Adventures on the Androscoggin
Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground gets people on the river and into nature
When owners Jeff and Pattie Parsons opened Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground 23 years ago, they rented out only six canoes. Now, on warm days, dozens of their tubes, paddleboards, and brightly colored kayaks dot the Androscoggin River as campers, visitors, and locals explore the water. The husband-and-wife team started the business to show that Bethel has as many summer recreational opportunities as it does winter ones. “The Androscoggin River—our lifeblood—is fishable, swimmable, clear, and beautiful,” Jeff says. “People are discovering the pure joy of traveling through the Mahoosuc Mountains at a river’s pace.” The region is known for skiing, but the Parsonses always saw the opportunity for this part of western Maine to become a year-round destination.
During the business’s mid-May to mid-October season, visitors are shuttled up- stream then make their way downriver back to the camp. The Parsonses say that, regardless of how one chooses to paddle down the river, it’s a great activity for people of all ages. “It’s a family-friendly river,” Pattie says. “It’s moving flat water. There’s no white water.” Boaters often see wildlife, including eagles and otters. The Androscoggin River is also popular for fishing with opportunities to catch brook, brown, and rainbow trout as well as small-mouth bass. Boats can be rented at Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground, and reservations can be made there for guided fly-fishing trips.
Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground visitors who prefer to stay on land can walk the mile-long loop trail around Hastings Island. A 250-foot suspension bridge, which is an adventure in itself, leads across the Androscoggin to the island. The business also has an indoor sluice where people can search for colorful rocks and minerals.