Every September, the weekend after Labor Day, seaplane pilots from all over the United States head for Moosehead Lake, site of the Greenville International Seaplane Fly-In. The fly-in is great fun, with contests that test the skills of seaplane pilots. You can attend the fly-in even without a seaplane, because the Greenville Airport is just a mile away from the seaplane base (a free shuttle runs during the fly-in). Greenville also makes a great destination for its access to hiking, fishing, and camping in the wilderness. Or, stay in a cozy inn that also serves excellent food.
If you fly in for the big event, do study the pilot information section of the fly-in website, because traffic will be busy. Special procedures and an attended, temporary frequency, 123.3 MHz, will be used to informally direct traffic for Greenville Seaplane Base. The base is in the eastern cove of two separated by a peninsula at the south end of Moosehead Lake. Greenville is one of the few seaplane bases with instrument approaches. If you’re on straight floats, it’s best to arrive by Thursday afternoon for better parking. If you have an amphib, unless you’re competing in the water events, land and park at Greenville Municipal Airport, unicom 122.8 MHz. Greenville has crossing Runways 14/32 (3,999 feet by 75 feet) and 3/21 (3,000 feet by 75 feet). During the fly-in, the airport is busy and Runway 3/21 is used as a taxiway, also frequented by pedestrians, so use caution for traffic in the air and on the ground. Arriving the day before and leaving later helps reduce traffic. You can camp by your plane on the field, beginning Thursday at noon, first-come, first-served for $50. Any time other than the fly-in, Greenville’s airport is pretty quiet.
Get ready for action on Saturday! Events include a spot landing contest, short takeoff contest, and slalom and canoe races. The slalom course is completed while step-taxiing as fast as possible. If you have a seaplane rating, you can imagine what that’s like. If not, just imagine taxiing around cones at 40 mph. The canoe race requires a team of two: One person paddles out to a floating dock as the pilot taxis out. Together, they then lash the canoe to the struts, jump in, and step-taxi back as quickly as possible. All day long, seaplanes do flybys and come and go in and out of the cove, right in front of spectators (and over their heads), so if you love watching planes, the show lasts all day. An awards banquet is held Saturday night.
Regardless of whether you’re in town for the fly-in, remember that Greenville is the gateway to Maine’s Northwoods, a huge wilderness, and to Moosehead Lake. You can cruise the lake on The Katahdin or take a Class II–IV whitewater trip on the Kennebec River with Northwoods Outfitters. They also offer salmon or bass fishing trips, canoe or kayak river trips, ATV rentals and tours, and moose safaris by land or water so you can see these giant ungulates, as well as other wildlife. The Appalachian and many other trails are nearby; the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains a list of local hikes and offers free rides to trailheads.
For fine in-town lodging, views, and meals, consider the Greenville Inn at Moosehead Lake. Or, the AAA 4-Diamond-rated Lodge at Moosehead Lake, which is perched on the hills above town, offers meals, can book day trips for you, and has a shuttle. The Blair Hill Inn has a spa and a gourmet restaurant, and touts itself as helicopter-friendly. Finally, The Birches resort, farther north on the lake, is open year-round to aircraft on floats, skis, or wheels, depending on season. Have fun in the Northwoods!