Paddling to Nanrantsouak


After launching into the Kennebec River at Oosoola Park in Norridgewock, Maine, I headed upriver passing under the pictured bridge...my destination, the historic Native American Wabanaki village known as Nanrantsouak.  The name is said to have meant "still water between the rapids" or possibly "by the rapids".  About 3 miles upriver from the bridge I paddled through the nowadays mostly submerged rapids of Bombazee Rips which may have been one of the two rapids framing the still water.  After approximately 7 miles of paddling I reached the mouth of  the Sandy River and landed on the small island at its confluence with the Kennebec.  From there I looked across to Old Point where the palisaded Wabanaki village of Nanrantsouak once stood on a broad plateau behind the trees...

 In addition to wigwams the village included a mission church maintained there by the Jesuit Order (aka "Black Robes") dating back to the mid 1600s.   The setting was idyllic with fertile soil for growing corn and rivers providing ample supplies of seasonally-migrating fish. Archaeological evidence indicates Native Americans had lived in the area of this confluence for thousands of years.

This storied village is a place I'd come across numerous historical accounts of over the years and long wanted to visit...preferably arriving via boat.  As I prepared to leave the small island for the paddle across to the village, I thought of how the village came to its end on a mid-August afternoon in 1724.  Had I been here on that fateful afternoon I'd have witnessed all hell breaking loose in the village across the river.  The sounds of screaming and gunfire would have resulted in more than a hundred Nanrantsouak men, women, and children desperately entering the river in an attempt to escape the horrors being inflicted upon them by a force of English colonial militia.  The lucky ones made it to the river and, perhaps successfully, across to the very shore I now stood upon.  Many others including the Jesuit priest Father Rasle and most of the tribe's sachems weren't so lucky suffering death and scalping.  The militiamen would sleep that night in the village they'd vanquished before putting it to the torch the following morning.  Historical accounts written by the militia commanders attempt to justify their actions while minimizing the atrocities committed and the role cash bounties for scalps played.  It speaks volumes to me that the perpetrators of this massacre showed up in Boston only a matter of days later with 28 human scalps being redeemed for cold hard cash.  Father Rasle's and the sachem's scalps garnered 100 pounds apiece.  Women and children's only 50 pounds.

Shortly, I paddled across the relatively shallow waters of the Kennebec and thought of the mayhem that ensued that day along the shoreline I now approached...

I landed where historical accounts mention some 40 canoes having been tethered to trees.  It's said that the canoe paddles were stored in the wigwams, and that villagers tried to escape without them.

After landing I saw the path leading to the village...

My mood was solemn as I approached this ancient site.  Not a soul around though odd signs had been noted along the way such as these curiously arranged pieces of wood and stones...

A nearby eagle...

...a huge eagle's nest directly across the river...

and this deer seen earlier along the river...

...all helped in making it easy to comply with this request...

...and brought me to the monument erected in 1833...

It bears both a Latin and English inscription.  Here's the English one...

A more recently added monument...

Returning to the path along the river I headed a short distance...
...to the place called the Pines...
...where other plaques speak to the actual location of the buildings...
...and mention the Arnold Expedition encountering remains of the village when they stopped here en route to Quebec in 1775...

One 1849 detailed description of the village by William Allen in his History of Norridgewock: Comprising Memorials of the Aboriginal Inhabitants and Jesuit Missionaries... mentions "At the upper end of the village a spring of water gushes from the riverbank."  This spring can still be visited today...

As I walked back to my boat I couldn't help but notice how the sounds from the Kennebec rippling over the rocks and the breeze rustling through the treetops seemed to lull one into an almost hypnotized state of being.  Perhaps these lulling sounds on a "Dog Day" August afternoon help to explain how the villagers were so easily caught by surprise.

With plenty of food for thought I  paddled back downriver to Oosoola Park and later to my campsite at Two Rivers Campground alongside the Kennebec River in Skowhegan.

The next morning I traveled to another Kennebec town, and launched from the Waterville Boat Launch.  I paddled upriver about a mile to the mouth of the Sebasticook River where the Massachusetts militia had left the 17 whaleboats they'd rowed upriver from Fort Richmond.  From here they marched the remaining 30 miles to Norridgewock on foot.  Fort Halifax would later be built at this confluence in 1755...
...and after landing at the point, I visited what's left of the fort...


I encountered this other visitor...

Then, just as I re-entered my boat at the tip of the confluence a member of the Penobscot Nation was seen engaged in his morning prayers...

We spoke briefly and I recall our discussing eagles prior to my heading upriver on the Sebasticook.

 Access to the Sebasticook is greatly improved since the dam was removed in 2008...


Passing through a few shallow and rocky sections brought me to the outlet from China Lake...
...where I encountered the most eagles I've ever seen in one place.  They were in trees...
...and on rocks...

Above the outlet from Chine Lake the Sebasticook became smooth going and only this sign had me feeling I'd come a day too soon...

...but that tomorrow would be spent paddling up Wesserunsett Stream from my campsite in Skowhegan into the early morning mist...
...where more of Maine's wildness was encountered...
...before returning to my campsite...
...and bringing my Kennebec visit to a close.






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