Spend an hour on the Androscoggin: Bethel company opens kayak rental company in downtown Auburn

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Jeff Parsons talks with youth from the Auburn Recreation Summer Camp on canoe basics while paddling along the Androscoggin River in Auburn. Parsons, of Bethel Outdoor Adventure, will open Lewiston Auburn Canoe and Kayak Rentals Co. in downtown Auburn on Thursday. The new business will offer hourly rentals to cruise the Androscoggin River.

AUBURN — Declaring, "the Androscoggin has been reborn," the owner of a Bethel company is opening a kayak and canoe rental business downtown, with boats launching behind Gritty's pub.

submitted photo

Jeff and Pattie Parsons of Bethel Outdoor Adventure will open Lewiston Auburn Canoe and Kayak Rentals Co. in downtown Auburn on Thursday. The new business will offer hourly rentals to cruise the Androscoggin River.

"There are wonderful trails along the river, there are now access points. Now we need to make it possible and easy for people to recreate," Jeff Parsons, owner of Bethel Outdoor Adventure & Campground with wife, Pattie, said.

"People will be able to nip down and rent a canoe or a kayak for an hour or two and go have fun on a fun stretch of the river," he said.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte, executive director of the Androscoggin Land Trust and a longtime river advocate, reached out to Parsons.

"We've been fielding at our (ALT) office five to 10 calls a week of people looking for boats," LaBonte said. "I think the market's calling for it."

Parsons said the timing worked. After a decades-long effort, the Androscoggin River is clean, and the fishing good. "The river is back," he said.

He credited the city with working quickly to draw up a no-cost contract and ALT for helping with contacts. His new business, Lewiston Auburn Canoe and Kayak Rentals Co., will use city property for an advertising sandwich board on Main Street and for space to launch.

Starting Thursday until the end of August, the business will offer hourly rentals from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Cost is $20 per hour for a canoe and $15 per hour for a single-paddler kayak, which includes a paddle and life jacket. A three-hour rental secures the kayak or canoe for the whole day.

The company will stock six of each craft.

Parsons hopes to attract locals getting out of work, vacationers and people from away. He's using this as a test season, but is optimistic.

"What is fascinating about that stretch of river is there are real remnants of the industrial history of Auburn," Parsons said. "It's not a pristine wilderness setting, we know that, but it's pretty."

Parsons is originally from England. Twenty years ago, he and Pattie started Bethel Outdoor Adventure & Campground by getting people out on the Androscoggin upriver in self-guided tours.

"We kiss you lightly on the forehead, we throw you out on the river at our location, and you take off. And that's a great adventure," he said. This is "spreading that down to Lewiston-Auburn."

Lewiston Auburn Canoe and Kayak Rentals Co. has an official launch and ribbon cutting Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Parsons is bringing river water from Bethel to sprinkle it on boats here for good luck.

"I think there's a dynamic in, 'Let's try this,'" LaBonte said. "Being able to bring more people to the waterfront, having people who are visiting the community see that type of vibrancy, (those) are going to be the kind of visuals we want visitors and residents to have."

The company isn't the first to encourage people to enjoy the Twin Cities by boat. L.L. Bean offers an Androscoggin River Urban Drift Boat Fishing Day Trip among its custom adventures with a guide, boat, lunch and gear for two for $595.


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Mike Lachance's picture

Best of Fortune!

Best of fortune on this great business venture!
We definately need more entepreneurs like this around here!

 's picture

Great timing, I was just

Great timing, I was just discussing wanting to kayak on the river, but didn't own one personally. Defiantly will be checking this place when I come back home one of these weekends.

Barry King's picture

I wish Bethel Outdoor Adventure & Campground...

Incredible Success! This is a wonderful idea. I was "born and raised" on the Shores of the Androscoggin, at Shuy Corner, in Livermore Falls.

Even back in the day when you should have had breathing equipment to approach the "Andy" River, and when aluminum boats would have most likely been eaten away by the toxic chemicals before you could paddle across the river, it was still aesthetically beautiful!

Soft, sandy shores and magnficent flora line by sides of the incredible, slow moving river and if you haven't experienced the natural beauty that exploring this river offers, then please try it soon.

We will be back home for a few weeks again, late this summer or early fall, and we will be doing this "water trek", even before we pursue my greatest passion, Maine Gemstone Mining. I hope to see you on the "watah".

Barry King

PS- Thank you LSJ, for keeping we Native Mainers, who are currently "from away", up to date on all that Maine offers, both good and bad.

JOHN PAINTER's picture

It's about time!

This is an excellent business to have on the waterfront! I have kayaked in this area between the falls and boat launch in Lewiston and it's really much more beautiful down in there than you might think, fishing was poor, but the views kept me coming back. I think seeing people down on the river from either bridge will creat more interest in people boating in the downtown area and making a day of being in L/A!

Linda Sherwood's picture

Best Small Mouth Bass Fishing Around

Maybe on the day you were fishing, John, it was not what you expected, but lately, from what I am told, the area behind Gritty's and south toward New Auburn is an area becoming known for outstanding results for small-mouth bass fishing. Time to give it another try perhaps?

JOHN PAINTER's picture

Linda, I guess my fate is

Linda, I guess my fate is sealed. Can't wait to get my line wet down there again!


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