RUMFORD — Heavy rains in Franklin County on Monday night, coupled with high water and predicted thunderstorms, are wreaking havoc with the already disjointed Androscoggin River trek.

Instead of the traditional contiguous 20-day summer tour, the 14th annual Androscoggin River Source to the Sea Trek of 13 days from New Hampshire to Lisbon, is now down to 10 days, thanks to a month and a half of rain falling daily.

“Water levels are just too high to take a chance,” Ferg Lea, a trek organizer with the Androscoggin River Watershed Council, said late Tuesday morning in Auburn.

Additionally, he said an accident can happen too easily in high water, especially with beginning or inexperienced canoeists and kayakers who frequently join the trek.

“There’s more and more kayakers out there who just bought them and they’d like to get out with a group of people, if they could, because I think that helps them,” Lea said.

“But, on the other hand, we get a little spread out and have an accident, and in this type of water, you don’t want to have an accident, because you can be 500 feet downriver and not even know it,” he said.

Citing National Weather Service rainfall amounts for parts of Franklin County, Lea said more than 2 inches fell Monday night into Tuesday morning. The trek starts Thursday, July 9.

“So, we just don’t know what’s going to happen with water levels,” Lea said. “They’re still going to be high, even if we don’t get any rain.”

According to the latest plan, Thursday’s downriver paddle from Shelburne, N.H., to Gilead, and the Friday, July 10, trip from Gilead to Bethel were canceled.

Instead, trek organizers have scheduled an optional paddle for Thursday on Reflection Pond, which is the Shelburne Dam backwater.

In Maine, the Saturday, July 11, trip and debut canoe/kayak race from Hanover to Rumford, and Sunday, July 12, paddle from Bethel to Hanover, are both postponed, possibly to this fall, Lea said.

“In 13 past years, we have never had to cancel or postpone a day ahead of time,” Lea said via e-mail on Tuesday afternoon.

“When it is 20 days, we have paddled in the rain with a hardy bunch of paddlers, and we have had probably three or four days or so when people that showed up decided not to paddle, because of very heavy rain or high water,” Lea said. “High water has generally not been a problem.”

After spending the first day in New Hampshire, the trek will resume Monday, July 13, paddling from Mexico to Dixfield.

“We were hoping that we’d just have a few little thunderstorms today and that the water would be going down,” Lea said. “But the reports last night were some places in Franklin County had a couple inches of rain, so, we really don’t know what’s coming.”

“Water levels are high, currents are very strong and, there has been considerable erosion that may have significantly changed river and stream beds,” Lea said, cautioning people about venturing out on their own.

The remaining trek day-trips later in July and August are currently still on the paddling schedule.

For more information, visit the ARWC Web site at www.androscogginriver.net, or contact trek coordinator Barbra Barrett at 527-2163, or e-mail [email protected]

[email protected]


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