The Contoocook has a fairly large drainage area for a New England river therefore, it holds water well into Spring then rises occasionally after a moderate rainfall in the Fall. The Contoocook is a popular run for great reason.
The put-in and take out locations are on private land. Please be curteous, change discretely and pick up your trash, keep a good boater reputation and this run will remain.Contoocook dam removal
On Tuesday June 29th 2004, a 100 year old dam a half mile below our old take out on the Contoocook was breached. This was an historic moment and the first time in history where American Whitewater, FLOW, AMC, MVP and others have actually helped to pay for a dam removal to improve whitewater boating. The result was 3/4 mile extension of the river trip with two new rapids. There is a new takeout just downstream on river left of the twin truss bridges.
Additional parking is available at the old mill site. The take out at the old mill site is a lot easier and shorter.
Put in elevation: 550'
Take out elevation: 400'
Total drop: 150'
Average drop/mile 50'
Distance: 3.0 miles
River width average: 50'
River geology...........Small to medium granite boulders
River water quality.....Fair to good, clarity fair to good
Scenery.................Good forested scenery, a few homes along the way
Wildlife................Deer, Merganzers, Blue herons
I-93 from southern NH just before Concord take I-89 to Route 202 West. Follow Rt 202 past Henniker.
Take the first Hillsboro exit then make a left at the bottom of the ramp. Shortly after the on ramp back onto rt 202 take a left onto Contoocook Falls Road, which becomes Western Ave once you are in Henniker again. Follow Western Avenue to the put-in, which will be on your left.
A new parking area has been constructed on the left just upstream of the old put in with a path to the river at the rear of the lot.
Alternate directions from Rt 101 Manchester. Rt 114 North to Downtown Henniker. Cross the bridge and take a left onto Western Ave. Follow it to the put in, passing the takeout on the way.
Playfull little rapid with lots of surfing possibillities. The hole at the bottom of this rapid is the best on the river. Great playspot.
Stay left of center then move left. Right side of this rapid has left over dam debris.
Great surfing and play area. Hole by the rock in river center left under the power lines is a good ender spot.
River takes a sharp right then drops through a long series of twisting channels, holes, and other goodies. River right at the top of the rapid has a nice 4' to 6' verticle drop between boulders at levels above 8.6'. The last two ledges on the river should be run from center (first ledge) to right (last ledge) to avoid stickey holes. Last ledge has a stickey trashy playspot on the left.
Long rapid with large holes. Stay in the middle to avoid nasty pourovers and pinning spots along both shores. All holes in the middle can be punched but may flip you. At levels above 9.5 there is a nice surfing wave on river left about 3/4 of the way through the rapid.
The map on the right shows the old take out prior to June of 2004. Be aware this takeout could shortly or may even be now posted "No tresspassing". The new take out is river left 3/4 of a mile further downstream just past the twin truss bridges.
Ran this at 10.2 on the stick gauge. This was an excellent level I would rate a solid class IV overall. There are lots of lines to take through pretty much every rapid which can all be scouted in the water. Along the right bank there were **a few large strainers that were easily avoided but it should be known they are there.** At this level there were almost no rocks underwater to bump into. The larger rocks presented several cool boofs but a few also had some mean holes behind them. Huge surf waves and play spots. Very easy to run laps and a quick shuttle. Parking areas were clean and the locals seemed friendly, please help keep them that way.
The minimum level here is quite low if you're looking for a III+ run. I ran it at a hair over 7 on the gauge and freight train was an easy III at best.
Contoocook USGS gage is located at the bottom of S-turn rapid. The river generally peaks about 36 to 48 hours after a rain event. Forecast
USGS Gauge CFS Intepretation
5.6'-6.6' 233-563 Minimum to scratchy level
6.6'-7.8' 563-1230 Low
7.8'-8.4' 1230-1680 Low to medium
8.4'-9.5' 1680-2900 Medium
9.5'-11.0' 2900-5300 High
over 11.0' >5300 Very high
Estimated chance (%) of finding the river runnable.
March...............35%....Especially late in month during early thaws.
April...............90%....Most dependable month
September...........20%....Tropical storms and their remains
October.............30%....Trees go dormant less water being absorbed by them
December............50%....River starts freezing up around Christmas.
Be aware this is averaged out over several years. The % chance refers to the probability of finding the river running on any given day. For instance a 5% probability for July means on average you can only expect 1.5 days of water. One year there could be 3 days in July with water other years none. Spring levels are usually higher than fall levels.
Why does that gauge level go up and down?
On occassion a regular up down or "sawtooth" pattern will be noticed when looking at the USGS 7 day graph. This is caused by releases well upstream of the gage. Releases come from several hydro and flood control reservoirs upstream including Nubanusit Lake, Edward MacDowell Reservoir, Highland Lake, Lake Franklin Pierce, and other reservoirs upstream. However, releases from the Monadnock Paper mill located 22 miles upstream in Bennington are usually responsible for the most notable rise and fall of the gage. This is most noticable at low botable levels betweeen 5' and 7' on the gage. Releases from the Paper mill reservoir can raise the level 300 cfs. If the gage is a 6' for a baseline, the added 300 cfs can bring levels up to 7'. Because of the distance upstream daily releases do not start to reach the gage until the afternoon, then usually peak in late afternoon to early evening. Note that this occurs rather frequently and usually for a number of days in a row, but almost never occurs on weekends unless the mill is behind with their customer's orders.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Boof that boat
I think I can reach it
Middle Drop at Frieght Train
Freight Train map
Contoocook River map
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
American Whitewater, with the help of Merrimack Valley Paddlers and local boaters, has completed its effort to acquire, protect and donate property along the Contoocook River. AW has long been involved with the Contoocook and was active in the sucessful effort in 2004 that resulted in the removal of a dam that extended the whitewater section of the river near the takeout. The recent acquisition of land at the put-in will assure that paddlers will continue to have access to the Class III/IV section of the river which is a popular run in southern New Hampsire for paddlers throughout New England.
The Town of Henniker Board of Selectmen voted to accept the donation of a 10-acre parcel of land on the Contoocook River in New Hampshire. The parcel, which is used by paddlers to access the Class III/IV section of the river, is being purchased by AW in order to permanently protect access to this section of the river.
Northeast boaters can celebrate that another beloved whitewater gem has been protected. Paddlers on the Winnipeseaukee River are now assured that the put-in on the Lower Winni in Northfield, NH will be forever protected thanks to the donation of a parcel from Gloria Blais in memory of her husband Roger. Gloria donated the land to the Town of Northfield for the purpose of assuring that future generations of boaters will have access to the river. Protecting river access to the Winni is part of an ongoing effort by AW in the northeast region to protect river access.
American Whitewater and Merrimack Valley Paddlers have reached an agreement to purchase a 10-acre parcel fronting on Contoocook River in Henniker, NH. The land serves as an important launch point for whitewater paddlers enjoying the popular section of the river that runs from Hillsborough to Henniker. This section of the Contoocook River contains rapids ranging in difficulty from Class II to Class IV.
A hardy group of northeast boaters climbed into the natural river channel below a hydropower dam to participate in a flow study designed to assess whether whitewater flows should be restored to this dewatered river reach on the Connecticut River. While significant obstacles remain, this site has the potential for providing instruction, playboating, and a big water feature that that could be run throughout much of the year and provide a much needed boost to the local economy.
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