River, Branch, Sluice

from Maine Lingo: Boiled Owls, Billdads, & Wazzats by John Gould


RIVER: In Maine, dictionary definitions of river, brook, stream, etc., fall apart under the Fish & Game laws. Stream fishing closes on August 15, but rivers may be fished after that. The only way to tell a Maine river from a stream is to look in the book and see what-the-hell the Commissioner calls it. Some large streams close and some smaller rivers stay open. Otherwise, Maine usage permits considerable leeway with brook, stream, and river. Creek is seldom used. For the use of such terms to represent a region, see branch.

BRANCH: Used in Maine as elsewhere for that portion of a river before a confluence; the East Branch and the West Branch of the Penobscot River. But in Maine there is local meaning for a region drained, in terms of logging off. Loggers speak of the “West Branch” as an area as well as a stream. The term branch-water as a highball ingredient is seldom used by true Mainers; a man in the West Branch would more likely ask for a “small slop of sluice juice.” Try that after a couple of martinis!

SLUICE: The chute built into a lumbering country dam for spillage, but more particularly to float logs through. To sluice logs is to stand with a piracy and guide them so they won’t jam, and the term applies to the entire operation of moving a drive out of a lake into the stream below the dam. Many times the sluice is called a sluice-way. Thus when a woodsman says he gave somebody a sluicing’, he means he gave him a kind of conducted tour, no doubt to his improvement. And, if a Mainer asks you for a splash of “sluice juice” in his highball, give him plain water and leave out the ice.