Bashabez Run 2018


Indian Island, ME: The Penobscot Indian Nation in collaboration with American Canoe Association’s New England Paddle America Club is pleased to announce the 5th Annual Bashabez Run, the first canoe and kayak race on the Penobscot River. The Bashabez Run celebrates recent milestones in collaborative efforts to restore the free-flowing nature of the lower river while also sharing and honoring the history and culture of the Penobscot Nation community. Race details and a full course description are offered below and attached as separate documents.


Removal of the Great Works Dam in 2012 and the Veazie Dam in 2013 by the Penobscot River Restoration Trust fully revealed stretches of white water that were submerged for nearly 200 years by impoundments behind the dams. Now, the lower river offers a myriad of diverse paddling opportunities from slow moving stretches to Class III rapids depending on flow conditions. The Penobscot People referred to various stretches of white water with descriptive names, such as  nələmsαkəhəkan, or "falls where the river forms a channel," at Basin Mills, and wαpanopəntek or "white waterfall cascade" for the site where the Veazie Dam once stood.


The Bashabez Run highlights river recreation opportunities for experienced paddlers, with a challenging course through four significant, historic rapids and long stretches of shallow, fast moving current. The start of the race at the Indian Island Boat Launch & Pavillion above the Milford Dam highlights the inseparable connection between the Penobscot Indian Nation and the river, and their important role in the historic Penobscot River Restoration Project.  A 500 yard portage around the Milford Dam, where a new fish lift completed in 2014 is showing promising results,  will challenge paddlers early in the race before reaching the now free-flowing river downstream.


Race times are expected to be 2 to 3-1/2 hours, and will coincide with an outgoing tide at the finish. The width of the river will allow paddlers to choose from a number of possible routes rewarding those with good river reading skills. This stretch of the Penobscot is 300-400 yards wide with four significant, historic rapids and long stretches of shallow, fast moving current.  The finish showcases the recreational and entertainment opportunities on the waterfront in Brewer and Bangor as both cities have turned to embrace the historic, free-flowing River.


The race course re-traces the route of Chief Bashabez, the first Penobscot leader documented by the Europeans, from Indian Island to Brewer, where he led and met with other tribal leaders of “Norumbega,”a confederation of seven or eight Abenaki-speaking Indian nations. Another historic meeting took place across the river in 1604, when Samuel de Champlain followed the Penobscot River north and as far inland as Kenduskeag (now Bangor, Maine). Chief Bashabez and thirty Penobscots aboard six canoes arrived in Kenduskeag a few days later from a northern village, and the local Penobscots sang and danced in greeting.


RACE SYNOPSIS: Saturday, June 16, 2018

©  Race Director:  John Neptune, Penobscot Indian Nation

© John Neptune, 207 817-7357, 207 659-3490;

©  Start Time:  12:30 pm

©  Registration: 10 am -12 pm at the Indian Island Boat Launch.

©  Ten classes will be offered for recreational and racing canoes and kayaks.

©  Finish at Brewer Riverside Park, Hardy St, off South Main St.

©  Mixed flat-water and whitewater. 15.5 mi. Class 2-2+; mostly fast moving smooth water with four rapids and numerous class 1 sections.   


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Bashabez Run

Course Description




©  The Race starts at the Indian Island boat launch near the Community Center, Bridge St. Indian Island.  44.960371, -68.649272)

©  Water level info:  (Eddington Water Gauge:

©  These comments are based on four trips on this stretch of river during June & July, 2014 and are presented for open canoeists and kayakers with intermediate whitewater skills.   Less experienced paddlers should not attempt this run without scouting first.  Advanced canoeists and kayakers will find the water somewhat less difficult than described, especially at lower flows.

o   Water levels at the Eddington gauge on these trips ranged from 4.5 ft. to 7.5 ft. (estimated 7,000-17,000 cfs)

©  0 mi:  Put in at the Boat Launch and paddle a short upstream leg around a buoy and paddle downstream the east side of Indian Island (River left).

©  1.5 mi:  At the end of Indian Island you will see the Milford dam and a line of orange buoys.  Head for the right shore for the portage take out near Main St and the parking lot.  Carry through the parking lot and down the river walk 500 yds. to the put-in at the stone sculpture in Binette Park.  (1.8 MI)

©  Continue downstream in the right channel with French Island on your left.  After ¼ mi you will pass under a railroad bridge where a fun 100 yards of class II waves await.

©  2.25 mi:  Another ¼ mi brings you to Matewanikanok (Place for tanning hides) at the south end of French Island.

o   Stay on the right bank for an easy class II wave train, or on the extreme left for a technical class II rock garden.

o   In the center is a large ledge- pour over that should be avoided.

©  3 mi:  A .5 mile stretch of fast moving water brings the first significant rapid into view:  Class II-III Macewessis – ‘Bad little carry’ at the site of the former Great Works Dam.  You will see the Old Town mill on river right and numerous rock and timber cribs in the river as you approach.  There are several options here.

o   River left is shallow, rocky shoals; safe, but scratchy and slow. 

o   The middle is high volume fast water with large waves – start near the center and work your way right, be careful not to get wet in the wave train. 

o   The right shore offers another shallow rocky option.

©  After Macewessis is 3.5 mi of fast water to Orono with occasional easy class I rocky stretches that disappear at flows above 10,000 cfs.

©  6.6 mi:  Najemsakehekan – ‘Falls where the river forms a channel’ (Basin) just downstream of the mouth of the Stillwater River.  Look for a tall smokestack on the right downstream of the rapid.

o   This is another ¼ mi stretch of class II-III with lots of large waves in the center and right and shallower, rocky rips on the left. 

o   Avoid a 100 yd. wide ledge/pour-over about 100 yds. off the right shore. 

o   If you choose the right side stay near the right shore as you approach, then move to the left 15-20 yds. as you approach the narrow man-made island to stay in the main channel, but close to the island.  After dodging some rocks and waves, you will finish the rapid in a fast wave train with a good recovery eddy on the right next to the island.

o   The far left shore offers a few safe but slower, shallower, rocky routes without the strong current and wave trains.

o   There are a number of other fast options left of center that may require some strong paddling to maneuver around large rocks and waves.

©  After Najemsakehekan the river continues with mostly easy fast moving water to Veazie.  At high flows there can be plenty of pushy, swirly current here.  There is one 300 yd. unnamed class I-II rapid about 1.5 mi. upstream of Veazie.

©  10.2 mi. brings you to the biggest rapid on the trip: Wapanopentek – ‘White waterfall cascade’ in Eddington/Veazie.  Wapanopentek is nearly 1 mile long; a class II-III rapid offering a challenge at any level.  You will see the former Veazie hydro-power house on the right in the distance as you approach, a residential Veazie neighborhood and a ¼ mile+ long wood and rock ‘wing dam’ parallel and 50 yds. off the right shore.

o   There are a number of ways to run this section.  Unless you are in a decked or inflatable boat avoid the center where a long stretch of the biggest waves are in the middle just below the former dam site. 

o   Below these waves the river widens and the current slows a bit as you pass the Veazie Salmon Club high on the right bank and paddle over the numerous Atlantic Salmon lies that attracted thousands of salmon fisherman in the ‘70s-‘90s.

o   Perhaps the safest, easiest route is on the right between the right shore and the long wing dam.  This is a class II rapid; at the end of the wing dam stay right to avoid the large waves in the middle third of the river.

o   Another reasonable route is to paddle just to the left of the wing dam where the water is surprisingly smooth.  At the end of the wing dam be ready to paddle hard to the right to avoid the big soaking wave trains.

o   The left shore can be run by staying 5-30 yds. off shore all the way to the Eddington Salmon Club.  Be prepared to paddle out around 3-4 protruding ledges.

©  The fast water continues over the ‘pipeline’ just above the Eddington Salmon Club and Eddington Bend on the left.  Tidal effects exist from here to Brewer.  High tide can flatten out all of the fast water from here downstream.

©  You will encounter another short class II-II+ rapid/wave train ¼ mi. after Eddington bend if the tide is not high.  Stay to the left and be alert, it’s easy.

©  13.5 mi:  The final whitewater stretch is Pemecicewak – ‘Where the current tumbles downward‘(Treats Falls).  At low tide and high flows, this can be an impressive class III stretch of fast, powerful waves as the river is squeezed toward the left.  At high tide or low flow, it can be either a pond or easy, rocky quick water.  Watch for Bangor Water Works and Eastern Maine Medical Center on the right shore as you approach.

o   The safest route at high water/low tide is to stay 10-100 ft. off the left shore and pick your way through the waves.

o   Watch for the historic Penobscot Salmon Club above a gravel beach on the left where dozens of first-of-the-year Atlantic salmon were hooked and landed before being transported to Washington DC and presented to the President of the US to celebrate the beginning of the annual Penobscot salmon run.

o   Just downstream is the Penobscot Conservation Club.

©  Continue downstream from Pemecicewak to pass under the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge (15.2 miles).  Paddle another 0.3 miles to the finish line and take out at the Brewer Waterfront Park (on Hardy St off South Main St) on river left. (15.5 miles)

o   The final two miles can be anything from a placid dead calm to a challenging, choppy, upwind push as the tide, current and wind can combine for lots of interesting conditions.


Finish at the Brewer Riverside Park, Hardy St, off South Main St (south of big Apple store)


Jun 16, 2018


Indian Island, ME