The Saco River is a scenic river that runs from Saco Lake in Crawford Notch State Park down into Maine and all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean. From forested riverbanks to mountain views, you can enjoy the serenity of nature and keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that live along the river. While the upper portion of the river contains rapids and whitewater, it smooths out as it approaches North Conway, where by mid-summer the water temperature and flow are perfect for a leisurely paddle, swimming, fishing, and photography.
If you’ve got your own gear, a popular summer paddle on the Saco River starts at First Bridge Park in North Conway and ends approximately 7.8 miles downstream at Davis Park in Conway. First Bridge offers a canoe launch, a small swimming beach, and a large green space. Sandbars and small beaches make for great break spots along the way, one of which is part of the Dahl Audubon Sanctuary and offers opportunities for seeing pileated woodpeckers, painted turtles, and other wildlife. End your paddle on a slightly wooded, sandy beach at Davis Park, just past a covered bridge, where a small parking lot is just a short walk away. The covered bridge has a walkway on both sides, so take a walk across it for an elevated view of the Saco River in the direction you came and where you ended your paddle.
If you want to extend your trip by approximately 3 miles you can continue past Davis Park and end at Smith-Eastman Park, which is the only other public river access point on this section of the Saco River. Several companies in the area offer canoe, kayak, and tube rentals as well as private access points and shuttles, and these points make the Saco accessible to families, groups, and anyone who doesn’t own their own equipment.