Sheepscot Reversing Falls

This is one of the best play spots around and what makes it even better is that fact that it runs twice a day throughout the year. Unfortunately, one of those times is normally at night.

When the wave is at its biggest, the Sheepscot Reversing Falls is best for intermediate boaters since the boils and eddy lines can increase the degree of difficulty with rolling. Even a good paddler will carp a few rolls. However, there is no real danger and a swim will just be more of a pain in pushing a water-loaded kayak to shore.

Some of Maine’s best paddlers frequent the Sheepscot and it is always a good time. The water is relatively warm and the wave is predictable. Check the tide heights. King tides (11+ feet at high) will make for an epic session.

Getting There

Park at the Grange Hall in Alna (technically it is on the Newcastle side of the river) and paddle downstream to the reversing falls. It really could not be easier.

It is best to show up 2 hours after high tide in Portland so you avoid any possibility of missing the wave. The wave is begins at 2.5-3 hours after high tide, but don’t cut the timing too close. Extra freshwater run-off and the height of tides can affect the exact timing of the wave. If you are at the put-in 2 hours after high tide in Portland, you should be safe. Click here for a Google Map view of Sheepscot Reversing Falls at the end of the tide.

The Waves

Initially, there will just be an eddy line on river left that is good for stern squirts. This is also a good spot for beginners to practice peel-outs.

The eddy line will then develop into a green wave perfect for old school surfing. A gentle side-surf along the eddy line will deposit you on the wave. If you really want to show off, toss your paddle to a friend and hand surf the wave. You can stay on as long as you want.

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The green wave makes kayaking look easy

As the tide continues to fall, a hole will develop behind the green wave, which is great for loops, cartwheels, and flat spins. With the falling tide, the hole gets increasingly trashy and the waves and holes on  river left (surfer’s right) eventually turn into a pour-over that is retentive. That is the cue to switch over to the river right.

On the river right or surfer’s left, a series of holes will develop that require you to jet ferry and drop in. To drop in, you have to commit strongly to the jet ferry or you will miss the hole and just wash out.

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Starting the jet ferry on river right
The key is to commit to the ferry or you will miss the hole

Once you drop in, it is a great ride, but it is one that definitely can cause some rectal flutter if you get sideways. Side-surfing will present good opportunities for an involuntary window shade into a short mystery move. As the tide drops, you might even get a rock bump during your mystery move. A helmet is mandatory here.

This is why they call it dropping in

As the tide continues to drop, this hole will turn into a smooth surfing wave when a nice tongue of water develops and the hole smoothes out. There is a small side wave from surfer’s right that will give you some assistance with flat spins and other moves.

Sheepscot Reversing Falls is only good for about two hours of play, but that is more than enough time to tire you out. If you are Portland-bound, a stop at Fat Boy’s in Brunswick is always a good decision. If you have time to kill during alewife season, the nearby fish ladder in Newcastle is very cool.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jeri Marjerison says:

    While driving thru Maine last weekend, we passed a sign for the Sheepscot Reversing Falls & I was curious, as I’d never heard of it — now I have! Looks like fun!

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