The Kennebec River just south of Bath
|Mouth||Gulf of Maine, North Atlantic Ocean|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Length||149 miles (240 km)|
|Source elevation||1,024 feet (312 m)|
|Avg. discharge||9,111 cu ft/s
at its entrance to Merrymeeting Bay
|Basin area||5,869 sq mi (15,200 km2)|
The Kennebec River is a 150-mile (240 km) river in the state of Maine in the northeastern United States. It rises in Moosehead Lake in west central Maine. The East and West Outlets join at Indian Pond and the river then flows southward where it is joined, at the The Forks by the Dead River, also called the West Branch then continues southward past the cities of Madison, Skowhegan, Waterville, and the state capital Augusta. At Richmond, it flows into Merrymeeting Bay, a 16-mile (26 km) freshwater tidal bay into which also flow the Androscoggin River and five smaller rivers. The Kennebec then runs past the shipbuilding center of Bath, thence to the Gulf of Maine in the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean tides affect the river height as far north as Augusta. Tributaries of the Kennebec River include the Carrabassett River, Sandy River, and Sebasticook River.
The Virginia of Sagadahoc, the first oceangoing vessel built in the New World by English-speaking shipwrights, was launched into the river. Hundreds of wooden and steel vessels have since been launched on the Kennebec, particularly in Bath, the so-called City of Ships, including the Wyoming, one of the largest wooden schooners ever built. The sole remaining shipyard is the Bath Iron Works, one of the few yards still building warships for the United States Navy. The USCGC Kennebec was named after this river.
In 1814 Frederic Tudor began to establish markets in the West Indies and the southern United States for Ice. In 1826 Rufus Page built the first large ice house near Gardiner to supply Tudor. The ice was harvested by farmers and other who were inactive due to the winter weather. The ice was cut by hand, floated to an ice house on the bank, and stored until spring. Then, packed in sawdust it was loaded aboard ships and sent south.
On April 1, 1987, 6 plus feet of melting snow and 4 to 6 inches (150 mm) of rain in the mountains forced the river to flood her banks. By April 2, 1987 the river had crested at 34.1 ft (10.4 m) above the normal 13ft. flood stage meaning the river rose 21ft. At the floods peak the flow topped out a an estimated 194,000 cubic feet per second. It caused about $100 million in damage (171 million in 2008 dollars)flooding 2,100 homes, destroying 215, and damaging 240 others. Signs of the flood can still be found around the towns and cities that line the river.
Prior to the industrial era, the river contained many anadromous fish, in particular the Atlantic Salmon. The exploiting of hydroelectric power in the region reduced the runs of such fish. The removal of dams on the river has been a controversial local issue in recent years. The removal of the Edwards Dam in 1999 has led to increased anadromous activity on the river.
The river drains a total area of 5,869 square miles (15,200 km2), and on average discharges 5.893 billion U.S. gallons per day into Merrymeeting Bay at a rate of 9,111 cubic feet per second (258.0 m3/s). The United States government maintains three river flow gauges on the Kennebec river. The first is at Indian Pond, Maine ( ) where the rivershed is 1,590 square miles (4,100 km2). Flow here has ranged from 161 to 32,900 cubic feet per second (4.6 to 931.6 m3/s). The second is at Bingham, Maine ( ) where the rivershed is 2,715 square miles (7,030 km2). Flow here has ranged from 110 to 65,200 cu ft/s (3.1 to 1,846 m3/s). The third is at North Sidney, Maine ( ) where the rivershed is 5,403 square miles (13,990 km2). Flow here has ranged from 1,160 to 232,000 cu ft/s (33 to 6,570 m3/s). Two additional river stage gauges (no flow data) are in Augusta, Maine ( ) and Gardiner, Maine ( ); both of these gauge heights are affected by ocean tides.