Saco River - 1.) Crawford Notch to Bartlett (along Hwy 302)

Saco River, New Hampshire, US


1.) Crawford Notch to Bartlett (along Hwy 302)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (varies with level)
Length 6.2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 49 fpm
Max Gradient 78 fpm

Saco River

Saco River
Photo by Mark L taken 04/27/03 @ 1.7'

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-010642505 650 - 5500 cfs III-IV 00h55m 172 cfs (too low)

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. 


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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-03 15:26:05


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.7Sawyer RockIIIPhoto
1.8Tweedledum TweedledeeIII+

Rapid Descriptions

Rowans (Class III, Mile 0.2)

Rowans Rapid

Rowans Rapid
Photo of Sharon and Corinne by Mark L taken 04/27/03 @ 1.7'

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)

Sharon at Sawyer's Rock

Sharon at Sawyer's Rock
Photo of Sharon Lacroix by Mark L taken 04/27/03 @ 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)
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'

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