Bearcamp - Bennett Corner to Whittier

Bearcamp, New Hampshire, US


Bennett Corner to Whittier

Usual Difficulty II-IV (for normal flows)
Length 3.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 36 fpm
Max Gradient 55 fpm

Gorge Exit Falls

Gorge Exit Falls
Photo of Mike Cummings by Mark Lacroix taken 08/11/03 @ 800 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01064801 4.80 - 6.60 ft II-IV 00h52m 4.64 ft (too low)

River Description

At the put in the Bearcamp is quickwater with a sandy bottom. Between here and where NH rt 25 comes into view the river contains a couple of easy class II rapids. Once NH rt 25 comes into view the action picks up. Cold Brook rapid (class III+) starts about 50 yards above a bridge. Cold Brook enters on the right just above the bridge. The section just past the bridge is the toughest. Below Cold Brook rapid the river splits around an island. The right channel goes through a small narrow gorge with 20' vertical walls. A relatively easy rapid leads to a sharp vertical drop of about 5' to 6' depending on water levels. The left channel is easier but does not always have enough water to run without scratching. Below the Gorge is a short flatwater section leading up to a delapitating concrete dam. This dam is usually protaged but can be run in a break on the far right or far left through a steep sluice. Scout this should you decide to run it since logs and other debris often clog the line. This dam is slated to be removed by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services sometime in 2003. The rest of the river contains a couple mostly class II-III the last one just above the takeout being the toughest and longest.

Technical info

Put in elevation........580'
Take out elevation......455'
Total drop..............125'
Average drop/mile.......36'
Distance................3.5 miles
River width average.....50'
1st mile drop...........15'
2nd mile drop...........55'
3rd mile drop...........35'
3.5 mile drop...........20' (40' average)
River geology...........granite ledge, small boulders 
River water quality.....Good to excellent, clarity excellent.
Scenery.................A mix of wooded isolated scenery to small town 
                        with small homes and camps.  Old concrete dam.
Wildlife................Deer, hawks, merganzers. 

Bearcamp dam removal

Dam removal ceremony at the Bearcamp dam Tamworth NH on September 10, 2003. About a dozen paddlers from MVP, MWVP, and AMC showed up at the dam removal ceremonies for the Bearcamp dam located on the Bearcamp river in Tamworth NH. Work has started on removal of the dam. Estimates for completion are about 8 weeks. Located at the mid point of the Bearcamp river run the dam was occasionally unrunable because of woody debris. Paddlers used to run the river left or right sluice depending on debris. The mid section of the dam continued to collect logs and other debris causing concern with state and federal agencies over the potential for disaster should the blockage suddenly let go during a high water event. New Hampshire is leading the way with an active river restoration program that includes removal of old unused dams. This is the third such dam of notable size to be removed. The other two were taken out of the Ashuelot river last year. The dam consists of eight 20-foot high concrete piers with a foundation resting on bedrock, and is approximately 230 feet long. The concrete will be removed and recycled at a New Highway department facility; the wood will be brought to a stump dump. All rebar and unnatural material will be removed. Fish and wildlife are looking forward to the return of landlock salmon to the upper reaches of the Bearcamp. Paddlers are looking forward to paddling a restored stretch of river. The town of Tamworth can feel a little safer without a potential dam break. The dam removal will change the rapids in this section and potentially the gorge rapid just above. It is too early to say by how much at this time. Several newspapers were on hand today so there should be lots of stories in tomorrow's newspapers. NH public television was also there to do a story for their "Outlook" program. Amongst the long list of supporters for the dam removal project is American Whitewater and the Merrimack Valley Paddlers. Thanks to all the hard work George May has put into this. Stephanie Lindhoff of NHDES says the Contoocook dam project looks good for October. Dynamite will be used to breach this one. We hope to get lots of paddlers there for this event. We will let you know.

Bearcamp Parking

During a recent outing on the Bearcamp, the owner of the property on
which paddlers park for the take-out expressed his dissatisfaction
for the way in which vehicles were parking. Although our parked
vehicles were off to one side of the drive (toward the river), they
were near the road.

Because the owner parks a large tractor-trailer on the site, he
needs access to the full horseshoe loop of the driveway for ease of
parking. He's asking that if paddlers wish to continue using the
parking area at the take-out, they park at least a couple of (long?)
car-lengths from the road, toward the riverside of the parking
area. It's great that he's willing to let us continue using the
area, so let's try to abide by his wishes.

(via Jim Roseberry)


Put in (from interstate 95 Portsmouth)

Interstate 95 to NH 16 in Portsmouth.
NH 16 north approximately 60 miles.
Left on NH route 25.
Go west on NH 25 for approximately 7 miles to the intersection of 113 (note this is the second intersection with 113 at Bennett’s Corner past South Tamworth
Turn right on NH 113 approximately ½ mile to put in at bridge.

Put in (from interstate 93 Concord)

Interstate 93 north to exit 23 approximately 30 miles.
NH route 25 east through Meredith approximately 28 miles
Turn left on NH 113 approximately ½ mile to put in at bridge.

Take out

Head back to NH 25.
Take a left (east) on NH 25 approximately 3 miles
Take a left on NH route 113
113 parallels the river for a short distance then turns left over a bridge over the river, park downstream of the bridge on river right.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-04-18 22:11:52

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.3Cold Brook RapidIII+Photo
1.5Bearcamp GorgeIVWaterfall Photo
1.7Bearcamp DamIVPhoto
2.6Ossipee SurfII+Playspot Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Bennett (Class III, Mile 0.4)
The first rapid you will approach after a relatively long stretch of quickwater. This rapid is pretty straightforward but drops several feet over its 50 yard length.

Cold Brook Rapid (Class III+, Mile 1.3)

Cold Brook Rapid

Cold Brook Rapid
Photo of Mike Cummings by Mark Lacroix taken 08/11/03 @ 800 cfs

Once you loose sight of NH route 25 on your right you will approach Cold Brook rapid. Cold Brook is one of the longer and more complicated rapids of the Bearcamp. You can recognize it by the Mill Brook road bridge visable downstream from the top of the rapid. The first portion of the rapid should not prove to be difficult. Eddy out on river right just a short way downstream from the start and check out Cold Brook as it comes in from river right. Continue through the rapid and eddy out river left downstream from the bridge. Below the bridge is the most difficult section of the rapid. Snake your way or punch through several very wide stickey holes then plunge through the bottom hole. The very last ledge drop is seperated midstream by a high point in the ledge, going to the right of the seperator will drop you into a fairly shollow hole/wave. The best route is to the left of the seperator into a large (but easily punched) hole.

Bearcamp Gorge (Class IV, Mile 1.5)

Entrance to Bearcamp Gorge

Entrance to Bearcamp Gorge
Photo of Mike Cummings by Mark Lacroix taken 08/11/03 @ 800 cfs

Just downstream of Cold Brook rapids the river seperates around an island. Take out at the head of the island and scout the Gorge. The gorge is 75 yards long and starts with a large breaking wave/hole. More turbulance follows around a sweeping right hand turn. Catch the eddy river right just after the right sweep and before the left sweep of the river. Gorge Exit Falls is just downstream. Old guide books claimed this drop was only 2' to 3' high but as the downstream dam has been washing out over the years the drop has increased significantly. It now is in the range of 5' to 6' depending on water levels and dam debris. From the eddy power out to the current and paddle hard towards just left of river center of the drop. You will then drop through a powerfull hole at the bottom that will upset and ender almost any boaters punching through. The river tries to push upsidedown boaters towards the rock ledge on river right, sometimes making a roll difficult. Should you choose not to take on Gorge Exit Falls take the river left channel around the island. This route is very shallow at low water but much easier than the gorge.

Bearcamp Dam (Class IV, Mile 1.7)

Right sluice at Bearcamp Dam

Right sluice at Bearcamp Dam
Photo of Ginger Gatewood by Mark Lacroix taken 08/11/03 @ 800 cfs

Just downstream from the gorge lies Bearcamp dam. This dam is slated to be removed by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services sometime in the near future. For now there are two routes through the dam. The far left route has the most dramatic drop. It runs through one of the concrete sluices in the dam. But be carefull not to flip here because there is much rebarr and concrete in the runout below. A far esier and safer alternative is the far right break in the dam. Hug river right and carefully sneak up to the drop to check for debris in the channel. The drop is about 3' to 4' into a pool. No matter which route you choose make sure you scout before you run, these channels are very narrow and tend to collect a lot of debris.

USGS (Class III, Mile 2.4)
Good drop amoungst ledges and holes just upstream of the USGS river flow gage.

Ossipee Surf (Class II+, Mile 2.6)

Ossipee Surf

Ossipee Surf
Photo of Ginger Gatewood by Mark Lacroix taken 08/11/03 @ 800 cfs

This is a rather long section of river that has lots of surf and play spots along the way caused by a series of low ledges. As the river takes a sharp left away from NH 25 the river drops into that largest and most powerful hole in this section. This hole can be very stickey depending on levels. Usually only the best boater will attempt. You can skirt the hole on the left. Further downstream for the next .5 miles you will encounter a series of easier holes better suited for most boaters.

Whittier (Class III, Mile 3.3)
The last major rapid on the Bearcamp. Takeout shortly downstream at the 113 bridge.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
October 31 2015 (1114 days ago)
deimezis (157804)
Paddled Bearcamp 10/31/15. Dam has been removed, and is now a class II drop.

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating