Ways of Knowing Maine

Here’s a short clip from the interesting one hour film Dead River Rough Cut**

**Most requested film at Thomaston,*** allegedly.

***The Maine State Prison resides in the town of Thomaston, otherwise noted for a small historical museum and a bridge that cuts off navigation at the head of the St. George river.

my fire and boat drill hat!


This might be his car:

This is the first time 'Ive heard of that “rough cut”. The Dead River is also known as the West Branch, being the west branch of the Kennebec.

Love the forks!

To this a (former) New England whitewater kayaker, it’s just the Dead River, but I concede that in a geographic/cartography context it’s the west branch of the Kennebec as the bit below the confuence at The Forks is the Kennebec. To apaddler,“West Branch” is taken to mean the west branch of the Penobscot. The only references to branches of the Kennebec paddlers use if the east outlet of the Kennebec (the section from Moosehead Lake to Indian Pond).

I’d say in the context of Maine rivers “West Branch” by itself would more likely refer to the Penobscot. If someone from the Kennebec River valley says “west branch” I’d assume they were talking about the Dead River. I couldn’t tell you which is more common.

As far as the outlets I’ve only heard them called East or West Outlet.

Here is Wikipedia: Dead River (Kennebec River tributary)

The Dead River , sometimes called the West Branch, is a 42.6-mile-long (68.6 km)[1] river in central Maine in the United States. Its source is Flagstaff Lake, where its two main tributaries, South Branch Dead River and North Branch Dead River, join (45°09′41″N 70°25′55″W). It flows generally east to join the Kennebec River at The Forks, Maine.

I drove past the Maine State Prison store in Thomaston three days ago. I did not know this was a “thing”. Wonder if other state prisons have their own store.


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I’ve been going there for years now! It’s a must stop place for me whenever I’m in the area.

Hopefully they will have a gasket shop for the alumni to take resident in. Nothing quite like making gaskets all day.

The added risk of drowning is no longer a risk for this guy.

From Arundel:

From books.google.com

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Kennebec is quite a river.

Back in the day the rivers were used for transportation of course. Wood from the forest moved from the forest to the mills and then to the sea ports. So life in general was organized around what ever river you lived near. Old books refer to a “Kennebec Man” or a Penobscot man and so forth.

While I don’t know the area anywhere close to what my father or his father did I am ignorant of other river watersheds to a large degree. When I was growing up if you asked me about the Androscoggin or the Penobscot you might have been asking about the back side of the moon. I mean I know it exists…


I wasn’t questioning that every river and stream in Maine has sections prefaced with “____ Branch.” I’m pretty sure I couched my comment on the Kennebec to be from the perspective of a Masshole kayaker (I didn’t paddle when I lived in Maine, I started after moving to Boston).

But since you’ve kept this off tangent discussion going, I’m now curious about something. I have driven from the Kennebec at the Forks to the West Branch of the Penobscot in the area of the Ripogenus Gorge on logging roads to Greenville and then via Kokadjo more than a few times. At wjhat point on that trip do the locals stop being Kennebec men and become Penobscot men?

Thanks to Google, I also just learned that some paddler’s trivia about the spot where paddlers “take out” from the Kennebec Gorge is apparently not true. It’s called Carry Brook and the paddler story was that it was called that as Benedict Arnold portaged (aka “carried”) around the Kennebec Gorge there. I learned what I am sure you have known, that Arnold went up the Dead to Quebec and portaged the Dead at the Carrying Place" not the Kennebec at Carry Brook. I’m sure this new (to me) nugget is true, I just read it on the ineternet… The now debunked story I heard probably started with a raft guide (how do you know a raft guide is making something up…?)

I was also googling for a pic of one of my favorite spots on any river I have paddled (W. Br. Penobscot,bottom of Abol Falls looking upstream) and found an ancient picture of me in the Ripogenus Gorge (the little pic in the title banner here) I didn’t know was on the internet, that pic has to be at least 25 years old.

Yes, you did put it in context and you are correct. From my point of view growing up here it didn’t occur to me that of course West Branch means something different.

As far as stories and so forth, there are many things mixed up in my head including Arnold as you mentioned. We understand Arnold here very differently then most as well.

I think those days are gone by. I’ve noticed the old-timers used to orient by natural features but nowadays most people use highways and so forth. I’m now a I-95 man.

More seriously the division now is rural / urban. The so-called two Maines.

Does coastal/inland still make a difference?

It did seem to me that Boston had gotten as far as Belfast twenty years or so ago.

I don’t know. This is like asking a fish about water.


From a Mass perspective untill you get down east or north of milinocket will you get past the Massachusetts villages of Maine.

It probably does. Go a few miles to the west of I-95 and it changes rather quickly. Drive to Augusta on the Maine Turnpike via Lewiston/Auburn (or even 295 north of Brunswick) and it looks quite a bit different than going via Rt.1. Same with Augusta to Belfast via Rt 3.

Maybe north of Orono, e.g. the I-95 bit from Orono to Millinocket with towns with names like “T3 R9.”

It’s not just geographic, sometimes it’s by ear. I live in Mid-coast next to the family farm. There was a new house just up the road from me a couple miles that was selling hardwood boards and I assumed he was running a mill so I went up to see if I could sell some logs.

Only his wife was home and after some confusion I learned there was no mill. But I saw the stacks of hardwood boards. I went over to have a look and I said, “oh, you have popple”. I said popple a few times and each time she corrected me, “that’s poplar”, which is a word I cannot pronounce.

I’m a couple miles from the old family homestead where the family has been for many generations and I’m not feeling very much at home.

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