Swift - 2. Rocky Gorge to Lower Falls

Swift, New Hampshire, US


2. Rocky Gorge to Lower Falls (Middle Swift)

Usual Difficulty II-III(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 2.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 55 fpm
Max Gradient 65 fpm

Seal launch, Upper Falls, Swift River

Seal launch, Upper Falls, Swift River
Photo of Rob Point and Ginger Cox (red boat) by Mike Gatewood @ 1.75

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Swift 3 stage gauge as a function of the Saco River gage in Conway
virtual-11118 0.60 - 4.00 ft II-III(IV) 01h17m 0.154512 ft (too low)

River Description

The Middle Swift is a very good intermediate run. This section of the Swift is sandwiched between two class V drops that can easily be by-passed. The rapids in between are a lot mellower mainly class III. The biggest drop in this section is Triple Drop; it is two 3' drops about 50' apart with a big wave/hole at the bottom. At lower water Triple drop should be considered class III+. A look at the take-out for this section is advised since you don't want to run Lower Falls without scouting.
The Swift runs along side the scenic Kancamaugus Highway in the White Mountain National Forest. It is not wild but still scenic, the road and tourist areas at the put in and take out can be crowded with curious people taking pictures or just gawking especially late in the Spring. Note: the above mentioned gradient information does not include Upper and Lower Falls. See also the Upper and Lower Swift.

Technical info

Put in elevation.......1123'
Take out elevation.....940'
Distance...............2.6 miles
Total drop.............183'
Average drop/mile......70'.....Including Upper and Lower falls
1st mile drop..........85'......Includes Upper falls
2nd mile drop..........58'......Includes Triple Drop
2.6 mile drop..........40'.....Includes Lower falls
River width average....50'
River geology..........large granite boulders, some ledges at falls
River water quality....Excellent, crystal clear
Scenery................Excellent mountain and forest scenery.
Wildlife...............Some deer, moose, perrigrine falcons, tourist
Note: The technical information above includes Upper and Lower falls which greatly adds to the total and average drops on this relatively short river. The section in between the falls has less but very consistant gradient.


Put in

From Interstate 93.
Interstate 93 to exit 32. State route 112 (Kancamaugus Highway) east for approximately 24 miles.
Approximately 3 miles pass Bear notch road look for the pull off for Rocky Gorge Scenic area.
From NH route 16.
Take a left on NH route 112 (Kancamaugus Highway), head west for approximately 9 miles to Rocky Gorge Scenic area.
The put-in is down a steep bank on river right just downstream from the foot bridge. Caution: do not put in at the parking lot.
Parking may be difficult in April due to snow and the bathroom facilities may be locked and unavailable.

Take out

Head east towards Conway on the Kancamaugus Highway for 2.8 miles.
Take a left at the next tourist/scenic/picnic area signed Lower Falls.
Parking here should not be a problem in April due to snow because it is partially plowed but the bathroom facilities here may also be locked and unavailable.
Note: At the put-in and take out it will be necessary to have a White Mountain National Forest parking sticker. These can be purchased at the information center just off exit 32 on Interstate 93 on the west end of rt 112 (Kancamaugus Highway). Or at the National Forest Service information center at the intersection of NH routes 112 and 16 on the east end of the Kancamagus highway. It is also possible to buy a day pass from the self service kiosk at the Lower Falls recreation area.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-04-29 12:55:09


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Upper Falls5.0Putin Portage Hazard Waterfall
1.8Triple DropIII+Photo
3.5Lower Falls5.0Takeout Portage Hazard Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Upper Falls (Class 5.0)
Upper Falls is located in a tourist area called Rocky Gorge. From the parking lot at the put in class II-III water leads up to a 15' falls into a small box canyon. If you are running the upper section along with this section make sure you scout this area carefully. Pull out well upstream once the river starts dropping over small ledges with sticky holes. Carry around below the tourist foot bridge for an easy put in on river right or a 10' seal launch from either side of the box canyon. Should you choose to run the falls the usual line is from river right over a 45 degree slide to the 10' verticle drop below. Keep the nose of your boat up on the slide to keep from pitoning off protruding ledges at low water levels.

Triple Drop (Class III+, Mile 1.8)

Double Drop, Middle Swift

Double Drop, Middle Swift
Photo of Ginger Cox by Mike Gatewood @ 1.75

The biggest drop in this section, not including the put in or take out rapids, is Triple Drop; it is three 2' to 3' drops about 50' apart with a big wave/hole at the bottom. When the Kancamaugus highway disappears and is replaced with a high cliff wall on your right, make your way to river left just above the first drop and scout your line through the holes at each drop.

Lower Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 3.5)
When picnic tables and tourist with sneakers and cameras appear on river right takeout and scout Lower Falls. The river gradually picks up pace and difficulty as one heads down through the entrance rapid. Lower falls is a series of 6' to 8' ledges that run parallel to the river from the center with the ledges dropping off from left to right. You must scout this drop. It is necessary to run a route through a series of blind drops. A far left route leads the paddler over a more gradual slide. But the approach requires you to punch two large stickey holes. The slide itself contains numerous holes and boulders along its path. The other route (the usual one) requires a precise drop over the 8' ledge between a boulder and some shallow water. Take a sharp left after this drop paddle hard to launch over the next ledge over a stickey hole at the bottom of the drop. Below lies a fairly large calm pool for an esier put in for the lower section.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 10 2013 (1953 days ago)
fharrison (153678)
Ran the Middle Swift today at 0.85 ft. Great run, starts scratchy and I would say that it requires
Class III technical skills to avoid a potential pin. We cleared a strainer and the whole river is
quite clear, assuming new high water does not pull something into the river. The low level does
leave a nasty piton rock exposed on a drop too difficult to identify in a comment, just use
caution. I love this run, how it starts slow and really picks up about half way and then never
stops. The run takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how much you pause on the river. Like the
guide says, pay attention at the end or you will end up unwittingly running Lower Falls.
October 22 2011 (2580 days ago)
Bill Blauvelt Details
Ran it on 10/22/11 at about .7 ft. This is well below what AW says is minimum, but I though it was
a great level. We did shorten the run on both ends though. This was my first run, so I can not say
what changed after Irene. Other members of the group said the changes were minimal. All the rapids
were fine.
September 5 2011 (2627 days ago)
Mark LacroixDetails
On August 28th, 2011 Hurricane Irene struck New England. The resulting floods caused extensive
damage throughout the region, the worst in over 100 years. More than half the rivers in Vermont and
northern New Hampshire recorded their highest flow levels ever. Many roads, guardrails, power
lines, bridges, trees and other debris now litter several rivers throughout the region. River beds
have been scoured and changed course, many new strainers make navigation problematic at best and
downright dangerous at worse. Please realize that the river description you see here may not match
current situation after the floods. Use common sense and when in doubt scout especially on blind
drops. Also, if you run this river in the next year or so please comment on its navigability, even
if there are no problems this will be very helpful. Please report any new strainers or changes to
the rapids that will impact future boating. Thank you,
September 20 2009 (3343 days ago)
Drew KmiecDetails
Has anyone run Rocky Gorge? The story about that gal in '49 or whenever it was that got sucked in
that underwater cave gave me second thoughts, if anyone has please post best route (straight
through on river left or snaking through a little to the right). Thanks!

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