The Saco River is a river in northeastern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine in the United States. It drains a rural area of 1,703 square miles (4,410 km2) of forests and farmlands west and southwest of Portland, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Saco Bay, 136 miles (219 km) from its source. It supplies drinking water to roughly 250,000 people in thirty-five towns; and historically provided transportation and water power encouraging development of the cities of Biddeford and Saco and the towns of Fryeburg and Hiram. The name "Saco" comes from the Eastern Abenaki word [sɑkohki], meaning "land where the river comes out". The Jesuit Relations, ethnographic documents from the 17th century, refer to the river as Chouacoet.
The Saco River in Conway, New Hampshire
|⁃ location||Saco Lake, White Mountains|
|Gulf of Maine, North Atlantic Ocean|
|Length||136 miles (219 km)|
|Basin size||1,293 sq mi (3,350 km2)|
The river rises at Saco Lake in Crawford Notch in the White Mountains and flows generally south-southeast through Bartlett and Conway in Carroll County, New Hampshire before crossing into Oxford County, Maine.
Shortly after entering Fryeburg, Maine, the river branches into the "Old Course" Saco River and the more commonly used "Canal River". Constructed in the 1800s to be more convenient for farmers, the 6-mile (10 km) long canal is 15 miles (24 km) shorter than the old course and is now considered to be the official course for the river, as the upstream end of the old course is largely silted over. The two channels merge again near Lovell, Maine.
After running through six hydropower stations operated by NextEra Energy Resources (including Skelton Dam and Bonny Eagle Dam), the river enters York County, crosses under Interstate 95, and passes between Saco and Biddeford, where it is bridged by U.S. Route 1. It enters Saco Bay on the Atlantic with Camp Ellis in Saco on the north shore and Hills Beach in Biddeford on the south shore.
The United States government maintains two stream gauges on the Saco river. The first is at Conway, New Hampshire ( ) where the river's watershed is 385 square miles (997 km2). Discharge (stream flow) here averages 962 cubic feet per second (27.2 m3/s) and has ranged from a minimum of 40 cubic feet per second (1.1 m3/s) to a maximum of 47,200 cubic feet per second (1,340 m3/s). The second is at Cornish, Maine ( ) where the watershed is 1,293 square miles (3,350 km2). Flow here averages 2,756 cubic feet per second (78.0 m3/s) and has ranged from a minimum of 244 cubic feet per second (6.9 m3/s) to a maximum of 46,600 cubic feet per second (1,320 m3/s).
The Saco is a popular recreational river, drawing an estimated 3,000 to 7,000 people per summer weekend, mostly on the stretch from Swan's Falls (a campground formerly maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club and now maintained by the Saco River Recreation Council), to Brownfield, Maine.
There are many sand beaches along the Saco when not at flood stage and camping is allowed along some of these beaches for free. Misuse, including large quantities of garbage left behind by users and illegal fires, as well as discourtesy toward landowners, has led many beaches to be posted and monitored. A permit is required from the State of Maine for campfires along any unposted river beaches.
The Saco is a major attraction for canoeists. One area of the river, Walker's Rip, is a set of rapids that has caused less talented canoers to capsize, although it can be navigated successfully. Several canoeing rentals are available throughout the river's distance.
The Saco river is also famous for sport fishing, even though the number of fish in it has decreased tremendously throughout time.
Multiple violent and reportedly alcohol-related incidents in 2001 led to increased police patrols and efforts by livery companies, landowners, and government agencies to improve conditions.
Local legends have held that the river is subject to the Saco Curse of Squandro.
Listed from source to mouth:
The Charles River is a 1.2-mile-long (1.9 km) channel connecting Charles Pond with the Old Course Saco River in the town of Fryeburg in western Maine, United States. It forms the natural extension of the Cold River, which flows from the White Mountains, New Hampshire, around Evans Notch south to Charles Pond.Cold River (Maine–New Hampshire)
The Cold River is a 16.7-mile-long (26.9 km) river in western Maine in the United States. It very briefly enters New Hampshire as well. It is part of the Saco River drainage basin.
The Cold River begins at the height of land in Evans Notch, a pass through the eastern White Mountains. Maine Highway 113, a narrow two-lane road, passes through the notch, following the Cold River on the south side and Evans Brook, a tributary of the Androscoggin River, on the north. The Cold River, flowing south, picks up the Mad River, a short stream with waterfalls that flows off the southern faces of East Royce and West Royce mountains, then reaches the southern base of Evans Notch at the junction of Basin Brook, coming out of a large glacial cirque to the west, where the Cold River national forest campground is located.
South of Basin Brook, the Cold River briefly enters New Hampshire near the village of North Chatham, then veers back into Maine, flowing south-southeast in the town of Stow through an ever-widening valley. The Little Cold River enters from the west near the village of Stow. The Cold River ends at Charles Pond in the northern corner of Fryeburg. Water flows from Charles Pond via the short Charles River, entering the Old Course of the Saco River and eventually the Saco itself south of Kezar Pond.East Branch Saco River
The East Branch of the Saco River is a 13.2-mile-long (21.2 km) river in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Saco River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean in Maine.
The East Branch rises near the northern boundary of Jackson, New Hampshire in an area just south of the Wild River, east of Black Mountain, and southwest of the Baldface mountains. The river flows south through the White Mountain National Forest in an area that is devoted more to logging than other portions of the forest. Leaving the forest, the river enters the town of Bartlett, reaching the Saco River at Lower Bartlett village, just downstream of the Ellis River confluence with the Saco.East Fork East Branch Saco River
The East Fork of the East Branch of the Saco River is a 2.2-mile (3.5 km) long stream in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the East Branch of the Saco River, with its waters ultimately flowing to the Atlantic Ocean in Maine.
The East Fork rises on the western slopes of North and South Baldface, two rocky summits that each stand over 3,500 feet (1,100 m) above sea level, in the eastern part of the White Mountain National Forest. The stream flows south, entering the town of Jackson, and joins the East Branch of the Saco in a broad valley between Sable Mountain to the east and Black Mountain to the west.Kezar River
The Kezar River is a 14.2-mile-long (22.9 km) tributary of the Old Course Saco River in western Maine in the United States. It starts at the outlet of Five Kezar Ponds in the town of Lovell, drops over Kezar Falls, and flows southwest, briefly entering the town of Sweden before reentering Lovell and passing that town's central village. Continuing southwest, it enters the town of Fryeburg and ends at the Old Course Saco River northwest of Kezar Pond and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) above the Old Course's mouth at the Saco River.Little Cold River
The Little Cold River is a 3.9-mile (6.3 km) long river in western Maine in the United States, flowing through the foothills of the White Mountains. It is a tributary of the Cold River, part of the Saco River watershed.
The river begins in Chatham, New Hampshire at the junction of McDonough Brook and Watson Brook, in the easternmost part of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. Flowing east, the river leaves the national forest and enters Maine after only one-half mile. Turning more southeast, the river passes through the town of Stow, reaching the Cold River one mile upstream from the latter river's end at Charles Pond in Fryeburg.Little River (Ossipee River tributary)
The Little River is a 7.0-mile-long (11.3 km) tributary of the Ossipee River in the U.S. state of Maine. Via the Ossipee River, it is part of the Saco River watershed, flowing to the Atlantic Ocean. The Little River flows entirely within the town of Cornish.Little Saco River
The Little Saco River is a 4.5-mile-long (7.2 km) tributary of the Saco River in western Maine in the United States. It begins at the junction of Haley Brook and Paine Brook in the northern part of the town of Brownfield and flows northeast, entering the town of Fryeburg just before its mouth at the Saco.Mad River (Cold River tributary)
The Mad River is a 1.4-mile (2.3 km) long mountain brook on the Maine–New Hampshire border in the United States, within the eastern White Mountains. It is a tributary of the Cold River, part of the Saco River watershed.
The Mad River rises in New Hampshire in the col between West Royce and East Royce mountains, at an elevation of 2,500 feet (760 m) above sea level. The river quickly drops to the south down the slopes of Royce Mountain, entering Maine and dropping over Mad River Falls, a tall cascade. The river joins the Cold River in the floor of Evans Notch, a narrow pass through the White Mountains.Middle Branch Mad River
The Middle Branch of the Mad River is a 0.8-mile (1.3 km) long mountain brook on the Maine-New Hampshire border in the United States, within the eastern White Mountains. It is a tributary of the Mad River, a short feeder of the Cold River, part of the Saco River watershed.
The Middle Branch flows east off the slopes of West Royce Mountain, beginning in New Hampshire and finishing in Maine. It joins the Mad River just upstream of Mad River Falls near the foot of the mountain.Old Course Saco River
The Old Course Saco River is a 21.9-mile-long (35.2 km) river in the town of Fryeburg in western Maine in the United States. It was the route of the Saco River until the early 1800s, when the river's current course (called at first the "Canal River") was dug to shorten its length considerably.Ossipee River
The Ossipee River is an 18.3-mile-long (29.5 km) river in eastern New Hampshire and western Maine in the United States. It is a tributary of the Saco River, which flows southeast to the Atlantic Ocean at Saco, Maine.
The Ossipee River begins at the village of Effingham Falls, New Hampshire, at the outlet of Berry Bay, the farthest downstream of a chain of lakes connected to Ossipee Lake. The river, flowing east, forms the border between the towns of Effingham and Freedom. Entering Maine, the river continues to serve as a municipal boundary, first between Porter and Parsonsfield, and then between Hiram and Cornish. Kezar Falls, a village in the town of Porter, forms a significant community along the river, with two dam impoundments.
Route 25 follows the river for its entire length.Rocky Branch (New Hampshire)
The Rocky Branch is a 13.1 mile long (21.1 km) river in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Saco River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean in Maine.
The Rocky Branch rises in the Presidential Range Dry River Wilderness Area of the White Mountain National Forest on the southernmost slopes of Mount Washington. The river drops rapidly to the south through a valley between Montalban Ridge (with the peaks of Mount Isolation and Stairs Mountain) to the west and smaller mountains to the east. Turning more to the southeast, the river leaves the national forest and enters the town of Bartlett, New Hampshire, where it joins the Saco River after passing under U.S. Route 302.Shepards River
The Shepards River is a 13.6-mile-long (21.9 km) river in western Maine and eastern New Hampshire in the United States. It is part of the Saco River drainage basin.
The Shepards River rises in the town of Eaton, New Hampshire, among foothills of the White Mountains. The river flows northeast into Brownfield, Maine, passing the villages of West Brownfield, Brownfield, and East Brownfield before reaching the Saco River east of Frost Mountain.
Several species of game fish have been caught in Shepards River, including brook trout, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and atlantic salmon.South Branch Mad River
The South Branch of the Mad River is a 1.1-mile (1.8 km) long mountain brook on the Maine-New Hampshire border in the United States, within the eastern White Mountains. It is a tributary of the Mad River, a short feeder of the Cold River, part of the Saco River watershed.
The South Branch, beginning in New Hampshire and finishing in Maine, flows east off the slopes of West Royce Mountain. It joins the Mad River less than 0.l mile above that river's end at the Cold River in the floor of Evans Notch.South River (Ossipee River tributary)
The South River is a 10.6-mile-long (17.1 km) river in eastern New Hampshire and western Maine in the United States. It is a tributary of the Ossipee River, which flows east to the Saco River and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean.
The South River begins at the outlet of Province Lake in the town of Effingham, New Hampshire, and proceeds north past the village of Center Effingham. Jogging east, the river enters Parsonsfield, Maine, then turns north again to reach the Ossipee River.Swift River (Saco River tributary)
The Swift River is a 25.6 miles (41.2 km) river in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Saco River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean in Maine.
The Swift River rises in the township of Livermore, New Hampshire, on the eastern side of Kancamagus Pass, and flows east into a broad valley, surrounded by mountains, known as the Albany Intervale. Leaving the intervale, the river enters a narrow gorge, passing over two sets of small waterfalls, and continues east through the town of Albany to the Saco River at Conway.
The river is paralleled for its entire length by New Hampshire Route 112, the scenic Kancamagus Highway.Tenmile River (Maine)
The Tenmile River is an 8.6-mile-long (13.8 km) river in the towns of Hiram and Brownfield in western Maine in the United States. It is a tributary of the Saco River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean.West Branch Tenmile River
The West Branch Tenmile River is a 5.0-mile-long (8.0 km) tributary of the Tenmile River in western Maine. It is part of the Saco River watershed, flowing to the Atlantic Ocean.
The West Branch rises near the northern boundary of the town of Porter and flows east, entering the town of Hiram just before its mouth at the Tenmile River.
Saco River watershed
|Bay of Fundy|
|Gulf of Maine|
|Gulf of Maine|
|Long Island Sound|