Contoocook, N. Branch, New Hampshire, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||55 fpm|
|CONTOOCOOK RIVER NEAR HENNIKER, NH|
|usgs-01085000||8.50 - 12.00 ft||V||00h29m||7.33 ft (too low)|
Information from Greg and Sue Hanlon's Steep Creeks of New England, additions by Nate Warren
From Concord, NH, take I-89 North to Exit 5. Follow Rte. 9-202 to Hillsborough. Continue through Hillsborough, Lower Village to North Branch Village, where Rte. 9 crosses the North Branch. To the putin from North Branch Village follow Rte. 9 ~5 miles to a small pull-off just after a set of powerlines across Rte. 9, as you are driving up a hill. Park by a gated, overgrown farm road on the left. Carry past the gate, down the farm road, and through the overgrown path. Veer left at the first fork in the path, and look close for the path on the right after another 100 yards.
To takeout: follow Rte. 9 back toward North Branch Village (in Antrim). Take out at the junction of Rte. 31 (where 31 breaks off of 9 and heads south) and Rte. 9, below The Cleaver.
Warning: this run may contain thick ice in the early Spring; it tends to break up later than many other, steeper runs.
The NB Took is a class IV (2@V) creek in southern NH. It has a large, swampy drainage, which means it holds water far better than most other creeks in NH. The upper section has long zig-zagging class four rapids with big pools at the bottom. The largest rapid, Lost Lens, is class V- at good levels. Soon after Lost Lens is "Stone Bridge," a class III where the river passes under an old stone bridge, then under Route 9. Below here is a mile or so of class II-III, which is really fun if the level is not low, followed by flatwater and then Mill Race.
Mill Race is the highlight of the North Branch. The left is a 100+ yard class V rapid that ends with a difficult crux move. This one collects lost of wood. The right side is a steep 20' slide with a scrapey entrance. The slide is class V-.
Below Mill Race the river drops under Loveren Mill Road (a good place to scout, while you are dry, or for park & huck...), then into over a mile of flatwater, including a marshy swamp. If you are running the NB at lower levels, the swamp can become difficult to navigate. Some people drive shuttle around it, taking off at Loveren Mill Rd. and putting back on at Liberty Farm Road.
Liberty Farm rapid is the first rapid after the flatwater. It is a long class IV with many lines. After a mile or so of class II-III, the river returns to the road for the last rapid, "Cleaver." From the top the water exploding up in the center-left of the river is the spot to avoid. There is a far-left line, but generally boaters try to stay right of the Cleaver and far enough off the right side to avoid the submerged ledge at the bottom. Takeout below Cleaver, climb up the embankment & careful crossing the road!
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Rivers of the lower Contoocook region|
|3.0||The Mill Race||V|
When the roadway reappears on river left look for the Stone Bridge downstream. The river right arch is easier, taking the river left arch descent takes you through three rather sticky holes one after another. Get ready to punch your way through or work your way out of them. Most boaters chose to take out here at the bridge then shuttle around the 1.2 mile flat swampy section to the next rapid.
There are two options here. This is amoung the toughest rapid in southern NH. The North Branch splits just after a long flat section leading down from Stone Bridge rapid. The right channel is shorter in distance but drops more dramatically over this distance. Scout from river right. The left channel is longer and narrower but still packs a punch. The initial drop is about 5' from a deteriorating rock dam, the river then takes a sharp right and drops steeply over the 1000+ feet in lenght. Along the way there are many pinning spots in this narrow channel. Always scout this drop since a fallen tree could easily block the entire channel.
This is a rather long complicated rapid. There are many channels and routes to chose from. Be especially cautious of wood here since some channels are very narrow and blind. Most of the rapid can be viewed from Liberty Farm Road which follows on river left most of the way.
The Cleaver is the final drop on a rather long stretch of mostly class III and IV rapids. This one is difficult to scout from the river bank because of the steep bank and lack of eddies above. It is easily scouted from the takeout and route 9 which follows on river right. The best route to take over the Cleaver is about 8' from the river right bank. From here you will drop a few vertical feet. Do not run the center because the water piles up behind and under the enormous cleaver boulder. The run on river left is possible but is more difficult than the right side.