Mad River - 1. Highway 49 Bridge (Waterville Valley) to Campton

Mad River, New Hampshire, US


1. Highway 49 Bridge (Waterville Valley) to Campton

Usual Difficulty III-IV (varies with level)
Length 7.8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 85 fpm
Max Gradient 122 fpm

Welch Mt. from Mad river

Welch Mt. from Mad river
Photo by Mark Lacroix taken 04/10/02 @ 1.4

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01076000 1000 - 2500 cfs III-IV 00h44m 230 cfs (too low)
Mad-1. Highway 49 Bridge (Waterville Valley) to Campton
river-1173 1000.00 - 2000.00 ft IV+ ~ ft

River Description

The Mad has a relatively short season due to its small and steep watershed. When it is running this is one of the longest stretches of continuous class III-IV whitewater in the state. Be cautious of rain or warm days in the spring when you are at the put-in. The river can rise up from low to too high by the time you reach the gage 6 miles down river. On one occasion in May of 1994, a group put on in a light rain. The rain along with snowmelt from higher elevations of the watershed raised the river to a ragging torrent about 4 miles into the trip. Many boats, and paddles were flushed downstream as their occupants were rescued and found their way out. Most of this group took off at this point.


Technical info

Put in elevation........1417'
Take out elevation......751'
Total drop..............666'
Average drop/mile.......85'
Distance................7.8 miles
1st mile drop...........46'
2nd mile drop...........118'
3rd mile drop...........46'
4th mile drop...........95'
5th mile drop...........118'
6th mile drop...........122'
7th mile drop...........95'
7.8 mile drop...........26'
River width average.....25'
River geology...........small to medium granite boulders 
River water quality.....Good, clear except for quick runoff periods.  Small sewage
                        treatment plant at put in.
Scenery.................Good to excellent mountain and forest scenery.  Route 49
                        occasionally visible along the river. 
Wildlife................Occasional deer, moose, hawks


Food, lodging, gas, etc.

On route 49, Mad River Tavern: Good food moderate price. Pizza and subs available at the Lower Village store on route 175. Take a right after the lights.
Expensive hotels and condos available in Waterville Valley. Scandinavian Inn located at exit 28. Several Bed and Breakfast establishments. Less expensive motel located at exit 27.
Campton campground, located on route 49 about 2 miles from exit 28, is run by the National Forest Service is open year round has some open group sites and nice wooded tent and small camper sites with picnic tables, modern outhouses, pump water, no electricity.
Osceola campground also run by the National Forest is located on the east end of Tripoli road (exit 31) near Waterville valley. Open May to November, open sites with views of the surronding valley. Picnic tables, modern outhouses, pump water, no electricity.
Branch Brook campground located on route 49 west of exit 28 is a familly campground with water and electric hookups for campers.
There are several gas stations right at the exit but it is expensive. The further south on 93 you get gas the less expensive it is. Exit 20 in Tilton (30 miles south) has the cheapest gas in the region.
Waterville Valley has is a recreational town with many hiking trails to six 4000 foot peaks surrounding the valley. You can also find skiing, mt biking, golf, etc. within the valley.
Outback Kayak located 12 miles north in Lincoln is the only full service kayak shop in the region. Some limited supplies might be available at Ski Fanatics at Campton Plaza immediately off exit 28.



Put in

Interstate 93 to exit 28. State route 49 east for approximately 10 miles.
Take a left at the Waterville Valley ski area access road.
1/4 mile take a right by the gas station/country store (Mountain Petroleum).
Drive up to the recycling area just past the store.
The put-in is down a steep bank on the left.
There are other possible put-ins upstream from this point, chech a map for other alternatives.

Take out

Head back in the direction you came on route 49.
6 miles at Upper Mad river road is one possible take out.
8 miles at Goose Hollow (where rt 49 crosses river.
8.5 miles at "The Eddy" White Mountain national forest recreation area.
Note: At the first and Last locations stated above, it will be necessary to have a White Mountain National Forest parking sticker . These can be purchased at the information center just off the exit for rt 49.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-01 23:26:23


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Map of the Mid Pemi regionPutin Takeout Photo
2.0Ho HumIVPhoto
5.0Landslide fallsIVPhoto
7.2Smarts Brook RapidIVPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Map of the Mid Pemi region

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Rivers of the Middle Pemigewasset region

Rivers of the Middle Pemigewasset region
Photo by Mark Lacroix

Ho Hum (Class IV, Mile 2.0)

Will at Ho Hum rapid

Will at Ho Hum rapid
Photo of Will Kranz by Mark Lacroix taken 04/10/02 @ 1.4

Class II and III rapids will be continuous until NH route 49 becomes visible for a short distance on your left. Once the river turns away from the roadway a sharp drop will be visible in the distance. Take out river left and scout the best line. Normally you would start from river left then move your way into the eddies behind a couple large boulders midstream. From this point you can peel out towards river right through a couple big holes at the bottom. In low water this drop can be full of pinning rocks. Even in high water large rocks can throw you off your line.

Landslide falls (Class IV, Mile 5.0)

Will at Landslide falls

Will at Landslide falls
Photo of Will Kranz by Mark Lacroix taken 04/10/02 @ 1.4

Once again this drop is out of site from NH 49. As you approach Welch Mtn on your right class III water leads up to a short pool. Look for a sudden drop in the river up ahead, a rock slide will be visible just to the right of the drop. Pull out on river left and scout. There are two possible routes, going to the right of the large boulder midstream will drop you vertically 3'to 4' into a fairly large hole. Going to the left of the boulder forces you to make a sharp right turn into a wierd hole. Where the river takes a sharp right the water piles up against a rock creating a pillow. Use the pillow to drop you into and through the wierd hole/whirlpool below. At low water there is not much of a pillow and the wierd hole is just a series of smaller holes.

Smarts Brook Rapid (Class IV, Mile 7.2)

Smarts Brook rapid from above

Smarts Brook rapid from above
Photo by Mark Lacroix taken 04/10/02 @ 1.4

Once you pass the Upper Mad river road bridge the river calms down from continous class III to class II+. 1/4 mile from the bridge Smarts Brook enters on the left, NH route 49 will be visible straight ahead with a distinct drop before the road. Use a zig zag manuever starting from river right, move left, then river right once more around immense boulders. The turbulance in this section can be considerable in medium and high water.

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