Ashuelot - 1. Upper Ash

Ashuelot, New Hampshire, US


1. Upper Ash (Marlow to Gilsum Gorge)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 5.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 64 fpm
Max Gradient 90 fpm

Surprise Rapid

Surprise Rapid
Photo of Mike Brindamour by Mark Lacroix taken 09/18/04 @ 6.5

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01157000 260 - 1700 cfs III-IV 00h47m 335 cfs (running)

River Description

Thanks to Allan Berggren for the following information

The Ashuelot is the quintessential "step-up-to-Class III" stream. It has 3-ft. drops, sometimes in complex, with plenty of recovery pools. It has, in addition, a Class IV Surprise at the top and a IV- gorge at the bottom (at low levels). At splashing 7 on the Gilsum gauge, Surprise has monster holes, and the gorge goes thrashing around a corner, splits over a knife-edge, etc., etc. What remained was four miles of quite continuous Class IV action, with big holes, sometimes 3/4 the width of the stream, and complex pourover-mixmaster combos which made us shift from "let's find a feature" mode to something more timid--"maybe I can afford to catch the edge of this hole, curl the edge of that drop." I have just bought an Ultraclean-- However, in this water, the decks are constantly awash, and the ends rarely out of water. I found myself slicing through the far side of holes going downstream, being frequently held in suspension over drops, buried in bubbles up to my navel, and having to paddle briskly leaning foreward to avoid being backendered more than I already was. Ryan found the run at this level a memorable experience, and it was a kick to see him disappear over standing waves, ledge drops, and to see him struggle through the 10-yd foam piles in the narrow places. One curl thrust me about 5 ft to the right in one shot.

Note: You can avoid the two toughest sections of this river (Surprise and Gilsum gorge)and cut the trip down to 3.5 miles. Put in about 1/2 downstream of Surprise rapid, (you will also avoid some flatwater here). Take out well above the gorge at an old lumber yard on river left. Gilsum gorge is considered class V in very high water and a difficult Class IV+ in high water.

Gilsum Gorge also has a keeper hole at low flow, so all paddlers should be wary and scout this carefully before entering it.

Technical info

Put in elevation........1069'
Take out elevation......731'
Total drop..............338'
Average drop/mile.......64'.......Including Surprise and Gilsum gorge
Distance................5.3 miles
1st mile drop...........52'......Includes Surprise rapid
2nd mile drop...........30'
3rd mile drop...........75'
4th mile drop...........69'
5th mile drop...........85'......Includes upper Gulsum gorge
5.3 mile drop...........27'......(90' average) includes lower Gilsum gorge
River width average.....25'
River geology...........Small to medium schist boulders, some ledges 
River water quality.....Good, clarity average
Scenery.................Nice river valley usually within view of 
                        route 10, a few homes on the banks.  
Wildlife................Occasional deer, hawks



Put in

From Keene NH to NH state route 10/12/9 north.
Approximately 3 miles take a left (north) on NH 10.
Approximately 10 miles look for Surprise rapid on your left shortly after crossing over the Marlow town line.

Take out

Head back south on NH 10 approximately 3 miles.
Park and take out shortly after the first or second river crossings (first one easier).
If you are running Gilsum gorge, take a right at the Gilsum bridge 1.25 miles until the river comes into view with a private bridge crossing.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-01 20:52:03


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

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