Weather allows rare December kayaking
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After last week’s stretch of unseasonably warm weather, Leo Freeman is wondering if he’ll be able to paddle the Aroostook River again once it’s officially winter.
On Monday Dec. 7, 2015, Freeman set off in a kayak in Presque Isle, heading up the Aroostook River about a mile and a half to a series of islands and then travelling back with the current. The temperature hit a high of 42 degrees, offering Freeman a rare paddling excursion at a time of year when the river is usually approaching frozen.
“I’ve paddled in late November. I can’t really say December. I don’t think so,” said Freeman, a registered guide and owner of the outfitter Perception of Aroostook. “If I was here, I’d be going this weekend,” he said before a Saturday that reached 48 degrees.
In mid-December last year high temperatures were hovering close to the long-term average of 27 degrees, and a fair amount of ice was filling the Aroostook River from Washburn to Presque Isle and around a dam in Fort Fairfield. This year, December was preceded by the ninth warmest November at the National Weather Service’s Caribou station.
While many recreational boaters may be ready for winter pursuits, in relatively warmer weather Freeman and some others will take to relatively mellow sections of rivers and streams, like the Aroostook around Presque Isle, where currents can still be strong but the risk of capsizing remain low.
“I like to go out late in the year on a nice 45-degree day if the wind’s not blowing and it’s sunny,” Freeman said. “With a little precaution, it’s a very safe trip.”
In a three-mile round trip, Freeman will spend about an hour kayaking upriver to the Fish and Game Club’s perch on the Aroostook, past an almost half-mile-long wooded island, occasionally spotting bald eagles, moose and the work of beavers. Going back to the boat launch takes about 20 minutes with the paddle.
“It’s an interesting paddle. You hug the shore to stay out of the current and work your way up along the shoreline,” Freeman said.
Although Freeman didn’t have time to get on the river, Saturday ended up sunny and reaching 48 degrees in Presque Isle, leaving the Aroostook open and flowing.
If weather permits, Freeman will get another chance to venture onto the water before or after the winter solstice, which is Dec. 22.
“I watch the river daily to see what’s happening and I’ve seen a few days where there were some piles of ice and then some pack, and the next day it’d be clear again. It was still wide open. I might be paddling after the 21st.”