NORRIDGEWOCK — “It’s just a beautiful day to be on the water,” Chris Morgan said Tuesday from the Oosoola Park boat launch.

Morgan’s 175-mile journey down the Kennebec River was about halfway complete as he led a group of about 20 paddlers into the water. It was just under 90 degrees and partly cloudy, with smooth water and hardly any wind along the river.

Morgan was leading the jaunt from Norridgewock to Skowhegan down the river as he continues his “source to sea” journey from Moosehead Lake to the Atlantic Ocean. His stop at Oosoola Park marked roughly the halfway point in the journey, with just over 80 miles of river already traversed.

The trek came with an open invite, aiming to showcase the beauty and recreation the Kennebec offers. Anyone with a paddleboard, kayak, canoe or even a knack for swimming is invited to join him along the way, Morgan says.

“Our main focus is to get people connected back to the rivers, and fish passages, and everything else,” Morgan said. “The Kennebec is really super deep and super friendly for paddleboarders, because we fall in. It’s five feet deep for the most part and you’re not falling on rocks or anything.”

Morgan is advocating for the creation of a ‘paddle trail’ along the Kennebec, with dedicated take-out and put-in spots, campsites and potentially gear rentals along the way.


He noted that public places to shore boats and paddleboards are few and far between along the Kennebec, with fewer campsites and parks for recreators to stay.

Just days before the caravan arrived in Norridgewock, the town installed a new dock and began offering kayak and paddleboard rentals at Oosoola Park, where Tuesday’s leg of the journey began.

The journey isn’t just meant to get more people outside and on the water during the dog days of summer, organizers say, but also to showcase the environmental restoration efforts that have made the river a flourishing waterway for both Maine recreators and the economies along its banks.

Rivers For Change team member Jessica Sterling paddles her sea kayak Tuesday while joining other paddlers on the Kennebec River as they make their way from the Oosoola Park boat launch in Norridgewock to Skowhegan. Three team members, including Sterling, began the six-day trip at the headwater of the Kennebec River at Moosehead Lake. They plan to complete the 175-mile trip at Popham Beach, said Sterling. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

More paddleboarders, kayakers and hikers along the river means more economic activity for the cities and towns they’ll stop in, says Kristina Cannon, president of Main Street Skowhegan.

Her organization, along with most of those towns, helped coordinate and accommodate the journey. Cannon, who hopped on a paddleboard and took the roughly 5-mile voyage to Skowhegan, hopes Morgan’s travels will show both locals and those ‘from away’ what the river has to offer.

“The Kennebec Valley, our namesake, is the river. Our lifeblood is the river,” Cannon said. “As outdoor recreation continues to increase in popularity across the country, there’s more opportunity for us to think about how recreation is really the focus for our economic development.”


It wasn’t too long ago when the river was used for log driving, sewage dumping and chemical wasting, she notes.

“We’ve been working, the state and the town and the environmental agencies, for decades on river cleanup,” Cannon said. “The river is generally clean and beautiful now, so now is the time to start taking advantage of the recreation opportunities.”

Kayaker Casie Frederick, left, of Norridgewock applies sunscreen Tuesday as fellow kayaker Krystal Wheeler of Waterville grabs a paddle before the pair join Rivers For Change paddlers on the Kennebec at the Oosoola Park boat launch in Norridgewock. Sea kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are used on the trip to Skowhegan. Three team members began the six-day trip at the headwater of the Kennebec River at Moosehead Lake. They plan to complete the 175-mile trip at Popham Beach, said team member Jessica Sterling. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Among those who came out to join Morgan was Casie Frederick, an educator and kayaker who first heard about the trip on social media.

She works partly as an outdoor learning coach at the Community Regional Charter School in Cornville, which she describes as reinforcing classroom concepts in a natural environment. Kayaking is part of the curriculum, she says.

“There’s a huge movement right now to get kids learning outdoors because of the benefits for them socially and emotionally, but that goes for adults too,” she said. “I don’t think they’ve ever done an event like this and it seems like more and more people are coming out of the woodwork for it.”

Morgan will continue down the Kennebec through the week, getting out to walk around dams and stopping in Winslow and Augusta on Wednesday before ultimately reaching the Atlantic on Friday.

More information can be found on the Kennebec River Source to Sea Facebook page.

Asked what advice he would give to beginning paddleboarders, Morgan summed it up in one sentence: “It’s frustrating.”

“You’re gonna fail to start, and that’s the most frustrating thing,” he said. “The first stroke, it can be like ‘Oh no, I’m in the water!’ but you get back up, and the second one isn’t so bad.”

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