UPDATED SUMMER 2020. The North Branch Dead River flows from the beautiful Chain of Ponds, near the Canadian border, south to Flagstaff Lake. Its mix of lakes, flatwater, and rapids provide variety, and due to several access points, the river can be done as either a 2-3 day trip or as a series of day paddles. While its rapids are generally too low to paddle after mid June, most can be portaged or lined at low water. For the Penobscot, the North Branch serves as a connector between the Chaudiere headwaters, Kennebec, and Rangeley Lakes. Early settlers soon found value in the river as a means of navigation, and farmers were known to travel the waterway to fetch seed wheat from Canada. The river contains an interesting piece of American history. In 1775, Benedict Arnold and around 1,000 men paddled up the North Branch and the Chain of Ponds on their way to attack Quebec. Lack of experience and high waters took a toll on the group, and many supplies were lost along the way. Arnold’s invasion was eventually unsuccessful, even when he received reinforcements. Fortunately, paddling down the river is much easier than going up. For the modern paddler, the river offers wonderful views of mountains and forests, peaceful sections, as well excellent rapids for experienced paddlers.
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