Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on where you choose to swim. Swift currents, rapids and small waterfalls make this section of Nesowadnehunk Stream exciting, but there are small natural slides and calmer areas of shallow water for children to enjoy under supervision. There’s also plenty of space for sunbathing and relaxing on the rock ledges.
How to get there: Travel on I-95 and take Exit 244. Turn west on Route 157 and travel through Medway, East Millinocket and Millinocket. Proceed through both traffic lights in Millinocket. Bear right at the three-way intersection after the second traffic light in downtown Millinocket. Bear left at the next “Y” intersection, staying on the main road. Drive about 16 miles to Baxter State Park’s south entrance, Togue Pond Gatehouse. After the gatehouse, veer left onto Park Tote Road and drive about 15 miles (past Foster Field Campground and Sluce Dam) to Ledge Falls, also known as The Ledges. There are a few parking areas along the Tote Road, but on busy, hot days, they will sometimes be full.
Information: Ledge Falls, also known as “The Ledges,” is a popular swimming spot in Baxter State Park. In this spot, Nesownedahunk Stream has worn the rock into several smooth natural water slides. While being swept downstream by the current, swimmers can enjoy an amazing view of Doubletop Mountain; and when through with swimming, the flat rock along the stream’s edge is a perfect spot for sunbathing and picnicking.
Depending on the water level, this section of the stream may look a bit hairy, but sections of whitewater are broken up by pools of calmer water for swimmers of all levels. Because of the swift current, slippery bedrock and unexpected boulders lurking beneath the surface, children should be under strict supervision.
WARNING: The rock along the side of the stream can be very slippery. I always see people fall.
Visiting Baxter State Park is free for Maine residents, but camping is permitted by reservation only May 15-Oct. 15, and Dec. 1-March 31. For nonresidents, it costs $14 per vehicle in the summer. Dogs are not permitted. For more information about fees and park rules, visit www.baxterstateparkauthority.com.
Personal note: I’ve visited The Ledges a few times after hiking mountains in Baxter State Park, and every time, I’m a bit timid when it comes to sitting in the frothing water and getting swept away by the stream’s strong current. I always wait for someone else to go down the natural water slides first. Then, when they survive, I go.
While the bedrock has certainly been smoothed by the water, rocks move around in the stream, and every year, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. There have been stubbed toes and scrapes in my hiking/swimming group, but no serious injuries. Most people go down the slides unscathed, but there are a few rockier slides farther downriver where the ambitious swimmers will sometimes run into boulders. That’s why I prefer to watch other people successfully complete a route before I try it.
There are also spots in the stream where you can sit in the whitewater if you wedge yourself into the rocks. It may sound uncomfortable, but it can actually be great for sore muscles after a long hike. The rapidly flowing water massages your body a lot like jets do in a Whirlpool bath.