Insider Info on Saco River Tubing, History and More
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
The Saco River is a very important part of the White Mountains. It provides a rite of passage sport for newbie vacationers to the area - Saco River tubing.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it's one of the most popular outdoor fun things to do in North Conway, NH! I know I probably just upset a few die-hard hikers but come on, who doesn't like kicking back on a sunny day, enjoying an adult beverage or two, having Mother Nature's power propel you down a waterway, knowing the kids are having fun too?
What most folks don't realize is that the Saco River has a rich and interesting history and is a kind of life-blood for NH and Maine residents too. Read on for some interesting factoids you can tuck away to impress someone at your next dinner party!
I'll admit it. I absolutely love to go Saco River tubing but hate being cold. If you see someone tubing down the Saco River with a wet suit on, yell out my name (Teena). I always carry discount coupons for White Mountain attractions with me. I'll give you a couple!
Of all the years I have paddled, floated, and swum down the Saco River, I have never seen anyone else wear a wet suit. :)
OK, so donning my wet suit, I head for my favorite spot to put-in. (Book a vacation at Russ-Tee Bucket Ranch and I'll tell you where that is!) I have a check-list of things to do when I'm headed off tubing.
Here is my brilliant list of must-have's and do's!
Disguise so no one recognizes you
An extra tube to tote drinks
Dry bag for you phone
Your bravery to swing from an unsafe rope swing
Change of clothes
Bug spray if you're a weenie
Pick your tubing buddies carefully - you might have to listen to them whine about being cold
Leave valuables at home
Even though I'm a work-a-manic, I thoroughly enjoy a day relaxing on the river. It's one of the only times I leave my cell phone on the counter and unplug.
The first thing I always notice when I lay back and relax is the sunlight glistening off the water. Keep your eyes out for wildlife while you're tubing the Saco River. I love to watch the birds swooping over the river and diving into their nesting spots in the river-bank.
You will probably see a silky fox, a studious looking raccoon and you might even spot the elusive Molly Miss Molly swimming with me on her back. Molly and I can often be seen enjoying an afternoon by the river providing tubers a great photo op stop!
Before you float off into never-never land, have a conversation with your fellow tubers about what the perfect amount of time everyone wants to become one with the water. You should know that some places that you put-in (that's tubing lingo for the spot you stumble upon to launch your tube) are many hours from a good spot to take out. There are many different spots to choose with floats from 1.5 hours to a full weekend!
After a long day in the sun, I bet you'll be thirsty. Join all us locals at Top of the 9th in Fryeburg, Maine. Great food, good drinks and music every Friday and Saturday night.
If you're looking for other fun things to do in North Conway, NH we have quite a list.
The Saco River was called Chouacoet in the 1600's and eventually it was changed to Saco River which comes from the Eastern Abenaki word sakohki, meaning land where the river comes out.
An Indigenous American legend speaks of the Curse of the Saco River. The curse foretells how every year three white people will drown in the Saco River. (Take a look at our Insider's Guide to North Conway - it has safety tips about the Saco River)
As the legend goes, Squando, his wife and son were navigating the Saco River by canoe when they met up with 3 drunken sailors. The legend continues saying the sailors waged bets about Native American babies being natural swimmers. They grabbed the baby from his mother's arms and threw him into the river.
Although the baby was rescued by his mother, he died a few days later. Squando who was said to have great powers, put a curse on Saco River that every year 3 white people would drown.
Historical documents hint that this encounter and the ensuing death of his son resulted in the end of peaceful relations between the American Indians living in the Saco River region and the early settlers.
There are many versions of this legend but Tad Baker, of the Saco Museum feels “I think the legend of the curse might have sprung up, as some other legends did, during what we call the Colonial Revival era, when it was popular to romanticize events that took place in the Colonial period.”
Having lived in the North Conway area for many decades I can attest that many lives have been lost in the Saco River. The Saco Canoe Rental Company has an up to date summary of Saco River conditions on their home page. Check it out!
According to Yankee Magazine, Hiram historian Hubert Clemens also remembers hearing about the Saco River curse "ever since I was a young boy." Among his files is a partial list of drownings near Hiram dating back to 1873 and an old "Ripley's Believe It or Not" clipping about the legend in which the Saco River is called "the River of Death."
According to Wikipedia, the Saco River is located in northeastern NH and southwestern Maine, 136 miles long, drains the rural area depicted in the map to the left and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Saco Bay.
It supplies drinking water to approximately 250,000 people in 35 rural towns and over the years supplied transportation and electricity to Biddeford, Saco, Fryeburg and Hiram.
The Saco River starts at Saco Lake in Crawford Notch in the White Mountains then meanders generally in a southeasterly course through the towns of Bartlett and Conway before crossing into Maine, and onto the Atlantic Ocean.
If you'd like more info about Saco River tubing and history, check out the blogs highlighted in this article or give me a call!
Russ-Tee Bucket Ranch, the best NH cabin rental, is resting right by the bank! The river is right in our backyard!