Whitewater rafting is one of the biggest thrill rides nature has to offer. The Kennebec River in Maine is one of the most popular rivers in New England to raft. It ranges from a gentle flow to a pulse-pounding class-four whitewater. A number of companies along the Kennebec offer daylong whitewater adventures. In addition to outfitting you, they give you paddling instruction, take you to the put-in spot, guide you down the river, prepare you a streamside lunch and pick you up at the end of the day. A daily dam release ensures that there are always great whitewater conditions on the Kennebec, meaning that you can go on rafting adventures all summer and into September. Host Marianne Eaton travels to The Forks, Maine, home of Northern Outdoors Adventures to take on a wet and wild twelve-mile stretch of the Kennebec River.
As the end of September rolls around, the Northeast Kingdom is usually the first place in Vermont to see the beginning of the fall foliage show of color. While many people view this display by car or bike, a canoe trip gives you an amazing perspective you can't get from the pavement. Paddling slows you down, forcing you to appreciate the moment and enjoy your surroundings. You feel the power of the blade on the water and after a while, you don't even have to think too much about it as you serenely make your way downriver. There are a number of companies in Vermont that feature paddling adventures. They range from barebones day trips to multi-day, fully guided excursions with lunch prepared for you right on the river and nights at spent at Vermont country inns. Host Marianne Eaton puts in on the White and the Connecticut rivers with Battenkill Canoe on their Vermont River Sampler tour.
Dragon boats are born from legend. The legend is of Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who after being banished from his country and hearing his homeland was invaded, threw himself in a river and drowned. It is said the River Dragon shared his sorrow and flew to a quiet place with him. Over two thousand years have passed since then, but the legend of Qu Yuan lives on today with the help of Dragon Boat festivals held around the world in his honor. One of the highlights of these festivals are the Dragon Boat races. A dragon boat is a slender watercraft about 40 feet long and designed to be paddled by a team of 20 people sitting side by side. A dragon figurehead adorns the bow of the boat. Also in the bow sits a drummer, who beats an even tempo to help keep the paddlers in unison. In the stern of the boat sits a steer person, who controls the direction of the craft with a 9-foot oar, but also gives various commands to the crew. The drummer and steer person are in charge in this sport. At a festival, multiple dragon boats compete in heats to determine a winner. Fifty thousand people participate in this sport worldwide and all ages, genders and ability levels are welcome. All you need for the sport is a paddle, a lifejacket, stamina and the ability to work in a team. No special skills are required. Dragonheart Vermont The sport has also become a way for cancer survivors and those battling the disease to band together to raise public awareness. There are over 50 teams comprised of breast cancer survivors throughout the United States and Canada. Dragonheart Vermont is one such organization. Host Marianne Eaton joins the Dragonheart Vermont team as they take part in the annual Pawtucket Rhode Island Dragon Boat competition.
When you first see an Adirondack guideboat, your eyes might trick you into thinking it's a big, wide canoe with extra-long paddles. While it is a double-ended rowing boat, the similarities end there. Adirondack guideboats were the creation of 19th-century guides in the Adirondack lake region who needed a watercraft that could hold passengers, all their camping and hunting gear, a dog and maybe the bounties of their hunting and fishing endeavors. Because the water was not always easily accessible back then, the boat had to be light enough to portage from lake to lake, meaning the guide had to be able to carry the craft on his back, sometimes for long distances. The boats had to not only be light, they had to be adaptable to changing conditions in the wild including waves, wind and rough landing areas. Standard rowboats were not suited to this travel task and the Adirondack guideboat was born, being refined over many years by the guides themselves, which produced a watercraft of remarkable stability, maneuverability and light weight. These boats became the choice of guides throughout the Adirondack lake region. By the latter part of the 19th century, when visitors from cities such as Boston and New York were drawn from the Adirondacks to the Catskills, these North Country watercraft were no longer in high demand. But thanks to its durable design, which makes it easy to row and big enough to carry lots of gear, the guideboats remained a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts, often being passed down through generations. Today, early guideboats are sought-after museum pieces and a whole new generation has discovered the advantages of these graceful craft. Steve Kaulback can be credited with assisting the return of interest in Adirondack guideboats. Coming from a fine arts background, he became interested in the aesthetics of the boat. "And then I got in one for the first time," he says, "and [I] realized that the adage 'form follows function' is just so true ... not only was it a beautiful boat, but it was one of the finest performing boats I had ever been in." His interest led him to create Adirondack Guideboat Inc. in Charlotte, Vermont. Steve not only builds both wooden and fiberglass Adirondack guideboats but also offers a kit to anyone interested in building their own cedar model. In this segment, host Marianne Eaton takes to the water in an Adirondack, and joins Steve Kaulback in the shop at Adirondack Guideboat to lend a hand in building one of these amazing, historical boats.
The word kayak means "hunter's boat." Developed by people in Arctic locations, it was a necessary tool for survival. It was agile, had lots of storage capacity for food and supplies and was built to withstand difficult and dangerous conditions. Its basic design has remained the same for thousands of years, but its principle use today has shifted to recreation rather than survival. Whether it's a thrilling whitewater run or the contemplative paddle of a sea kayak, it's a water experience unlike any other. And its popularity is growing. Sea kayaks are long, slender boats built for lakes, quieter rivers and ocean water. Many sea kayaks have plenty of storage space, which makes them a good choice for a paddling/camping trip. Sea kayaking can take you places other boats can't go. Paddling is a quiet, meditative experience for many that gets you close to nature. You sit low in the boat. You actually feel part of the water instead of just being on top of it. It's a sport that requires instruction, safety equipment and knowledge of changing water and weather conditions. But for those willing to put in the time to learn the proper paddling techniques and survival skills, a sea kayak trip can be an unforgettable experience. For a landlocked state like Vermont, lakes and rivers are the only option for sea kayaks. But a short trip to Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts can give the paddler an opportunity to experience a coastal sea kayaking adventure. This is a different experience than paddling out on a body of water such as Lake Champlain. On the ocean, the weather and water can change very quickly; the ocean can get nastier a lot faster than a lake and you have to be on guard more. Even though the sky can be clear and nice, the water in the ocean can be rough. You need a better skill set to go coastal sea kayaking. And you need a guide or a very experienced person to take you there. Tom Bergh has kayaked for nearly twenty years and opened Maine Island Kayak Company in 1986. The company offers classes and kayak tours around the world. Tom got taken with sea kayaking because of the sea kayak's extreme seaworthiness and its ability to land anywhere. "You have such a little imprint, both on the shores where you're landing, the communities you're moving through, and the wildlife you're experiencing," he says. Host Marianne Eaton joins Tom Bergh of Maine Island Kayak Company for a sea kayak adventure off the coast of Maine.
Canoes are perfect for fishing Vermont's countless small ponds. Native Americans developed these simple, versatile vessels over the course of thousands of years and they are well suited to exploring everything from tiny creeks to the shores of Lake Champlain. Today's canoes are lightweight, low maintenance and relatively inexpensive, and they open up a world of hidden waters that are either off-limits or inaccessible to larger boats. We visit Emerald Lake State Park as well as another local pond for some exciting bass fishing.