Contoocook - 2. Hillsborough to Henniker

Contoocook, New Hampshire, US


2. Hillsborough to Henniker (Freight Train Section)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (varies with level)
Length 3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 54 fpm
Max Gradient 70 fpm

Boof that boat

Boof that boat
Photo by Patrick Rogers taken 04/20/03 @ 8.5 feet

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01085000 6.00 - 14.99 ft II-III 00h53m 7.88 ft (running)
Great level for III boaters.

River Description

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.

Technical info

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-10-04 17:56:52

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Rivers of the lower Contoocook regionPutin Takeout Photo
0.1EntranceII+Putin Playspot Photo
0.4Broken damIII
1.0S-turnIII+Playspot Photo
1.9Frieght TrainIVTakeout Playspot Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Rivers of the lower Contoocook region

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River of the lower Contoocook region

River of the lower Contoocook region
Photo by Mark Lacroix

Entrance (Class II+, Mile 0.1)

Contoocook River map

Contoocook River map
Photo by MARK L

Playfull little rapid with lots of surfing possibillities. The hole at the bottom of this rapid is the best on the river. Great playspot.

Broken dam (Class III, Mile 0.4)

Stay left of center then move left. Right side of this rapid has left over dam debris.

Powerline (Class II+, Mile 0.5)

Great surfing and play area. Hole by the rock in river center left under the power lines is a good ender spot.

S-turn (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

S-Turn map

S-Turn map
Photo by Mark L

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.

Frieght Train (Class IV, Mile 1.9)

Freight Train map

Freight Train map
Photo by Mark L

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 10 2018 (66 days ago)
KTKLEMENZ (160449)
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.
November 13 2008 (3715 days ago)
Andrew StuartDetails
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.