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Northern New Hampshire

Androscoggin River (Errol Stretch)

1 mile of class 2

This section of the Androscoggin is clean, easy and reliable. It runs every day all year long and has fun class 2 rapids, ideal for a beginner. The Route 26 bridge in Errol crosses over this section right in the middle. Park here for the takeout or for everything if you don’t much mind carrying your boat. From here the takeout eddy is accessed via a trail on river right. The put-in is reached either by walking upstream on river right through the Saco Bound campground or by driving around on Rout 16 for a short distance to a grassy parking lot by the large pool at the base of the dam. At normal summer releases there are many good eddy lines for practicing key whitewater skills.

Rapid River

3.5 miles of class 3-4

Located in the headwaters of the Androscoggin, the Rapid connects Lake Richardson to Lake Umbagog whilst dropping over long class 3-4 pitches. The waves are rather irregular and the rock is sharp. Be sure your skills are up for the challenge, as swims can be brutal and the Berlin, New Hampshire hospital is many hours away.

Even so, the Rapid is a beautiful river that is well loved. While access to the Rapid is difficult, it is not impossible. Anyone can paddle across Lake Umbagog from Route 16 to the mouth of the river and then hike up along a trail on river right. Another option is to access the river from the network of logging roads on the south side (river left). For detailed descriptions and a map of these roads see the American Whitewater website.

Most runs commence at Pond in the River and proceed to the flatwater of Lake Umbagog. About two-thirds of the way through this section is Smooth Ledge, one of the most friendly and forgiving playspots in the Northeast. It is even possible to hike directly and easily to Smooth Ledge from the south side of the river.

For running the river, a good enjoyable level is anything above 800 cfs. The rapids clean up significantly, however, with more than 1300 cfs. Smooth Ledge is very good down to about 600 cfs and up as high as 2500+ cfs. Dam releases occur on the Rapid constantly, including pre-scheduled releases specifically for whitewater recreation. These release days are very crowded especially at Smooth Ledge. To avoid the crowds, call the flow-phone to find out if the projected releases for the next few days are to your liking: (800) 557-3569, then dial 2 for Androscoggin basin, then dial 1 for Middle Dam.

Diamond River Gorge

1 mile of class 3-5

One of the great secrets of New England creeking, the Diamond River Gorge, lives up to its name as a true gem. Formed by the meeting of the Swift Diamond and Dead Diamond Rivers, the Diamond River cuts a deep gash through the rugged terrain of the southeastern Second College Grant, dropping steeply for just over a mile to its confluence with the Magalloway.

The put-in is at the lawn in front of Peaks Cabin in the Grant and the takeout is at the lawn in front of Gate Camp. The placid entrance to the gorge soon gives way to small ledges and boulder gardens. After a couple hundred yards the first rapid worth scouting appears. Known to some as Butts-up, this drop is composed of a sieve across the left side of the river and a chute on the right which feeds into a wall (which causes some runs to end butts-up). Always run the right side here, except at very high levels, as the left side sieve is innocuous but very powerful and dangerous. Several more technical boulder gardens and ledges make the rest of the run very interesting. Scout if you have not run the gorge before, as many drops have pinning potential, but skilled boaters may be able to safely boat-scout every rapid.

The Diamond Gorge is runnable at a wide range of levels. The narrow walls and constricted boulder gardens channelize the flow, making for very agreeable runs down to 200 cfs and desperate runs as low as 50 cfs on the online USGS stream gage. More water cleans up boulder gardens and creates grabbier holes. The most difficult levels for the gorge are probably 600 to 1,000 cfs as holes and boulders remain in the midst of very pushy water. Above these levels the gorge starts to flush as the rapids merge together to form one continuous rollercoaster ride of reactionary waves. Imagine a Kennebec Gorge with four times the gradient. The gorge is runnable all through the spring and after rains in the summer and fall.

To receive access to the Grant, procure a gate key through Dartmouth's Outdoor Programs Office or at the College Forestry Office in Milan. Access the Grant just west of the Maine border off of Route 16.

Upper Magalloway River

2 miles of class 2-5

The Upper Magalloway is a great summertime option for intermediate whitewater paddlers. Driving north on Route 16 from Errol, cross the Maine border and cross the lower Magalloway immediately. Proceed north on 16 to the village of Wilsons Mills where you will cross the Magalloway again. This bridge is the takeout for the whitewater run and a good put in for the lower flatwater paddle. To reach the whitewater put-in, continue north on Route 16 for about 1.5 miles to where there is a sign for the power station and a dirt road on the right. Turn right on this road to reach the regular put-in. The road brings you to the release station at the base of the Magalloway River dryway. This dryway, sometimes known as the Upper Upper, is a great, short class 5 run, but is only boatable in the spring or during a dryway release (see American Whitewater website for dates). To see this section, continue just a bit further on Route 16 to a bridge over the dryway. Be sure to note the many hazards including sieves, old metal debris, and sharp rock.

The normal run begins at the release station at the base of the dryway. The first drop is solid class 4 and much harder than any other drop on the normal run. If this is not your cup of tea, put in just downstream. A number of class 3 rapids follow for the next 1.5 miles, diminishing slowly to class 1 at the takeout. Most days during the summer have a release of about 600 cfs which is a good medium-low level.

Other Northern New Hampshire Options

For more information on this region see Bruce Lessels’ Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide or the American Whitewater website. For water level information see the USGS website.

Last Updated: 10/21/12