A quick tide propels your paddle on the Lower Cathance River in Topsham
by Ron Chase, Outdoors Contributor, Bangor Daily News
“The Cathance River in my hometown of Topsham provides a host of recreational opportunities.
The upper sector offers easy flatwater paddling. In the middle is one of the finest coastal whitewater creek runs in Maine, rated Class III/IV in difficulty by the American Whitewater Association. Below a waterfall at head of tide, several miles of forested wetlands follow to Merrymeeting Bay. There are hiking trails along its banks and fishing and bird watching are popular activities.
The Cathance has a rich history. Early Native Americans lived in settlements along the river and used it for transportation. Cathance or “Kathanis” probably meant “crooked” in the Abenaki language. As anyone who has paddled the river can attest, the name is appropriate as it roams circuitously throughout its 16.4-mile course. In 1715, European settlers built the first sawmill in Maine at the waterfall at head of tide, and it continued to operate well into the 20th century. In recent years, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust partnered with the Town of Topsham to purchase and create Head of Tide Park next to the waterfall.
In the almost 30 years that my wife, Nancy, and I have lived in Topsham, we had never paddled the lower tidal sector of the Cathance. Both senior citizens, rectifying that omission was overdue. Only a Facebook message was required to convince our retired friends, Diane and John Stokinger, to join us. Since there are boat launch facilities at Head of Tide Park and Mailly Waterfront Park downriver in Bowdoinham, they were the obvious locations to begin and end our voyage.
Strong tidal currents are a factor when planning a paddle on lower Cathance. The tide was scheduled to rise for most of the day we chose for our excursion. Unlike prehistoric Native Americans, we had the option of selecting our direction of travel. Riding the tide upriver from Bowdoinham and finishing at Head of Tide Park was preferable. Ending at Head of Tide Park did have a disadvantage; a steep carry was required next to the waterfall.
Head of Tide Park is an outstanding facility. There is adequate parking, covered picnic tables and a public toilet. Our inspection of the hand-carry boat launch was encouraging; convenient metal stairs led up from the water.
We left a vehicle at the park and drove to Bowdoinham to launch. Flat water kayaks were our boats of choice; however, canoes or sea kayaks would also be suitable……”