“Over to your right you will see Harris Station Dam which is the largest hydroelectric dam in the state of Maine at 175 feet tall and 225 feet wide”. This is the most common and generic line you will hear from a guide as you make your descent towards the Kennebec River gorge.
What a cool but useless piece of information. Come on guides, you can do better than that! That small piece of information is cool, but what else? Clearly the dam isn’t there just for show so why is Harris Station important and why do we love it?
Also known as the Indian Pond Project, this dam, owned and operated by Brookfield Renewable, was completed in 1954. This is extremely impressive considering construction only began in 1952, and considering its enormity this feat is astonishing. It was named after Ford Harris who was the chief engineer of Central Maine Power. It is in fact the largest hydroelectric dam in the state of Maine and lies about 12 miles downstream of Moosehead Lake. The construction resulted in the water level of Indian Pond being raised 20 feet and increased the surface area from 2 to 5.5 square miles making it about the size of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Many first time rafters see the sheer size of the dam and worry that they have to slide down it. Take a breath and relax, no one will be catching air here, we put-in just below the dam on flat ground.
Brookfield Renewable is a power company that runs the operations of the dam on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, power companies don’t care about us rafters and the dam actually has nothing to do with whitewater rafting. Luckily we still get to enjoy the benefits of the water released here everyday. The Kennebec river is one of the only places in the country with guaranteed whitewater 7 days a week, 365 days a year. During July and August the water temperature is often above 70 degrees because the water is released from Indian Pond. Since Indian Pond is shallow the water warms up and is then released. We enjoy the benefits of this warm water as much as we can. It’s like a heated pool except there’s no chlorine or gross chemicals here.
The dam provides power to most of New England and specifically Massachusetts. On certain times throughout the year like extremely hot weekends, the power company will release higher levels of water. This is the only time you will catch us thanking Massachusetts. Keep crankin’ the AC Mass residents, that just means bigger water for us!
Harris Station is typically releasing water at around 4,800 cubic feet per second (CFS). For reference, imagine 4,800 basketballs or 38,000 McDonald’s Big Macs flowing EVERY SECOND. During those especially hot weekends or a scheduled turbine test we get HUGE WATER where the water flow can be up to 8,700 CFS. That’s a lot of basketballs! As you can imagine, these Huge Water River Trips make for an extra special trip for guide and guest alike.
Harris Station Dam is the reason that we get to do what we love! Why not celebrate its rich history and all that it has to offer? Thank you Harris Station! Never change.