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).
Post Irene Update.
Carl F and I ran the Upper Ellis from Dana Place down to the Jackson covered bridge on Sunday Oct 2nd. The level was 1.4 ft at the start and 2.8 ft by the time we finished. The river is currently free of strainers. The run was very challenging and involved some very technical moves. This was a very fun/technical Class 3-4 run. I would say that the run at the level we ran it was mostly a solid Class 4.
Steve Jacques, Bartlett, NH
Post Irene Update.
Carl F and I ran the Lower Ellis from the Dam below Timmy's bridge to the Saco on Friday September 30.
The run was clear of strainers. The run seemed to have become more playful with more surfing opportunities.
Nice technical Class 3 run. Lots of fun.
Steve Jacques, Bartlett, NH
9 years ago
by Mark Lacroix
The following are old observations which have been archived here in case the old gauge is ever active again. Minimum flow for the old gauge was 140cfs with no known upper limit.
From Mike Gatewood: The USGS gage is 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 following info is from Norm Rehn (readings from Saco and Wild added):
There were 3 readings taken for the Ellis this weekend (April 25-26, 2009):
1.4' Saturday about 8:30 PM (Saco 5.33/2920 RR, Wild 5.16/1220 FS)
1.4' Sunday at 8:30 AM (Saco 6.19/4470 FS, Wild 4.96/1030 RS)
1.4' Sunday at 3:30 PM (Saco 6.37/4840 RS, Wild 4.89/956 FS)
The general consensus of our group was that 1.4' is medium (not medium low or medium high) - my observation is that most of the water goes to the left side of the center abutment - the gauge is on the right side of the center abutment
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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In the Heart of Ellis Gorge
At The Crux of Ellis River Gorge
Entrance to Ellis River Gorge
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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.
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