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Splash in at Maine's Moosehead LakeSplash in at Maine's Moosehead Lake

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.

  • Spectators watch a DeHavilland Beaver compete during the International Seaplane Fly-In on Moosehead Lake, Maine. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Overflying the cove where the International Seaplane Fly-In is held. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • On short final, landing to the northwest. Landings in the cove are northwest or southeast; there are markers during the fly-in. The float docks are on the east side of the cove in two places. The northern dock has more places to tie up and a ramp for amphibians. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • The Greenville Airport is very busy during the fly-in. Try to keep your approach away from the seaplane base. One runway is used as a taxiway; keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Book a cruise on The Katahdin, built in 1914, before or after the fly-in. Food is available on board and you can bring your own adult beverages. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Competitions during the seaplane fly-in include short takeoffs and spot landings. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Which of these two seaplanes will be the first off the water? Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Rafting trips on the Kennebec River can be wild or tame, depending upon which trip you choose and how much water is released from the dam. Photo by Devin Wiant via Flickr.
  • For a quieter ride, rent a kayak and paddle Moosehead Lake. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Whitetail deer are numerous around Moosehead Lake and the area is ripe for wildlife photography. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Fly fishing is another great way to enjoy the water. Photo courtesy Lodge at Moosehead Lake.
  • The Greenville Inn was originally built for lumber baron William Shaw in 1895. It showcases fine woodwork by ship’s carpenters. Rooms come in a variety of styles and configurations. The inn sits on a slight hill and offers expansive views from the porch. Photo courtesy Greenville Inn.
  • The Lodge at Moosehead Lake offers plenty of space to play on its huge lawn. Like many Maine hotels, it’s pet-friendly. Photo courtesy Lodge at Moosehead Lake.
  • Guest room with carved headboard, courtesy Lodge at Moosehead Lake.
  • Mac & Cheese the Maine way—with lobster claws. Photo courtesy Lodge at Moosehead Lake.

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.

Event registration (fly-ins $25) for the seaplane fly-in begins Thursday afternoon at the Maine Fisheries dock and hangar, where you also can buy tickets for the cruise, dinner, and awards banquet. That evening, you can take a chartered cruise on the 1914 lake ship The Katahdin. On Friday, you might participate in the Poker Run and check out the exhibitors. You can mosey around town and visit the Moosehead Lake Aviation Museum; the free van shuttle comes in handy. That evening the airport hosts a steak and lobster dinner.

Greenville is the gateway to Maine’s Northwoods, and the area is loaded with hiking trails. Photo courtesy Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.

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.

Go on a “moose safari” to see the big ungulates, which feed on water plants during the summer. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.

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!

Mark Robidoux lands his Aeroprakt amphib on the lake. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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