Proper planning and preparation is the first principle of Leave No Trace. Ask yourself the following questions before getting on the river:
Where are you beginning and ending your trip? Everyone in your group should know the plan.
Do you have enough time to get from Point A to Point B?As a general rule, most boating groups travel at about 2mph. Tubes and floats take three to four times longer than boats. Plan accordingly
When you get off the river, do you have a ride back to your vehicle?
Popular TripsTIME ESTIMATES DEPEND ON RIVER CONDITIONS
TUBE TRIPS: -Swan's Falls to Canal Bridge ~ 4-5+ hours by float -Weston's Beach to Swan's Falls~ 6+ hours by float
DAY TRIPS (BOATS): -Swan's Falls to Canal Bridge~ 1-2 hours paddling -Swan's Falls to Walker's Bridge~ 5-6 hours paddling
OVERNIGHT TRIPS: -Swan's Falls to Walker's Bridge~ 1 day paddling, easy -Swan's Falls to Lovewell Pond~ 1.5 days paddling, easy -Swan's Falls to Brownfield Bridge~ 2 days paddling, easy -Swan's Falls to Hiram Recommended 3 days minimum for this option.
Tubes and floats take 2-3 times longer than a boat!
There are mile markers along the Saco River from Swan's Falls to the Brownfield Bridge. Always be aware of where you are in case you need to call for help. This will save precious time and help our first responders get to you in a timely manner.
Weston's Beach in Fryeburg offers free day parking only. No overnight parking allowed. There is limited parking available at the Lovewell Pond Landing in Fryeburg at no cost. Walker's Bridge is a privately owned and operated fee parking area.
Camping along the Saco is available because of the generosity of private landowners. Respect private property and camp responsibly.
Free camping is available on many sandbars and beaches from Swans's Falls to Hiram. Do not stop along property marked with "posted" or "no trespassing" signs. Please adhere to the following rules and regulations to help ensure that camping on the Saco will be available for generations to come.
Know the weather forecast and river conditions. During high water conditions, small children and weak or non-swimmers should not use the river, and all others should wear life vests at all times. If there is a chance of rain, do not camp near the water's edge - an inch of rain can cause the river to rise up to a foot! Be prepared for all types of weather.
Pack out what you bring in. Please bring a trash bag and carry out your waste. Dumpsters are located at all of the landings.
Building a fire? Don't forget your fire permit! Permits can be obtained at the Swan's Falls Visitor's Center, Jockey Cap Country Store in Fryeburg, and Woodland Acres Campground in Brownfield, and are by donation only.
Bury all human waste and toilet paper!. Remember that you are camping in the backcountry and will not have access to bathroom facilities.
For more information on responsible recreational use of the Saco River environment, visit our page "The Upper Saco River"
Looking for access to facilities? The following campgrounds offer sites along the river:
State and local laws, permits, and licenses may apply to your group. It is your responsibility to know the rules.
A valid Maine fishing license is required for anyone aged 16 and older who is fishing or transporting fishing equipment on inland Maine waterways. You must have your license with you at all times while fishing and must exhibit your license for inspection by any warden, law enforcement officer, guide, or landowner upon request. A digital receipt is acceptable proof of license. To obtain your fishing license online, please visit the the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Boats with motors:
Any boat, including a canoe, that has a motor of any type is required to have a valid registration. Owners of non-Maine registered watercraft are required to purchase and display a nonresident sticker. Click here to obtain your sticker online.
Maine state law prohibits drinking alcoholic beverages in public. Do not consume alcohol of any kind while on public landings. There is a limit to the amount of alcohol transported from out of state. You can not transport more than 1 gallon of wine, 1 gallon of spirit, and a 30 pack of beer per vehicle into Maine. No kegs are allowed on the river. There is NO glass allowed on the river or beaches. Remember to think before you drink, as almost half of boating accidents involve alcohol. It is illegal to operate a motorized watercraft while under the influence. For more information, visit the the Boat U.S. Foundation.
Fire on the Saco:
A fire permit is required for any fire along the Saco River, and can be obtained at Swan's Falls Visitor's Center or Jockey Cap Country Store in Fryeburg, or at Woodland Acres Campground in Fryeburg. Permits are by donation only. Fires are to be built on sandbars and beaches only, not up in the woods (even if you find evidence of campfire rings or remains of previous fires). Please keep the fire at a reasonable size and burn only locally sourced wood; do not cut any trees for any purpose. Under NO circumstances should you burn your trash. When fininshed, please completely extinguish your fire with water (NOT sand) and scatter the remains. Fireworks are illegal on the Saco River - strictly enforced!
Barges and flotillas:
The town of Fryeburg has passed an ordinance requiring the registration of all manmade "barges" or "flotillas" used for recreational purposes on the Saco River in Fryeburg, Maine. All manmade "barges" or "flotillas" must obtain a refundable $250 permit from Swan's Falls Campground in Fryeburg, which must be kept aboard the craft at all times. Any barge permitees who do not remove tbarges from the river or who do not return their barge to the Saco River Recreational Council at Swan's Falls for inspection will forteit their deposit. For more information, download the barge permit here.
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