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What was the first river you ever paddled?

Glenn MacGrady

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Mine was the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine.

I spent every summer in Maine from age five to 18 with my grandparents. It must have been 1956 when we took our first drive up to Baxter State Park to see Mt. Katahdin and other sites. We stayed the night at small house that was right on the river in Grindstone, Maine, owned by a couple my grandparents had met somewhere, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Their house was the only building I recall being in Grindstone.

Mr. Smith volunteered to take my grandfather and me down the river from about 15 miles upstream right to his back door. He paddled stern, I paddled bow, and my grandfather sat on the bottom of the canoe in the middle. There were some rapids and maneuvering required, which Mr. Smith took care of from the stern. I'm not sure we went as far south as Grindstone Falls.

me-grindstonefalls-pic5.jpg

I recall the year mainly because Mrs. Smith talked about how much she enjoyed the first season of Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker.

Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie.jpg

I also remember how thrilled I was to be propelled by currents, to bounce over waves, and to feel the wind in my face. 24 years later in northern California, I began my 20 year period as a serious whitewater fanatic.
 
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The Hocking River in SE Ohio. Circa July 2002, so I would have been 16.

We had gone out to visit a church camp for two days and one night because our work schedules didn't permit additional time off. We didn't know that canoeing was on the agenda, and so we were not properly attired. They loaded us onto old Grummans and away we went. No water, no food, no sun protection. It was an absolutely miserable 6 hours, and I swore I would never step foot in a canoe again.

But time has a way of changing us, I suppose. Mainly because I wanted something that my son and I could share together for the remainder of our days together. I absolutely love it now!
 
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I think the first real river I paddled was the Youghiogheny River in Pa. This was back in high school. I have never been much of a river paddler, mostly due to not having the requisite skill set. I would like to learn how to read the river better, and be proficient in the braces/strokes.
 
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My first river was the Susquehanna shortly after HS graduation back in 76. Not having a plan or doing any research we actually started on the Chemung River in NY and floated to our hometown of Wilkes Barre, Pa. Distance wise it is still probably the longest trip I have done. I did a couple more trips on the Susq over the next few years but it wasn't until the early 90's that I became a "canoe tripper".
 
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Sangamon river in central Illinois. I would have been 11 or 12. It is a lazy muddy river, but it was the best option at the time. A friend's property was across the street. A few of us boys would launch from there in a beat up Grumman and a parent would pick us up at a designated bridge later that day. I remember riding in the bed of the truck with the canoe. How times have changed.
 
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The Flambeau river in Wisconsin via summer camp. I was going into 8th grade, maybe....
Retraced that first trip last summer at age 48!
 
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The Snake River in Cobden, Ontario, 1960 IIRC. If you have traveled Highway 17 from Ottawa, On. to Algonquin you might have driven over the Snake. Slow-moving river with lots of birdlife, decent bass fishing, snapping turtles and snakes.
 
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Swan River in Patchogue NY which was about 500 feet from our house at about 7 or 8 years old. But to be honest the rivers on Long Island aren't very impressive so I'd have to go with the Delaware around the Skinners falls area roughly 10 years later.
Side note: what could possibly go wrong on the Delaware - we were six paddlers and the drinking age was 18 at the time in New York. Gordon said he would do the cooking and buy the food. What none of us knew was that Gordon's mother was Mexican. The short story is every 20 minutes or so one of the canoes would pull over to the side. One of the paddlers would jump out and run into the woods dragging a roll of TP. The rest of us just sat there listening to the moans and groans. So much for being "real" men.
 
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The Annapolis River in Nova Scotia, I have paddled from its headwaters to the end. It is a mostly sedate river that runs through a lot of farm country, and for several years, it was off limits to human recreation, due to its toxicity. My dad and I used to paddle a tub of a sportspal, and fish along the way. Later I paddled it in a kayak, believe it or not, and finally in a springbok canoe, which although tub like, was a big step up from the sportspal. Someone stole the springbok, and my paddling days were over for a while.
 
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Either the Illinois River, a day trip, actually a canoe race with some serious racers. Got a nice embroidered patch for it. For an overnight, that would have been the Wisconsin River via scout camp. Loved it. These would have been when I was 13 or so.
 
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It was always fishing from a boat with my father, uncles and cousins, usually lakes like Saratoga, Round Lake, Sacandaga (the real one, not the reservoir), but to put a name on a river for sake of this thread, Fish Creek, the outflow of Saratoga Lake.

Technically though, I would say it was either the headwaters of the Saranac River or the St Regis River, since my earliest memories were paddling in what is now the St Regis Canoe area (around 1960 or so). Depending on which pond we were on, could have been one watershed or the other, what would I know, I was 4 years old!!
 
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Allagash.

My cousin tried for years to get us to go. He grew up in St John overlooking the St John looking into Canada and across the street from Norman L'Italien. He and his father spent a summer at Michaud Farm. At a family reunion, he pitched it one more time. We had 15 cousins that wanted to go up the next summer. By mid-winter, we lost everyone. It was myself, my oldest son, and my grandson who made the trip. My cousin had 5 other people. My son and my cousin were the only ones who had ever paddled a river, with me and one other person ever paddled a canoe before.
It's also my most paddled river, There's the core group of my son, grandson, and me, then an ever-changing group of mostly first-timers. It's a great river for cutting your teeth on.
 
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Delaware River north of the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania.I think it was a 3-4 day trip in 17’ aluminum canoes owned by the Firestone Explorer Base. Exciting first trip with some decent rapids. A bunch of 13-15 year old kids with one adult. We ended at Dingman’s Ferry, as I recall. It got me started over 60 years ago and I’m glad that it did!
 
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Raquette River in the Adirondacks (50 years ago) in a Grumman. We were loaded down - two coolers which resulted in doing the (1.25 mile) carry around Raquette Falls three times. My buddy and I went lighter on our next one - the Oswegatchie from Inlet up to High Falls.
 
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Raquette River in the Adirondacks (50 years ago) in a Grumman. We were loaded down - two coolers which resulted in doing the (1.25 mile) carry around Raquette Falls three times. My buddy and I went lighter on our next one - the Oswegatchie from Inlet up to High Falls.
I think the Oswegatchie was my first overnight trip. I was in the St Lawrence University Outing club in May and I was 17. We were hot and we thought a swim would be refreshing.. Teens can indeed walk on water. The immersion lasted maybe 10 seconds.
 
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The Jordan river in East Jordan, MI, sometime in middle school around 12 yrs old. Just day paddles, and lazy cruises. It’s a fun river with deep holes and good wildlife. As well as local “pirates”
 
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