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.
Put in elevation........690'
Take out elevation......435'
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
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.
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.
2.7 via this site was scratchy from old power house down to the bridge on 31
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.
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.
9 years ago
Estimated chance (%) of finding the river runnable.
January ............ 5%....Usually frozen
March...............40%....Opens up about mid month.
April...............65%....Best chance in early April
May ................20%....Best chance in early May.
August...............5%....Just a trickle
September...........10%....Tropical storms and their remains
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
1.4 1.6 good surfing at ledges
1.7 1.7 medium low
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.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!