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Difficulty II-III
Length Miles
Gauge SOUHEGAN RIVER (SITE WLR-1) NEAR MILFORD, NH
Flow Range 900 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 month ago 292 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/02/2018 2:00 pm

River Description


The Souhegan is a popular spring run. The river is small only about 30' on average. The first mile is steeper (class II-III) once you pass the bridge the river mellows out to a class II. This bridge crossing is the access for the easier section below. The entire river is wooded and scenic with only an occasional view of the road. The Souhegan is narrow and has many blind corners, because of this look out for trees and strainers especially early in the season before local boating clubs clear them out.

Technical info

Put in elevation........690'
Take out elevation......435'
Total drop..............255'
Average drop/mile.......59'
Distance................4.3 miles
River width average.....30'
1st mile drop...........85'
2nd mile drop...........65'
3rd mile drop...........45'
4th mile drop...........45'
4.3 mile drop...........15' (50'average)
River geology...........schists, small boulders, some ledge 
River water quality.....good, clarity; good to neutral.  
Scenery.................excellent, route 31 occasionally visiable.
Wildlife................Occasional deer, merganzers, beaver, hawks

Rapid Descriptions

Powerline

Class - II+ Mile - 0.3
A short ledge drop. It can be identified by powerlines high over head just above. At the rapid lege and boulders protrude from right and left banks. The drop can have a good size hole on the right side at higher levels. Towards the left side there is a large boulder blocking the outrun.

Townline

Class - II+ Mile - 0.4
Probably the second most difficult rapid. Not far below Powerline the river widens then constricts into the rapid. Far river left at the wide section there is a boulder jumble with a few interesting chutes in between. The river then narrows down and splits around an island in high water, although the left channel is not too obvious. The main channel is narrow with two boulder / pourovers that upset many paddlers. The first is right of center forcing the paddler to go left, the next is left of center forcing the paddler to move right once more. Be carefull if you swim here since the Ledges section is only a little ways downstream.

The Ledges

Class - III Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The most difficult rapid on this section of river. You can recognize it from a play wave just upstream where the river narrows to 15' and creates a mini wave train. If you look downstream from this position you will notice a couple of large boulders midstream. One of the boulders has a hole bored in about half way up. The normal route is just to the left of the boulder skirting a large hole on river left. The river then continues over a trashy ledge with multiple crosscurrents. After this there are two riverwide 1' ledges about 20' apart. The last ledge is a great play spot.

Bridge 31

Class - II+ Mile - 1
Once rt 31 comes into view on your right the river accelerates down a nice gradual chute with some nice waves. It then takes a sharp right and passes under rt 31. Just upstream from the bridge are two holes the one closest to the bridge abutement is great for 360's and other manuevers even at low water levels. Just below the bridge there is a weird hole with a sharp upstream apex. This one is not good for surfing but will not hold you. This is also the access for the easier lower class II section.

Bump rock

Class - II+ Mile - 2.5
Once the river diverts away from the road on your left for the second time, the river takes a sharp right. In the distance a rock is visible at the end of the river. The river runs into this rock then takes a sharp left. The easiest way to run this in high water is to start from river right then cut to your left just before the rock. In low water you can eddy out on river right just above the rock then easily ferry across the river into the pool below.

Beaver hole

Class - II Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The river splits into two channels just above a home (the only one on the river) on river right. The left channel is usually too clogged with strainers from beaver activity. The right channel is only about 18' wide at this point. Just below the house the river drops over a slopping ledge into a hole. Catch the small eddy on the right for access to this playhole.

Hemlock Chute

Class - II Mile - 5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The river splits into two channels once again. Take the right channel by taking a sharp right. Look out for strainers here the river is only about 20' wide at this point it is also covered over by a thick hemlock canopy which makes it dark at anytime of day.

Comments

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Matt Muir
|
12 years ago

Dan Bertko reported on Mon 30-Oct-06 :
A group of us paddled the the upper cl3, middle cl2, lower cl3 sections yesterday, Oct 29, 2006.
Here's a data point for the virtual gauge:
Contookcook at Peterborough Net gauge 3.15 and falling
Souhegan old dam painted gauge: 2.0 and falling
The virtual gauge description is fairly accurate. I'd call it medium.
Description update:
There were no strainers in the upper cl3 section.
The large tree strainer mentioned in the cl2 description is no longer there.
There is a fine new beaver dam above the old cl2 strainer location.
A feature, not a hazard.

default user thumbnail
|
10 years ago

JoeyT 2.7 via this site was scratchy from old power house down to the bridge on 31

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Jack Gill
|
13 years ago

Ran the Greenville to Rt 101 Bridge section on 7/10/05. The Gage on the Contoocook at Peterboro was running at 2.33 at the time. This level was very scratchy on the Souhegan. It was at the lower limit of what I would consider whitewater fun.

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Mark Nawrocki
|
5 years ago

6-14-2013 boated at about 1050 cfs; several strainers...nearly river wide... but easily avoided. Fun in the upper reaches. Any less water and it would lose much of the fun factor.

Summary of Gauge Readings

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

January ............ 5%....Usually frozen
February............10%....Usually frozen.
March...............40%....Opens up about mid month.
April...............65%....Best chance in early April 
May ................20%....Best chance in early May. 
June.................8%
July.................5%
August...............5%....Just a trickle 
September...........10%....Tropical storms and their remains
October........�....15%
November............20%....Fall rains, dormant trees 
December............20%....River starts freezing about Christmas.

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 August means on average you can only expect 1-1/2 days of water. One year there could be 3 days in August 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 day.
 

Note: USGS added a new gage on the Souhegan in the summer of 2008 about 5 miles downstream of the takeout in Milford.  This new gage a much better indicator of levels on the upper Souhegan than the Merrimack gage.  We will need to gather more information over time to correlate the gage to runable levels, however the 400 cfs level should be fairly accurate.   The painted gage at the class III put-in is the one used for levels in the New England Whitewater guide, but this gauge is in serious deterioration at this time. A new gage was painted on the rt 31 bridge back in 1995 so people would not have to walk in to the other gage for a level check. The gages match levels at 1.7'. Here are some other readings of interest.
 

Dam put-in   rt 31 bridge     runability 

.8                 1.3       (minimum play 
.9                 1.4       level at bridge hole)
1                  1.5       minimum level most people like
1.2                1.5             
1.4                1.6       good surfing at ledges
1.7                1.7       medium low
1.9                1.8
2.1                1.9       medium
2.25               2.0       medium high
2.4                2.1       high

Beyond 2.1' at the bridge the gage is not
reliable because of the velocity of the river.  

 

 
Rising/Steady Gauge observations for the Souhegan River
 
Date/Time Upper
Put-In
Gauge
Rt 31
Bridge
Gauge
USGS Souhegan
@Milford
  USGS Souhegan
@Merrimack
  Interpretation
Stage CFS   Stage CFS
4/13/08   1.6 1.6     5.2 1270 Medium-low
3/31/03   1.9 1.8     5.4 RS* 1430 Medium
6/14/09 3:30 PM 1.9 1.9 6.03 P* 825 4.83 RS* 1030 Medium
3/9/08     2.2     6.9 2650 Medium
 
 
Falling Gauge observations for the Souhegan River
 
Date/Time Upper
Put-In
Gauge
Rt 31
Bridge
Gauge
USGS Souhegan
@Milford
  USGS Souhegan
@Merrimack
  Interpretation
Stage CFS   Stage CFS
9/7/08         1010   2660 Medium
 
*RR=rising rapidly, RS=rising slowly, S=steady, FR=falling rapidly, FS=falling slowly, P=peaking,
V=valley (transition falling to rising).    (Note: Merrimack gage is approximately 10-12 hours
downstream of Wilton/Milford gage.)

 

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
SOUHEGAN RIVER (SITE WLR-1) NEAR MILFORD, NH
AW Gauge Info
292 cfs ℹ️ 36d16h49m n/a
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Directions Description


 

Class II (Lower) Put in

From Manchester NH take state route 101 west approximately 25 miles. Just pass the town of Wilton state route 31 merges with 101. Continue west on 101/31. Take a left when route 31 diverges left from 101 just after the Monadnock Spring Water plant on your left. Proceed for approximately 4.75 miles to the put-in where the road crosses over the river; look for a sign by the pull-off "Heald Tract", and "Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests". The Paddlers' Gage is here, on the downstream side of the river-left bridge abutment.

 

Class III (Upper) Put-in

From the lower put-in, proceed another 0.9 miles beyond the bridge until you come up to a small clearing on the right. A sign is located at the head of an old access road welcoming fishermen and recreational users. The put in is 100 yard carry down this road at the site of an old hydro dam. Note: Do not put in further upstream at the Greenville bridge. There is a short constricted class IV-V gorge located between there and the usual put in by the old hydro dam. To view the gorge drive up the hill a short distance [upstream] from the put-in; it is located directly behind a small welding shop.

 

The original Paddlers' Gage is here at the upper put-in on the side of the remains of a concrete wall.

 

Upper Take-out

Head back in the direction you just came from back to the intersection with route 101. The take out is located near the Monadnock Spring Water plant. Be careful of where you park here the owners of the water bottling plant do not allow parking on their property. This also applies to the field next to the plant.

Paddlers may take out on river left on the upsteam side of the Issac Frye Highway Bridge which is the road that crosses the river just upsteam of the Monadnock Spring Water Plant. There is a wire fence paralleling the road that delimits the highway right of way which paddlers can use (walk between the fence and the highway.) The area on the other side of the fence is private property.

Paddlers may park along the road and off the asphalt along the intersection of Issac Frye Highway, Gibbons Highway (Routes 101/31), and Mansur Road. The three roads form a triangle shaped intersection. (Note: NH State Law requires all parked cars to be completely off the asphalt or risk a ticket.)  Be aware there are "No Trespassing" signs posted there by Monadnock Spring Water; those signs are at the edge of Monadnock Spring Water property line, and indicate that you cannot park behind them. The public has the legal right to park there, in front and up-to the property line as demarked by the no-trespassing signs. (In fact, paddlers may use the signs as a confirmation of where it IS legal to park.) The NH highway minimum legal width is 50 feet; the highway right-of-way on Mansur Road extends 25 feet from the center line. The right-of-way on Issac Frye Highway extends 30 feet from the center line. There has been substantial legal work performed to secure paddlers' right to park there and to access a navigable river, and those rights will be defended. As always, please keep the area clean and don't pollute! Don't give local property owners a reason to complain.

Click here for a copy of the letter from the NH DOT confirming paddler access to the highway Right-Of-Way.

 

Lower (Alternate) Take-Out

There is an alternate take out about 3/4 miles downstream on Intervale Rd., the side road off Rts 31/101 just upstream from where the Souhegan goes under the 101 bridge. This is private property on a quiet residential road. Please be considerate so that we don't lose the cooperation of the neighbors. Park on the side of the road away from the houses and out of the right of way. The paddle from the Issac Frye bridge is mostly quick water and class I.


Thanks to Tom Quarles and Tom Todd for clarifying the above info.

 

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