Maamee River is a place I heard of via word of mouth, and I finally took note of the turn off from the main a few weeks ago when I made a visit to Maryland in rural St. Andrew. The Blue Mountains is my favourite corner of Jamaica, but I still haven’t scratched the surface in exploring it even after five years of being more deliberate in discovering every nook and cranny of Jamaica. Having dedicated the next few years of my life to completing a residency, my compromise for long daytrips and weekend staycations will be exploring all the close and accessible parts of the Blue Mountains. Hence, I ended up at Maamee River after work one Saturday afternoon and here’s how it went.
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One of my favourite things about Jamaica is how closely intertwined our rural communities and urban centres are. Lack of access to regular transport and poor road conditions still keep the residents of rural communities shut off from the towns and cities, but it’s amazing how close these areas become if one has access to a personal vehicle. The Maamee River community is only 10 minutes’ drive from Papine, a small town which serves as the gateway to the Blue Mountains. Public transport to here would be via route taxis and those, as we know, can be very inconsistent and unreliable.
Drive past Papine via Gordon Town Road and make a left turn just before the signs pictured above. Note: This left turn can be very easy to miss if you’re not careful. You need to take the left turn off on Maamee River Road which slopes downwards and is found immediately before the left turn to B1 which goes to Irish Town. For reference, Maamee River is closer to Papine than Maryland, the community I featured in my previous blog post.
Follow this road past a parking lot and hand-painted boulder saying welcome to Maamee River. Lots of visitors probably stop here thinking they have reached but I’m glad I was travelling with someone who knew that the best part of the river is beyond that. We drove and parked at the intersection of Blue Mountain Close, a road I couldn’t find on Google Maps but there’s a sign marking it so you’ll see where to park. There’ll likely be a few other cars there. After parking, there’s a short trail up ahead. Follow it and you’ll be at the river in about three minutes. As with most river spots I feature on here, the river is wild and free.
Anyone who doesn’t feel immediately at peace when in a place like this shouldn’t be trusted. 😅 That’s the criteria I use in selecting friends and it has worked well so far. I’m amazed that I only drove ten minutes out of the city to find this wide expanse of untouched natural beauty. It’s not 100% untouched as in between the thick flourishing trees, I spotted a house here and there which is likely an illegal squatter settlement the authorities have turned a blind eye to. There was also a tiny bit of litter here and there, but not as bad as I’ve seen in some other places. That aside, I fell in love with this location as I have with so many other Jamaican rivers and waterfalls before it.
One of my favourite things about Jamaica is the resourcefulness of its people. In fact, the colour black on the Jamaican flag symbolizes the resourcefulness of our people. A Rastafarian from the community has set up a brightly painted stall next to the river selling snacks and juices, and he was playing music from a speaker. I think the bench and table are also his, and it’s only a matter of time before this river becomes commercialized, though informal.
Interestingly enough, there weren’t any proper swimming holes at this river before 2021 but a recent landslide changed the landscape of the area. Some creative youth from the community have also placed sandbags to dam the river and make it more pleasant for swimming in these hot summer months. In fact, they were actively working on those sandbags while I was there, collecting silt from the river bed and placing in crocus bags to continue their mission. Hats off to them!
I’m on a mission to expand my knowledge of Kingston & St. Andrew swimming spots over the next few years! Feel free to share any other swimming spots you may know with me in the comments. Safe & happy travels!
Until next time, here are four other swimming spots close to Kingston worth checking out this summer. ✌🏽
- Bob Marley Beach
- Cane River Falls
- Falling Edge Falls
- Penfield Falls (less accessible since the Gordon Town Road breakaway).