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Difficulty IV+ at this flow (III-IV normally)
Length 7.8 Miles
Gauge Mad-1. Highway 49 Bridge (Waterville Valley) to Campton
Flow Range 1000.00 - 2000.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 1 second ago N/A
Reach Info Last Updated 05/01/2018 11:26 pm

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Map of the Mid Pemi region

Class - Mile - 0

Ho Hum

Class - IV Mile - 2
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
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
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.


Gage Descriptions

Note: The gauge refered to in this section is a virtual "regional" gauge. It is in a nearby watershed but the proximity of the gauge and the river characteristics are similar. These gauges work best in the spring or wide area rain events. Do not rely on this gauge for localized rain events such as summertime thunderstorm activity. Current minimum run level for this stretch is still to be verified (see table below). There is a hand painted gage on a rock at six mile bridge (Upper Mad river road). It is located on river left just under the upstream edge of the bridge.

Level      Painted gauge    USGS EB gauge (CFS)
Minimum         1.3           830
Scratchy       <1.6	       1200
Low            <1.8           1530
Low to medium  <2.1	       2060
Medium         <2.5           2870
Mdium high     <2.8           3600
High           >2.8
Too high......>above gage rock

Estimated chance (%) of finding the river runnable.
Month............% chance.................comment

January ............ 0%....Frozen. 
March...............10%....usually Frozen. 
April...............35%....Best chance in late April
May ................25%....Best chance in early May. 
August...............3%....Just a trickle
September............3%....Lowest water month 
November............20%....Fall rains, dormant trees 
December............20%....River starts freezing early in month. 

Be aware this is averaged out over several years. The % chance refers to the probability of finding the river running on any given day. For instance a 3% probability for September means on average you can only expect 1 day of water. One year there could be 2 days in September with water, other years none. Spring levels are usually higher than fall levels. The river rises and falls rapidly because of the small steep watershed. An occasional summer storm could bring the river up for a couple hours.

Building a "Virtual" gauge for the Mad
In the table below visual observations have been matched with actual USGS gauge readings from the East Branch USGS. This is an attempt to build a Virtual gauge for the Mad. Virtual gauges work best during spring runoff and widespread rain events but should not be relied upon for localized rain events such as thunderstorm activity. Once enough observations have been matched with the USGS gauge readings, we will determine which USGS gauge readings best matches the Mad river's runoff profile.


Gauge correlations for the Mad river Thornton NH



6 mile bridge

East Branch USGS

4/3/02 6:00 pm 1.4 6.76 RR* Very low
4/4/02 6:50 am 1.5 7.06 FS* Very low
4/4/02 11:30 am 1.3 6.96 FS* Very low
4/10/02 9:30 am 1.4 7.78 S* Very low
4/13/02 6:15 am 1.6 7.63 RS* low
4/14/02 6:00 am 3.5 13.13 FR* Very high
4/14/02 1:00 pm 2.8 10.72 FR* high
4/16/02 9:00 am 2.0 8.74 S* Medium
4/16/02 3:00 pm 2.2 9.08 RS* Medium
6/18/05 7:00 am 1.0 6.78 S* Too low

*RR=rising rapidly RS=rising slowly S=steady FR=falling rapidly FS=falling slowly



Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




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Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1209421 05/01/18 Alex Barham Location and Info
1190967 05/04/08 Mark Lacroix Update virtual gage
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