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Safety Info, Waiver & River Tips

Safety Information, Release of Liability Waiver & Tips for Saco River Conditions

Click here for the electronic version of our Waiver & Release of Liability 

Click here for the High Water Waiver, (only necessary when advised that the river is high)

Click here for the printable version of the Release of Liability

Some Saco River & Water Safety Points

We want everyone to have a fun and safe excursion outside. Conditions can change quickly, so be prepared whenever you are in a natural environment. THE RISKS MENTIONED BELOW ARE SOME OF THE MOST OBVIOUS, SPECIFIC RISKS AND ARE MEANT TO BE HELPFUL TO YOU IN MAKING YOUR DECISION TO GO BOATING BUT ARE NOT IN ANY WAY A FULL LIST OF RISKS ON A RIVER TRIP.

  • GOOD JUDGMENT:  Exercise good judgment while crossing roads, swimming, (DIVING, BANK JUMPING), using rope swings or in other potentially dangerous situations.  Saco Bound, Inc., is not to be held responsible for poor judgment on my part.  I realize the river environment is constantly changing and requires judgment decisions on my part.
  • LIFE JACKETS: Each person must possess a PFD by law.  Although the Saco is normally shallow, there are deep holes.  Therefore, we strongly recommend all persons, and especially non-swimmers and children wear their life jacket any time they are near the water.  There are no life guards at any Saco River facilities.
  • COLD:  When water and air temperatures are cold, the risk of hypothermia is great during a capsize.  Numbness and loss of use of arms and legs can occur within seconds under these conditions.  Make sure to stay warm and dry after capsize.
  • HIGH WATER:  When the river is higher than normal trees that have fallen into the river pose an extreme danger as you can get swept and be pinned indefinitely resulting in hypothermia or drowning.  Deep swift water has obvious dangers in terms of swimming to safety.
  • SWAN’S FALLS DAM: Swan’s Falls Dam is 6.5 miles downstream from Saco Bound. You must carry your boats around the dam on the right side. I realize there is danger to my life if I try to pass over or near the dam‚s edge, and that this danger is substantially increased in high water when the current is swift.
  • STEPS: Numerous put-ins and take-outs require negotiating STEEP STEPS, that should be done carefully, especially when the steps are sandy and/or wet.  Also, steps and docks negotiability can be affected by changing river conditions.
  • HEAVY RAINFALL: Heavy rainfall may result in rapidly rising water levels and dangerous river conditions. Camp on high ground and tie your canoe to a live tree (sandbars are not high ground).  Rivers can rise many feet.
  • Capsize and Obstacles:  River craft can flip over and in some cases make an exit from the craft more difficult.  The Saco, in general, is not a very rocky river, but there are some rocks and a small rocky rapid (WALKER’S RIP & RED STONE).  Capsizing around rocks, banks and docking systems presents the risk of hitting your head.
  • WALKER’S RIP: 2.7 miles downstream from Walker‚s Bridge (Route 302), there is a short rapid called Walker’s Rip. This rapid can break your boat into pieces, especially when the water is low. Be sure to pull out above this rapid and scout it before running, if you have any doubts about your ability to successfully negotiate this rapid, you should carry around, especially kayak renters.

River Etiquette

Respect nature and leave NO trace! The river valley is a delicate ecological environment. Please practice NO TRACE principles. Pack out everything you bring in and always protect all vegetation and habitat areas

  • TRASH:  Please be sure to carry out ALL that you carry in.
  • HUMAN WASTE:  Outhouses or porta potties ate located at most river access points.  Bury human waste in 6 inches of soil, not in the sandy beaches.
  • GROUPS:  Please respect the rights of others. Some people want to enjoy the PEACE AND QUIET of the river.  Keep noise to a low level.
  • PRIVATE LAND:  I realize that all of the land along the Saco River is private property. This includes the beaches. Most land owners do not mind if you stop along the river on their land, some do.  Please respect the rights of those land owners who have posted their land and stay off and keep private property free of trash.
  • TREES:  Do not cut live trees — Use dead and down wood for fires.
  • NARROW ROADS:  Many of the take-out and put-in roads are one lane. Please drive conservatively at 5MPH.
  • TAKE-OUT ETIQUETTE:  The take-outs can be very busy. Please move your gear and canoes as quickly as possible and adhere to River  Runner and Saco Bound staff directions. 
  • Youth groups should have parent or guardians sign our Waiver prior to arrival.
  • It is against Saco Bound policy to consume alcohol in excess.

Some Tips & Safety for High Water

River conditions are high and potentially dangerous or become more dangerous with additional rain or runoff.   This may result in a rapidly rising river and pose additional hazards and increased danger.  By signing below I choose to accept the potential for these hazards.  I have been informed of some of these hazards and that this may be a partial list of all the dangers associated with high water conditions. 

  • An extreme danger is getting swept into fallen trees (strainers), and being pinned there and drowning as well as obvious dangers associated with deep, swift water.
  • We are also concerned with your carry, (portage) at Swan’s Falls dam.  You should land well above the dam on the right shore to avoid being in the current going over the dam.  (Going down river)
  • With any significant amount of rainfall, the river could rise as much as 5 to 10 feet vertically, covering all low areas, including sandbars.  This is especially true since the watershed is saturated from recent rains.  
  • Be alert and aware of water conditions. Secure boats to a live tree. 
  • FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN: The river is faster and higher than normal.  This means if you tip over, small children could be swept away from you downstream.  You should be able to swim, have your children wear their PFD, and have a teenager or adult for each small child in your party.  Always be near the child when in or on the water.  
  • We advise all paddlers to remain in contact with Saco Bound to receive updates on river conditions.  You should camp at a commercially run camping area.   River camping is not advised.  If you need help after our business hours or have an emergency contact emergency personnel immediately. Be advised, cell phones may not work. 
  • Be alert and aware of changing conditions
  • Have a safe exit plan should conditions start to become concerning
    • Before the river floods be ready to quickly get to a safe point of egress from the river
  • Know your limitations
    • Do not overestimate your swimming and paddling abilities
    • Water saturated clothing makes swimming more difficult
    • Swift water is powerful do not underestimate the strength of moving water
  • Secure your equipment, tie boats to a live tree
  • Wear your PFD at all times
  • Use extra caution at Swans Falls Dam
    • Understand exactly where you need to land your boat and target a location well upstream
    • DO NOT go beyond the warning cable
  • Avoid strainers and obstacles in the river
  • Use good judgment 
    • The best tool you have to keep yourself safe is good decision making 
    • Avoid anything that could impair your judgment
  • Consider a commercial campground rather than river camping
  • Use extreme caution with kids
    • Have a 1:1 ratio of strong swimming adults to kids 
  • Have and discuss a safety plan with your group
  • Use caution at the Hiram take out, do not go under the Hiram Bridge!
  • Trips will be faster, (than published times) and take less time to reach your destination.

Some Tips for Low Water Conditions Generally below 200 CFS

  • Using your hands and feet, maneuver into the section of river where it’s flowing the most.  
  • Avoid the corners & edges of the river where it’s shallow or not moving well. 
  • Reduce stopping.
  • Do not tie into big groups.  
  • Don’t take too much stuff.
  • Consider a shorter trip, like Weston’s from the Pines or PI.  
  • Be ready and get on the river a little early. 
  • You must be ON THE RIVER by your assigned time, especially for any afternoon trips.  So get going a little earlier and we can get you on the river earlier.  
  • Put in at the SB Pines for a slightly shorter trip to Weston’s.  
  • No Redstone trips  after 1
  • No Weston’s trips after 2
  • No Paradise trips after 3
  • Trips will be longer, (than published times) and take more time to reach your destination.

On average, float trips would be about 25% longer.  Without effort and using these tips, trips could take much longer than that.  Try to maneuver into the “channel” of the river or where the water is flowing the most… Go With the Flow!