of four guided training runs on the Kennebec River, and
        6. A minimum of one guided training run from Harris Dam to the ballfield in West Forks.
        7. When used in this context, guided training run means the applicant conducts a simulated whitewater trip utilizing other guide applicants or guides as passengers. Training runs conducted as part of a guide training course must be made in whitewater craft used to carry passengers as part of a whitewater trip. (Craft capable of carrying only 1 person may not be used.)
        8. Each whitewater guide applicant, while participating in guide training, must comply with current whitewater guide PFD Type requirements.
        9. The minimum number of watercraft on any guide training run shall be two.
        10. The minimum number of licensed whitewater guides on any guide training run shall be two.
        11. Safety Equipment Requirements listed in Chapter 14.04 shall apply to all guide training runs.
      • For a Level Two License (allows the holder to guide whitewater trips on any Maine river where a whitewater guide license is required):
        1. Must possess a Level One License, and
        2. The applicant must have made ten training runs on the Penobscot River; two of the ten training runs must include the major rapids between the Big Eddy and Never's Corner; and
        3. The applicant must have made five guided training runs in the Penobscot Gorge between McKay Station and the Big Eddy, and
        4. The applicant must have made at least 6 commercial whitewater trips, as a paid guide.

Applicants must provide the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife with a form, signed by the applicant's trainer, who is a licensed whitewater guide, stating that the applicant has taken and successfully completed the above outlined training; and signed by the outfitter, attesting that the candidate is qualified to be a licensed whitewater guide in the state of Maine. Upon receipt of this documentation, a written test will be administered. Applicants failing the written test must wait 30 days before reapplying.

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  • In 1976 State of Maine made it illegal to float logs down the Kennebec River. Prior to this, the Kennebec Log Driving Co. was moving some 300,000 cords of wood a year down the Kennebec River.
  • 1976 First Commercial Rafting trip down the upper Kennebec River
  • Late 1970's law makers established into law the Whitewater Rafting Commission, remained in place for 15 years.
  • Late 1970's Maine Legislature stepped in with legislation concerning PFDs and safety equipment.
  • 1983 Maine Legislature established the first allocation system and laws regulating commercial rafting and the amount of commercial passengers allowed on designated rivers on a particular day. System allowed for 1,000 commercial passengers on the Kennebec River per day from Sunday to Friday and 800 on Saturdays.
  • 20,816 passengers carried down Maine's rapidly flowing rivers in 1983.
  • Whitewater Boating Office located in Augusta
  • 1995 Warden Service utilized Deputy Game Wardens to enforce whitewater rafting laws and rules.
  • 1999 Warden Service designated full-time specialist position to oversee administrative duties and enforcement in whitewater boating


  • Whitewater Guide Advisory Board established to oversee licensing of Whitewater guides.
  • Post September 11, 2001 - staircase built at Harris Station for recreational access to the Kennebec River.
  • 2009 - 61,377 commercial passengers carried down Maine's rapidly flowing rivers.
  • 2009 - Game Warden Corporal hired to the Whitewater Boating Program to enforce rafting laws and rules and assume administrative duties associated with the whitewater rafting industry.

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Private Boaters

Private boaters who are whitewater rafting in Maine need to be aware of special regulations imposed by private entities (i.e. Florida Power and Light Energy) and you are encouraged to contact such companies before your trip. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife enforces the state's boating laws on private rafters as they pertain to whitewater rafting. The department does not have separate whitewater rafting regulations for private boaters.

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  • River Safety
  • Safety Equipment
  • Outfitter Requirements (license, insurance, documentation)
  • Administrative duties
  • Guide requirements
  • Watercraft requirements
  • Order of Launch (Kennebec and West Branch of the Penobscot River)
  • OUI enforcement
  • Noncommercial rafting activity (Pirating)

In 2007 and Spring of 2008, Maine Wardens interviewed close to 100 witnesses concerning violations pertaining to whitewater guiding.

  • 4,500 driving miles
  • 300+ man hours invested
  • 30+ violations

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