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Difficulty III-IV
Length 6.2 Miles
Gauge SACO RIVER AT RIVER STREET, AT BARTLETT, NH
Flow Range 650 - 5500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 646 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/03/2018 3:26 pm

River Description


The Saco runs through the highest mountains in the northeastern US. It cuts through a steep valley called Crawford Notch (a NH state park). Outside of the sustain spring melt off the Saco rises and falls rapidly due to steep terrain in its headwaters. If snow is not present it will be necessary to catch the river during or shortly after a heavy rainfall.
This section starts out at the base of an impressive gorge. This gorge is runable at certain levels but should be scouted. Below the river is consistant class III at low levels. At higher levels this section should be considered class IV due to its consistant gradient. Further down river the consistant gradient turns to more of a pool drop nature with the pools getting larger as one heads down. There is a couple of portions in this lower section where the difficulty increases namely Sawyers rock and Tweedledum Tweedledee rapid. Both these rapids are visible from route 302 when there is no foliage on the trees (mid Oct. thru mid May).

Technical info

Put in elevation........958'
Take out elevation......657'
Total drop..............301'
Average drop/mile.......49'
1st mile................78'
2nd mile................43'
3rd mile................47'
4th mile................40'
5th mile................35'
6th mile................50'
6.2 mile................8' (40' average)
Distance................6.2 miles
River width average.....35'
River geology...........Granite ledge, small to medium boulders
River water quality.....Excellent, clarity: excellent.
Scenery.................Good to excellent mountain scenery, a few homes and 
                        camps on the lower reaches, route 302 occasionally 
                        visible on river right. 
Wildlife................occasional deer, moose, perrigrine falcons, hawks. 

Directions


Put in

Interstate 95 to Spaulding turnpike (NH rt 16).
North through Conway up to the intersection 302/16 in Glenn (approximately 75 miles).
Go straight through the intersection and continue on route 302.
Approximately 12 miles look for a small parking area next to a grey house on the right about a mile past the Sawyer River crossing.
Or continue another mile past an area where route 302 crosses Nancy Brook just after the Notchland inn
Note: putting in here requires you to run or portage the class IV gorge just downstream.

Take out

Head back to the town of Bartlett on route 302.
Take a left at the blinking light.
Approximately .3 miles to the bridge. Take out located across the bridge on upstream river left. The gauge is located on river right downstream side of bridge.

Rapid Descriptions

Rowans

Class - III Mile - 0.2
Shortly below the gorge is a series of short but intense drops one after another. Most are short less than 50 yards long but blend together in a long complicated rapid in high water. The rapids become a little easier after the first railroad bridge crossing.

Sawyer Rock

Class - III Mile - 1.7
Fairly straighforward but look out for ledge hole at the bottom that can have a rather strong backwash. The rapid can be identified by a smooth ledge rock (Sawyer's) on river right as the river turns to the left. The boulder strewn drop above Sawyer's rock requires a little skill to navigate. This is a popular swimming hole in the summer.

Tweedledum Tweedledee

Class - III+ Mile - 1.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Shortly after Sawyer's Rock rapid comes the biggest drop on this portion of the Saco. The river splits around a mid stream island the right channel is usually not passible except under high water conditions. The left channel drops steeply and contains much turbulance amoung the waves and holes. The best route is just right of center skirting the largest holes on river left formed by the Tweedledum and Tweedledee boulders.

Scouting Group
Photo of Vicky, Buffer, Steve, and Terry at Tweedledum Tweedledee by Kate Hartland taken 5/12/07 @ 1.1'

Comments

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Stephen Jacques
|
7 years ago

Great post Mike. Carl F and I ran it from just below where you put in and found the run in great shape. We ran the river on Saturday Oct 1 at 1.0 on the bridge gage. T-dee / Tdum seemed a little wider on river right. This made the move down the right side a bit more forgiving than before. Steve Jacques, Bartlett, NH

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J. Michael Cummings
|
9 years ago

USGS Gage 010642505 reads 3.0' higher than painted gage on bridge 20 yds upstream

Gage Descriptions

There is a visual gage painted on the river right bridge abutment on River road bridge in Bartlett.  

 

Minimum....... 3.7
Scratchy......<4.0
Low...........<4.5
Low to medium.<4.9
Medium........<5.8
Mdium high....<6.5
High..........>6.8


In the Summer of 2009 a new USGS gage was installed just downstream of the bridge.  We are still in the process of correlating this gage. 


The Saco drains the southern portions of the Presidential Mountains of NH. This area is the highest terrain in the northeastern US. It is also the snowiest region in the eastern US. Snowmelt usually fills the Saco late in April and into May. During snowy winters the runoff can be consistant from mid April through late May.
Estimated chance (%) of finding the river runnable.
 

Month............% chance....comment
January .............0%....Frozen
February.............0%....Frozen
March...............10%....Usually frozen.
April...............65%....Most dependable month
May ................40%....especially early in month.                
June................20%
July.................5%      
August...............5%
September...........15%....Tropical storms and their remains
October.............20%....Trees go dormant less water being absorbed by them
November............30%      
December............25%....River starts freezing up 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 5% probability for July means on average you can only expect 1.5 days of water. One year there could be 3 days in July with water other years none. Spring levels are usually higher than fall levels.
 

 

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.

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News

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Protecting Access to New Hampshire Rivers

11/3/2016
Robert Nasdor

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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Bellows Falls (VT) Flow Study Reveals Hidden Whitewater

6/2/2015
Robert Nasdor

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. 

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AW, MVP Protect Land and Access on the Contoocook River (NH)

6/18/2013
Robert Nasdor

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.

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Mark Lacroix

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Alex Barham

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190976 05/14/07 Mark Lacroix n/a
1196398 11/02/09 Mark Lacroix
1196399 05/02/18 Alex Barham Location
1209466 05/03/18 Alex Barham