Ellis, New Hampshire, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|SACO RIVER AT RIVER STREET, AT BARTLETT, NH|
|usgs-010642505||4.50 - 7.50 ft||III-IV||00h55m||2.69 ft (too low)|
From Mike Gatewood:
The river is narrow (15' - 30') for most of the run. It was very creek-like, with lots of rocks to avoid, quick decisions to be made, and 2-3' and higher drops everywhere. The upper section called Crazy Rapids is solid class V even at low levels. From the put-in, Commencement Rapids (class IV-V) starts out with a bang. I actually put-in just below Commencement Rapids where the river becomes more class III-IVish. After about 0.5 miles there is a small class V gorge. (See photos.)
After this rapid, the river continues for about 5 miles and is full of class III-IV drops. At the low level that we ran at, the river was not pushy, therefore less intimidating to me, and was pretty scratchy most of the way. There is one short section of class II scraping about half way down the run. You can take out at the Jackson Golf Course or continue for another 0.5 miles or so to the dam. Overall, I really enjoyed this river. Last fall, my girlfriend and I mountain biked along some trails that follow the river and were able to scout some of it, in the winter we cross-country skied along the river, in the spring we finally got to run it. The Ellis is very hard to catch at a paddleable level. We caught a window were the river ran for a couple of days; when we went back the following weekend, it was too low. If there is a few inches of rain the river will run for a day or two at the most, and spring running depends upon the melt from Mt. Washington.
I kind of see it as three put-ins for the Ellis depending upon how much class V you want to do. Lessels' and Gabler's guide lists the start of the run at Commencement Rapids. The putin for Commencement Rapids (class IV-V) is about 1 mile after the Dana Place Inn on Rt. 16 N, there is a paved pull-off/picnic area with trails down to the river. If you want to avoid Commencement Rapids you can put-in at the bridge 0.5 miles past Dana Place; this is where I put in. Or if you want the full dose of the Ellis you can put in ~1.8 miles past Dana Place where the gauge is and Run Crazy Rapids (class V) as well as Commencement Rapids.
The old USGS gage was located approx. 1.3 miles past the bridge after the Dana Place Inn. There is a large orange dot on the guardrail to locate the trail to the gage hut. The new correlation is based on the Saco readings on days with good flows. 4.5 and rising should be runnable. 5 ft is likely the cut off when the gauge is falling. If you run this section please leave a comment with more beta.
There is a painted paddlers gage on the upstream stide of the center bridge abutment of the Route 16 bridge in Jackson. A level on 1' is supposed to correspond to 2.2' on the USGS gage (which is recommended minimum paddling level).
The general consensus of our group was that 1.4' on the painted gauge is medium (not medium low or medium high).