Length: 240 miles
(West Branch to Bucksport)
Drainage area: 8,570
Discharge at mouth: 10.1
billion gallons/day (avg.)
Rivers, Lakes, and
Streams in the Penobscot Watershed:
Big Stream Brook
Cold Stream Pond
Great Works Stream
Little Lake Brook
Little Nesowandnehunk Stream
Sam Ayers Stream
Maine Water Profiles
The Penobscot River was named by native peoples, who have occupied
the Penobscot Valley for well over 5,000 years. The word means "waters
of descending ledge."
second largest river
system, the Penobscot drains an area
of 8,570 square miles. Its West Branch
rises near Penobscot Lake on the Maine/Quebec
border; the East Branch at East Branch
Pond near the headwaters of the Allagash
River. The main stem empties into Penobscot
Bay near the town of Bucksport.
Ripogenus Gorge - West Branch of the Penobscot
The river is tidal from the base of the Veazie
Dam to its mouth near Bucksport (approx. 25 miles) and is brackish
to the town of Hampden. The river's total fall from Penobscot Lake
on the South Branch is 1,602 feet.
During the nineteenth century,
the Penobscot became the primary means of transporting logs out
of the North Woods to Bangor--then called the "timber capital
of the world" (see photos and read more about the log drives).
The river's West Branch from
Ripogenus Dam to the Pemadumcook Lakes is famous for its numerous
falls and rapids which provide outstanding whitewater rafting
and angling for wild landlocked Atlantic salmon.
Like all of New England's major
rivers, the Penobscot has been grossly polluted with untreated
industrial and municipal waste for most of the 20th century.
Water quality on the main-stem and lower tributaries has improved
markedly since the 1970s.
Terrain ranges from steep mountains including
Maine's highest, Mt.Katahdin, rolling hills and extensive bogs,
marshes and wooded swamps.
Most of the watershed is forested, intensively
harvested for pulp and saw logs and sparsely settled. The only
major urban area in the watershed is the riverfront cities of
Bangor and Brewer.
A major agricultural area (dairy
and potato farming) is concentrated in the Kenduskeag Stream
watershed west of Bangor with smaller areas located in intervales
of the lower Piscataquis River. Paper mills are located on West
Branch at Millinocket and East Millinocket, and on the main-stem
at Lincoln, Old Town, Brewer and Bucksport.
The Penobscot is
home to many fish, including native brook trout, landlocked salmon,
smallmouth bass, white perch and chain pickerel are prevalent
resident species. Sea-run species include Atlantic salmon, alewives,
American shad, American eel, sea lamprey, striped bass, tomcod,
rainbow smelt and occasional Atlantic sturgeon.
Most sea-run species except
smelt and eels are found in numbers far below historic levels
because of non-existent or inadequate fish passage facilities
on main-stem and tributaries, past pollution and loss of habitat
due to dam construction.
The Penobscot is best known for
its large historic salmon run (50,000 or more adults) and its
much smaller contemporary run, which is the largest Atlantic
salmon run remaining in the United States (1,000-4,000 adults
in recent decades).
1168 Main St.
Old Town, ME 04468