The Merrimack river through Manchester is more popular for it's three play spots (Arms Park aka Crack Pipe, 293, and Goffs Falls) rather than a river run. However, this section does provide water at a time of year when practically every other river within 100 miles is too low. The scenery is poor since it runs through the heart of Manchesters mill district.
The manmade canyon created by the buildings from the Amoskeag mills have a lot of history. In the early 20th century these mills produced more woolen products than anyplace else in the world. As a result the river has been diverted, altered, and built upon creating an unnatural river environment. The parking lot located at Arms Park was the site of the Arms Manufacturing Company. Up to the anthrax outbreak in the fall of 2001, Arms Manufacturing had the reputation of having the worse anthrax death toll in the United States. In 1957 four people died of inhalation anthrax on goat hides, as it was used in their manufacturing process. The building was so contaminated with anthrax it had to be torn down, burned, and buried.
During times of heavy rains such as just after a thunderstorm the Manchester storm sewage drains are overwhelmed and dump directly into the river. This is especially noticeable at and below 293 bridge rapid. Normally (outside of times of CSO -- Combined Sewer Overflow) the water quality is not bad and according to the EPA it is ok for swimming.
Check out the Amoskeag fish ladder at the put in. There is an interpretative center there showing the migratory habits of andromonous fish such as Salmon, eel, and shad. The fish ladder is usually active in late May and early June.
During high runoff periods when water tops over the dam, there are three 1/4 mile long class V channels that flow out from below the dam. Access and scouting is best from the east side of the river behind some mill buildings. At the time of this write up access was difficult because of construction on that side of the river.
Put in elevation........126'
Take out elevation......104'
River width average.....200'
River geology...........schists, small boulders, some ledge especially at 293
River water quality.....poor to neutral; clarity: neutral to dark.
Sewage treatment plant at 293.
Sewer overflows during heavy rains.
Scenery.................Poor, urban historic (early industrial)
Wildlife................Salmon, shad, eel, merganzers, Bald eagles near take out.
Interstate 93 to Interstate 293. Bear right after crossing the Merrimack in order to stay on 293.
approximately 4 miles to exit 6.
As soon as you come off the exit and merge onto a rotary take your immediate right into the Ramada Inn parking area.
Park close to the entrance to the parking area.
To put in carry along the fence line around the electrical substation parrallel to the exit you just drove on.
Eventually a trail will be obvious to take you to the put in below.
Head back in the direction you came on Interstate 293 toward Nashua.
4 miles take the exit for state route 101.
As soon as you merge onto 101 take the next exit just pass the bridge onto state route 3.
Take a right at the bottom of the ramp.
Head south on route 3 for approximately 1.5 miles.
Take a left at Moores Crossing Road.
Park at the end of the road, the take out is just to the left after a short walk along the railroad tracks. (caution this is an active rail line)
Jim Cavo wrote: Approx. 1/4 mile of class-II rapid. The river is bordered by a high seawall and access is limited. The putin and takeout are at Arms Park, at the large steps along the seawall. There are plans to install permanent putin steps upstream.
There are numerous permanently installed slalom gates, and many well defined eddies making this a good site for practicing slalom and attainment. Unfortunately, the play wave/hole described in Appalachian Whitewater was almost entirely washed away in high water several years ago.
Flow is controlled by Amoskeag Dam, but runs most afternoons and evenings. There's a good brew-pub adjacent to the park.
Directions: From Rt. 293 take Exit 6. Cross river on Granite Street. After crossing river, take first left onto Commercial Street and follow Arms Park signs; the park is about a mile ahead under a large bridge.
Paddlers' each can have their own opinion on the best level
for the Crack Pipe Wave. The range of opinions go from 3000 cfs
to 9000 cfs. Some prefer 3500–4500; others will say
6000–9000 is best. A few like it as low as 1500 cfs.
What most agree on is if the level is not to your
liking then head downstream to try the 293 Wave.
Currently the most popular play spot for play boaters. 293 is located directly below the interstate 293 overpass. At low through medium levels the river splits around a small rocky island. The river right channel is narrower. It has a nice surfing wave at low levels. On river left there are a variety of holes and waves for playing. Most boaters believe this section is best at river levels of 6000 to 8000 cfs. There is a sewage treatment plant located on the river left bank of the rapid.
If you are only interested in this segment of river, park on river right below 293 bridge. Take interstate 93 to Interstate 293, 101. Once you cross over the Merrimack stay on Route 101 by staying left where 293 exits to the right. Take the next exit for Route 3 after the exit for southbound Everett Turnpike. Take a right at the end of the ramp. After .7 miles take a left just after the Everett Turnpike overpass (road not signed). Go to the end of the road and park by the river.
Updated directions to 293 playspot: There's been a lot of construction in the area. From 101/293, take Rt 3 South. About .7 miles down, you'll pass a Dunkin Donuts, Lowe's, and Target. Aftre another 1/2 mile, turn Left at a light onto Hawthorne St, then Left on Station Street. Continue to the end of the pavement, then bear right onto a short dirt road (as of 7/06) that ends at a small pump/utility station along the river.
If looking for GPS directions for the 293 spot, enter Daniel Webster Animal Hosp at 3 Hawthorne Drive Bedford, NH. Drive down Hawthorne, then Left on Station Rd to end. At about 1700 CFS, there is a small but somewhat sticky surfable wave at far river right.
Was at crackpipe today. Running about 8,000 CFS the eddy becomes almost completely washed out. It is a serious struggle to get up on the wave at this level. The front wave as well as Crackpipe are both great at this level for riding, very big, very good hold, very fun. But you will most likely have to take the 5 minute walk up to the put in after a run
Flow is regulated through the Amoskeag hydro-electric dam at the put in. There is usually enough water to run this section most of the year. Flows from mid July through late September could be marginal especially in a dry year. Call the recorded dam release phone line at (603) 634-3569 for a flow update. Flows on the Merrimack usually peak 3 to 4 days after a rain event.
900 to 1300 cfs.......very low
1300 to 2400 cfs......low
2400 to 3000 cfs......low to medium
3000 to 5000 cfs......medium
5000 to 7500 cfs......medium high
7500 to 11000 cfs.....high
Full release from Amoskeag dam with three 1500 cfs generators is 4500 cfs. Water usually tops over the dam during spring flows in April and early May and during wet periods.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
put-in arms prk
Arms park put-in
293 @ 5,200 CFS
101/293 rapids 20,000 CFS
Elaine Campbell paddling 293 wave
Crack Pipe Loop
Brian at Crack Pipe
Crack Pipe Park & Play
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
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.
A hardy group of northeast boaters climbed into the natural river channel below a hydropower dam to participate in a flow study designed to assess whether whitewater flows should be restored to this dewatered river reach on the Connecticut River. While significant obstacles remain, this site has the potential for providing instruction, playboating, and a big water feature that that could be run throughout much of the year and provide a much needed boost to the local economy.
American Whitewater and Merrimack Valley Paddlers have reached an agreement to purchase a 10-acre parcel fronting on Contoocook River in Henniker, NH. The land serves as an important launch point for whitewater paddlers enjoying the popular section of the river that runs from Hillsborough to Henniker. This section of the Contoocook River contains rapids ranging in difficulty from Class II to Class IV.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!