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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
*RR=rising rapidly RS=rising slowly S=steady FR=falling rapidly FS=falling slowly
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Nate Warren attacking the Death Star
Nate Warren at House Rapid2
Nate Warren at House Rapid
Bones Down The Line
Morath and Schlarb @ the Put In
Drop 196.7 slot D
Just another drop
Ben on the Sawyer
Dave on the Sawyer
Scouting Middle House Rapid
Mr Livingston I presume
Dave Livingston on the Sawyer
Butch on the Sawyer River
Butch at Lower House Rapid
Sean on the Sawyer
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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.
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