Paddlers carry to the Webb River put-in. Ron Chase photos

Hidden away in the rural community of Carthage, except for locals, Webb River is relatively unknown. Whitewater boaters are an exception.

Each spring, scores of enthusiastic paddlers converge on the Webb as soon as ice is out for some excellent Class II/III whitewater. A free-flowing river, it’s unique in that a comparatively large watershed keeps water levels elevated longer than other mountain freshets.

I first “discovered” the Webb in the spring of 1989. The late Terry Tzovarras and I were returning from paddling exploits on the Sandy River. Traveling south from Weld on Route 142, we crossed a bridge over an engaging stretch of whitewater. Shortly after, two more appealing rapids appeared beside the road. Promptly halting our journey, we completed a shuttle, and our first descent was accomplished. I’ve been hooked ever since.

The Webb is also a favorite of my outdoor club, the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society. We frequently schedule spring trips on the Webb, and when the water level is sufficient, I often announce impromptu club outings.

A canoeist challenges the waves.

Determining the actual water level is problematic. Several years ago, two club members painted a gauge on a bridge abutment at the bottom of Schoolhouse Rapid in the tiny hamlet of Berry Mills. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find someone to check the gauge, and I live 75 miles away.

The U.S. Geological Survey maintains gauges on many rivers and streams throughout the country, and the information is available online. Apparently unaware of the Webb’s significance, they’ve omitted that important waterway. However, I have a system. If the online gauges for nearby Sandy and Swift Rivers are high, history tells me the Webb will be runnable. Since extrapolating gauge readings is an imperfect science, I often follow-up with a call to a friend who lives much closer than I.


As usual, I began checking the Sandy and Swift River gauges in late March. After several days of exceptionally warm weather, an early April snowmelt caused the gauge levels to rise dramatically. A call to my friend confirmed the Webb was running at a juicy flow.

My club email proposing a trip for the following day received positive responses from two enthusiastic Chowderheads. We were on for the first rousing Webb outing of the year.

The three of us were greeted with bluebird skies and temperatures in the 70s when we met at the traditional takeout on Route 142 next to the last significant rapid. This was the same spot where Terry and I left a vehicle 34 years ago. A check of the gauge at Berry Mills indicated the level was a feisty 1.2. Two kayakers and a solo canoeist, we drove a few miles north and carried through the woods for about 200 yards to a steep, attenuated rapid.

That’s where the entertainment began. The Webb is a continuum of fun rapids separated by short stretches of quick water. Attempts to surf a wave on the first falls failed. The water was too pushy.

A kayaker descends a rapid.

Navigating stimulating wave trains, dodging rocks and surfing waves, we cruised through a series of narrow Class II/III rapids while carefully watching for a downed tree that had blocked most of the river in this section last year. The river gods smiled on us as the hazardous obstruction had partially washed away.

Below the Route 142 Bridge, we encountered easier whitewater and quick water for a short distance. Just downriver of a small bridge, we angled right over a ledge drop followed by another pitch that required avoiding a large boulder midstream. Soon after, where the river flows under a canopy of hardwoods, the most entertaining wave surfing of the day ensued.


After traversing through a long falls and enjoying more play spots, we arrived at the beginning of four closely connected rapids that are collectively the most difficult whitewater on the river. The second necessitated maneuvering through a maze of boulders ending with an abrupt right turn, and the fourth, Schoolhouse Rapid, required negotiating around several pour-overs before we passed under the bridge at Berry Mills. Easier rapids followed to the final falls, a technical Class III.

Our first successful descent of the Webb was completed. Several more will undoubtedly follow before whitewater paddling ends in the fall.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates trips on the Webb and eight more exciting Maine whitewater rivers.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at or he can be reached at

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