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Raft the Kennebec River in Maine with Magic Falls Rafting Company

Updated on January 30, 2014
Frank Sturm profile image

Frank Sturm considers himself an avid New England adventurer and has 15 years of experience in the lawn care industry.

Why I Rafted With Magic Falls Rafting Co.

Many rafting companies line the Kennebec, Dead and Penobscot rivers, three major waterways that draw thrill seekers from all over the world. One such company is called Magic Falls Rafting, which is a relatively new company compared to its surrounding competitors. David Neddeau founded Magic Falls in 1989. As it states on their web site, the company started, "with one raft, one trailer, and not much else, except David's dream."

From my perspective, their main allurement is their simple approach to rafting. They don't try to impress you with over-the-top pub or concert experiences and fancy restaurants. And they are OK with that. On Yelp.com, Magic Falls even states they are, "Maine's safety-conscious, value priced whitewater rafting outfitter on the Kennebec and Dead Rivers." They are also family-oriented. Many of their guides have been with the company since its founding. When I stayed with them, I also noticed their team had a strong familiarity with each other.

Everyone chooses a rafting company for different reasons. I rafted with Magic Falls for two reasons:

  1. It would be easy for me to manage my group of 30, whose age group varied between 18-21, because Magic Falls is a relatively small venue. I organized this trip when I was a member of my college's Outdoor Club. (All pictures in this article are of that trip.)
  2. Magic Falls Rafting Co. offered cheap overnight packages.

Our group hitting the Kennebec River. Or, is it the other way around? 2010
Our group hitting the Kennebec River. Or, is it the other way around? 2010

First and foremost, I feared how alcohol might isolate members of my group who could not legally drink. Other companies offered resorts with a pub and restaurant, but I thought this luxury would separate my group; and thus, make the trip more difficult to manage. It might also be a less enjoyable experience.

Magic Falls' packages were (and still are) relatively cheap. It’s been awhile since I booked the trip, but we paid around $54 per person to raft and around $70-$80 per person for the rafting package. Because we were a college group we received discounts. Our package included rafting on the Kennebec River, two nights stay at their campground in tents and cabin tents and a breakfast and BBQ lunch on Saturday. We also received complimentary wet suit rentals and a complimentary night stay. We booked our rafting for late May.

Good thing we wore those wet suits. 2010
Good thing we wore those wet suits. 2010

Summary of Magic Falls' Rafting Experience

Magic Falls offers many rafting packages. For example, if you sign up for their “Overnight "Out-Back" Camping Adventures” you will raft the Kennebec River Gorge on day one, eat a BBQ lunch back at their headquarters and then watch a video/slideshow of your trip. Next, Magic Falls' staff will drive you a short distance to Moxie Falls for a cool swim and take you on a safari to search for Moose, Osprey and other wildlife. This package (without lodging) costs around $199 per person.

If that is a bit pricey, you can sign on for a cheaper package. For example, you could try their "Cheap Thrills" trip. From 9 am to 1 pm, you will raft class III-IV rapids at the Upper Kennebec Gorge. You can bring your own lunch and eat back at their camp.

Remember: Many companies offer "packages," but often these packages are too expensive or include items you might not want (e.g., certain lodging, food or rafting arrangements). My advice is to have a budget that includes everything you want in your rafting package and ask Magic Falls if they can work within your financial plan.

Are you a college or corporate group? They have packages that include substantial discounts for these groups.

Lining up for breakfast. 2010
Lining up for breakfast. 2010 | Source

"In May, the average temperature in central Maine is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Mornings are colder."

Before You Raft

It took us about five hours to drive from Dartmouth, Massachusetts to Magic Falls' campground in West Forks, Maine; we arrived around midnight. Even in late May, temperatures at night hovered around freezing, so we quickly made comfortable our bed spaces and got rest. Because the grounds were closed upon arrival, we checked in between 7-8 am. The staff then cooked us a hardy breakfast, which provided us with much needed energy.

Breakfast allowed our group to spend a few moments with each other before we hit the rapids; we didn't have much time the night before. I suggest your group arrives early the day before you raft so everyone can settle in prior to their long day. After breakfast, we split our group of 30 into groups of around 8 and assigned each a guide. We then picked up our gear (e.g., life jackets, paddles, helmets and wet suits and booties (optional) and made our way to the river. If not part of a discount or your package, you can rent wet suits and booties for a small fee.

Rental Information

Wet suit rentals
Booties
Paddles, helmets, lifejackets
$15 full day/ $8 half day
$5
Included at no charge
Congregating during breakfast to stay warm. 2010
Congregating during breakfast to stay warm. 2010 | Source
After breakfast, you'll head to the shed to gather your gear. 2010
After breakfast, you'll head to the shed to gather your gear. 2010 | Source
All suited up and ready to hit that first wave. Well, not quite. We need some instructions first. 2010
All suited up and ready to hit that first wave. Well, not quite. We need some instructions first. 2010 | Source
Group photograph under the waterfall. 2010
Group photograph under the waterfall. 2010

What You Will Experience on the Kennebec River

Every rafting company begins rafting the Kennebec River at the 175 foot Harris Station Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the state of Maine. And yes, often you will run into other companies at the drop off point. Hey, we're all here to have fun! Upon arrival, you can use the restrooms and will have a short time to linger with your group. But don't drift too far because you will need to help your group carry its raft down a short path, to a set of medal stairs and to the river below.

After a short tutorial and safety check, your adventure begins.

It's mainly your guide's job to steer the raft, but it's your job to become the boat's muscle. If you want to hit or surf that giant wave, then you have to paddle your way there. The more effort you put into your experience, the more fun you'll have.

Magic Falls has their groups eat lunch back at their campground; however, on my trip, they did stop at a water fall so we could take an epic picture. I suggest you bring some snacks and water on the boat with you. You'll have time snack and replenish when you relax near the end of your trip. During that time you can chill your bones with a quick plunge into the calmer river.

As with every company, you will help carry your raft down a short path to these medal stairs. 2010
As with every company, you will help carry your raft down a short path to these medal stairs. 2010 | Source
After you carry your boat to the stairs you will lower it on the medal beams to the river below. 2010
After you carry your boat to the stairs you will lower it on the medal beams to the river below. 2010 | Source
After sliding your raft down the stairs, you will lower it into the river. At this time, instructors repeat safety precautions and command signals. 2010
After sliding your raft down the stairs, you will lower it into the river. At this time, instructors repeat safety precautions and command signals. 2010 | Source
After placing your raft into the water, you'll wait for your fellow rafters to join you. You don't want to go alone! 2010
After placing your raft into the water, you'll wait for your fellow rafters to join you. You don't want to go alone! 2010 | Source
And soon enough you'll be doing this....
And soon enough you'll be doing this....
And this...
And this...
And finally this! Maybe, if you tend to fall out of things easily.
And finally this! Maybe, if you tend to fall out of things easily.
Grillin' up some lunch. 2010
Grillin' up some lunch. 2010 | Source
Enjoy watching yourself and your friends get tossed by the waves. 2010
Enjoy watching yourself and your friends get tossed by the waves. 2010 | Source

After Your River Adventure

Every rafting package and trip is different. For rafters who stay at Magic Falls' Dead River Lodge, your trip will be slightly more luxurious than others who camp out. So ask yourself what you prefer after you finish a long day of rafting? Do you want to rest on a couch or hang out on a log around the fire?

When our group arrived back at our campground, we feasted on a BBQ lunch and enjoyed a slideshow of our day on the river. We also celebrated a group member's birthday.

If you would rather explore outside your lodging establishment, there is a local bar called Boatman's Bar and Grill about 10 minutes to the south. It rests between Magic Falls Rafting and Northern Outdoors. You'll find many of the guides lounging there or enjoying the music from local bands. It's also a nice place to watch the fireworks with a beer in hand the weekend before the Fourth of July. You could also drive a few more minutes south to Northern Outdoors (another rafting company) and kick back some of their home brewed beers..

Nothing better than some BBQ food after a hard day's work! They also have vegetarian options. 2010
Nothing better than some BBQ food after a hard day's work! They also have vegetarian options. 2010 | Source

Magic Falls Rafting's Main Headquarters

Food and Drinks

The rafting package you purchase will usually determine the type of food you eat. For example, if you were to purchase Magic Falls’ “Overnight “Out-Back” Camping Adventures” package, you would receive a “hearty BBQ” for lunch and your choice of lobster, steak or chicken as a main course served along corn on the cob, baked potatoes and all the trimmings. Save some room because after supper you can kick back homemade ice cream, hot apple crisp and s’mores. You will also enjoy an energy-filling breakfast the next morning. They include refreshments .

Some packages include all of the above food items, while others offer different assortments. Alcohol is permitted in moderation on lodging facilities for guests 21 and over.

For those that want to stay on the campground, there is plenty of space for backyard games. 2010
For those that want to stay on the campground, there is plenty of space for backyard games. 2010 | Source

Entertainment

Your rafting package may determine what you want to do after your already eventful day. Some overnight packages include safari tours or multi-day trips, while others simply take you down the Kennebec and then back to the main headquarters for lunch. A package that includes many activities could take up most of your day, so you may find comfort in just relaxing around the light of the campfire. Also, their campground has plenty of open space to play backyard games.

If you want to adventure elsewhere, check out Boatman’s Bar and Grill, The Marshall’s or the Hawk’s Nest Lodge & Restaurant. All are located in West Forks.

I believe Boatman’s Bar and Grill is where many of the rafting guides lounge and swap war stories from the river. It has a very lively environment and on the weekends the bar often hires a band to play. When I went, you could stand in their parking lot or on their front porch and watch the fireworks overshoot the trees and pierce the night sky. It is a lot of fun, if you want to get a little wild.

Boatman's Bar and Grill

A markerBoatman's Bar and Grill -
U.S. 201, West Forks, ME 04985, USA
get directions

The grill serves appetizers, entrees, pizzas, deserts and alcoholic beverages. Listen to karaoke on Friday and live music on Saturday nights!

The Marshall's

A marker2787 U.S. 201 The Forks, ME 04985 -
U.S. 201, ME, USA
get directions

Marshall's was built in 1890 and is used as a bar, inn and restaurant. Go in for their Chef's Special on Friday night or Rotisserie on Saturdays.

Hawk's Nest Lodge and Restaurant

A markerOld Route 201 West Forks, ME 04985 -
Old Route 201, West Forks, ME 04985, USA
get directions

Hawk's Nest Lodge provides lodging and rafting adventures. It also has a small bar, which offers food, free wif-fi and HD tv.

Dead River Lodge Room Rates

  • King room: $79 per night
  • Queen room: $59 per night
  • Bunk room: $25 per person
  • * Children under 12 stay for half price when in a bunk room with parents.

Magic Falls River's Inn Rates

The rate is $40 per person.

Cabin Tents Rates

  • Per person/per night: $18 per person
  • W/bedding: $25 per person

Camp site Rates

$12 per person/per night

Lodging

Magic Falls Rafting Co. offers it's a guest a few different lodging types. For those who prefer to stay in a more comfortable setting, try their Dead River Lodge or Magic Falls River Inn. Both accommodate large groups. The Dead River Lodge has 12 rooms with a half bath and decks that overlook the river. The lodge also has a large center room with a big screen TV and free WiFi. You can cook your own meals or BBQ at the Inn. The Inn sleeps 16.

My group slept at the campground, which is located directly across from their main headquarters and the cabin tents. Cabin tents are raised on wooden platforms, have a screen door and basic electricity. They contain bunk beds with mats; however, I suggest you bring your own sleeping pads to place on top for added comfort. You must bring your own sleeping bags and pillows if you don't want to pay an additional fee to rent the items from Magic Falls.

Cabin Tents

Looking at the cabin tents from Magic Falls' main entrance. Their headquarters are also located off to the right of the photo. 2010
Looking at the cabin tents from Magic Falls' main entrance. Their headquarters are also located off to the right of the photo. 2010 | Source

Cabin Tents

2010
2010 | Source
Me taking a stroll up to the headquarters on a chilly morning. You can see the river in the background. 2010
Me taking a stroll up to the headquarters on a chilly morning. You can see the river in the background. 2010 | Source

Campground Across From Cabin Tents

These tents are located across from the cabin tents. The blue and yellow tent is my humble abode. 2010
These tents are located across from the cabin tents. The blue and yellow tent is my humble abode. 2010 | Source

"...their main headquarters, campground and cabin tents are very hard to spot at night. They rest far back from Rt. 201 on Dead River Road, which is not clearly marked..."

Location

Magic Falls is located at 38 Dead River road, which is just north of where the Kennebec and Dead River meet. It is also about a 10 minute drive north from Northern Outdoor's rafting. I am not sure how easy it is to locate the resort's other lodging at night, but their main headquarters, campground and cabin tents are very hard to spot. They rest far back from Rt. 201 on Dead River Road, which is not clearly marked; and thus, easy to miss. There are few, if any street lights to guide you.

I advice you arrive early at Magic Falls the day before your raft because you will have an easier time locating their main headquarters.

Magic Falls Rafting Company's Main Heaquarters

A marker38 Dead River Rd West Forks, ME 04985 ‎ -
38 Dead River Road, West Forks, ME 04985, USA
get directions

Notice how their main headquarters is set of from rt. 201. This can be easy to miss late at night. There are no street lights to guide you.

What do You Think of Magic Falls Rafting?

Cast your vote for Magic Falls Rafting Co.

© 2014 Frank Sturm

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    • Frank Sturm profile image
      Author

      Frank Sturm 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      PhoenixV: It's definitely something you should do more than once!, but at least once. The important thing, I feel, is to pick a company you feel comfortable with. The river is always exciting, but it's the right company that will bring your experience to the next level. Have you ever been out here to New England?...

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 2 years ago from USA

      I have never rafted down a river but it looks very exciting. I hope to do it at least once in my life. Great information, excellent article.