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Difficulty V
Length 3.5 Miles
Flow Range 600 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 46 minutes ago 77.3 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/02/2018 1:36 pm

River Description

This run is so good that at least two New England paddling legends have named their first born son after it.  It is characterized by long boulder garden rapids with a few distinct larger drops mixed in for good measure.  At lower flows it is a great condensed collection of class IV+ drops, at higher flows the whole river seems to melt together into one continuous rowdy class V rapid.

Directions and history from: Greg and Sue Hanlon's Steep Creeks of New England, which has more info on this run. Text used with permission.

Park on the North side of Rte. 302 next to the highway bridge which crosses the Sawyer. From late fall through Spring it is necessary to shoulder your boat 3+ miles upstream to the hikers' lot, which is the normal putin. Hey: sometimes you gotta want your whitewater! The dirt road is usually open to the public during the Summer (when there is usually no water.)  Go to the National Forest Services "Forest Road Status" to find out if and when the access road is open.

The first known run of the Sawyer was April 24, 1992, by Boyce Greer, J.J. Valera, Greg Hanlon, Bill and Joan Hildreth after scouting and removing several trees at low water."

Hanlon cautions that the Sawyer tends to collect logs. "Beware!"


The Sawyer River is among the best class V runs in all the northeast.  The continuous steep gradient over and around massive boulders will challenge the best paddlers. 

Rapid Descriptions


Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.1

House rapid is behind the house on the road up, and is often where people put-in.  Though people used to run the left, after the floods a few years back, the flow has been pushed over to the right side.  The rapid is a large slide into a giant boulder which splits the flow.  Some water goes left down a manky ledge, a little water goes under the rock, and most of the flow goes out right down another, smaller slide.  The bottom of this slide has a hole that tends to keep people who mess up on the upper part of the rapid.  If you keep your bow right throughout the rapid, without drying out on the rock, you should have a great start to the trip down the Sawyer.

Death Star

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.5

After a good section of class IV boogie comes Death Star, a short steep drop with an exploding hole at the bottom which is backed up by an undercut boulder (the Death Star).  Stay in the flow and charge left to right, paddling directly into the boulder (attack the Death Star) to punch the hole, then catch the eddy on the left before entering into the next long boulder garden.


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Nicholas Gottlieb
11 years ago

Re: the currently painted gauge on the upstream side of the bridge. Probably the same one you're referring to. Ran it at almost 4' today, that's really high. Be on your game and be prepared to portage or at least set safety at least once. 5' is probably nuts, although hard to say for sure.

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Jon Loehrke
11 years ago

Drove by and noticed a new gauge rock on the Sawyer (26 Aug 2008), river right upstream of the 302 bridge. Looks like 0 is around minimum and 5 is fairly high. Thanks to whomever!

Gage Descriptions

People used to use the EB Pemi gauge, but it is on the other side of the range from the Sawyer.  The USGS installed a gauge downstream on the Saco in Bartlett a few years back, and some of us have been using that as a correlation.  It seems to work pretty well.  I am hesitant to drive from southern NH for flows under 1000, but low-level runs are possible below 1000.



Gauge correlations for the Sawyer River near Bartlett NH



East Branch USGS

East Branch cfs

Ellis USGS

Ellis CFS

Sawyer river level Interpretation
6/13/02 1:30 pm 7.44 FR* 722 1.93 FR* 97 cfs Low

*RR=rising rapidly RS=rising slowly S=steady FR=falling rapidly FS=falling slowly



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.

No Accident Reports



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Alex Barham


Matt Muir


Bill Hildreth


Nathan Warren


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1209444 05/02/18 Alex Barham Location
1192779 10/08/05 n/a n/a
1201259 05/09/12 Bill Hildreth
1204688 06/03/15 Nathan Warren nw
1204689 06/03/15 Nathan Warren nw
1204695 06/05/15 Nathan Warren nw