The lower Winnipesaukee (The "Winni") is a popular run in southern New Hampshire, just 90 minutes from Boston and offers excellent paddling at nearly all flows throughout the year. Clear water, quality rapids, and an easy shuttle provide for plentiful laps that are appropriate for intermediate and advanced boaters alike.
As of late 2017, there is a new parking area available at the putin on Cross Mill Road, made by the generous support and activity of American Whitewater.
Winnipesaukee River Days 2019
The second annual whitewater festival in downtown Franklin will be held June 21-June 23rd. The festival will coincide with a recreational release on both sections of the Winni. Come and support the town and paddling community. More information on events can be found at the Winni River
This year the we will continue to press for the Winnipesaukee Recreational plan. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is in the process of creating a Lake / River management plan that will affect flows on the river.
Winnipesaukee Recreational Plan: Info at: Winni Proposal We need backing on this from the paddling community. We are looking for summertime releases on this river and this event will help publicize our request.
The Winnipesaukee river was a heavily used industrial river in the early 20th century. The upper Merrimack Valley was considered the bread basket of New Hampshire about a century ago. Wheat and other grains grown in the Franklin region was transported to several grist mills that were built on the banks of the Winnipesaukee river. Dams were built to harness the mechanical power for turning grinding wheels that turned the grain into flour. There are still several grinding stones that can be seen along the river bank. They are about 4' in diameter with a hole in the middle and what looks like spokes ground in the granite stone. Those mills are now mostly gone with trees replacing the scenery. The dams were eventually knocked out one by one by the force of nature. There are no fewer than 7 dam sites along this short stretch of river. In the early 90's local boating clubs organized several cleanup days during low water in August. Log cribbing, rebar, and other trash were removed to make for a safer run.
This river continues to draw more boaters every year. It is also the location for the traditional New Years Day run organized by the Merrimack Valley Paddlers. An event that always gets alot of local press.
Put in elevation........390'
Take out elevation......290'
River width average.....60'
River geology...........Small to medium schist and granite boulders, many of
which are unatural blocks cut for buildings and dams.
River water quality.....Good in spring fair latter in Summer, clarity fair to good.
Scenery.................Fair, remains of early 20th century industrial age
being reclaimed by forest, up to seven old dam sites
with some log cribbing and some rebarr, two delapated
Wildlife................Deer, Weasels, Merganzers, Blue herons.
After many years of planning, fundraising and meetings the town of Franklin New Hampshire has finally completed the new riverside park at the Lower Winnipesaukee River takeout. The park located on 2 acres of land at the takeout of the lower Winnipesaukee River features a river level take out ramp, grass, trees, and a 11-1/2 ton 15 foot diameter industrial flywheel that was used in a mill just a quarter mile downstream from the park. This flywheel is the centerpiece of the park and will probably become the most recognized landmark in Franklin in the near future. A bathroom/changing room is now complete.
The park is a culmination of wide ranging efforts from the town of Franklin, The Friends of the Winnipesaukee, the Grevoir family, American Whitewater and the Merrimack Valley Paddlers. It was built on land donated by the Grevoir family who are the owners of Grevoir Furniture, which abuts the park. Fundraising efforts for the park continue, they are having a fundraiser to help pay for the town's portion of the new park.
For an overall river map click here:Winnipesaukee map
Easy rapids ending at a large pyramid shaped rock with an iron ring at the top. When you view this rock take out downstream on river left to scout Colloseum.
The most dangerous rapid on the river. About a third of the river volume channels to river right into the basment of a delapataded mill building (The Room of Doom) it then passes through the old discharge arches that are usually clogged with debris such as trees. "The Room of Doom" is full of rebar and log cribbing, it also contains 4 vertical penstocks 5' in diameter one of which still sucks water through creating a visible wirlpool at low water levels. The discharge for the tube is probably under the rock pile in the middle of the river. The usual run starts from river right then cuts across toward river left. After a boulder strewn drop the river heads directly into a stone wall then takes a hard right. The whole run is very short but tricky. There is an eddy just above the Coliseum on river right with a high penalty surfing wave. There is also an eddy river left just before the rock wall (some rebar here at low water). Follow the Z pattern through this rapid. If you try and cut off the corner and run the center channel you will end up in a dangerous boulder sieve. Below 1000 cfs Coliseum is less pushy therefore only class III. Scout this drop.
Also see the Coliseum map
At high water (>1500cfs)Coliseum and Railroad merge into one rapid and should be considered IV or even IV+. Just upstream from the railroad bridge there are several large holes to punch or manuever around. The esiest route is to start on river left then move into an eddy just above the railroad bridge. If you run this route you are commited to running the right channel seperated by the bridge abutement. There is a 3' vertical drop into a hole directly under the bridge. If you want to avoid this drop, skip the eddy on your way down and run left of the abutement. This route is difficult to maintain because the currernt tries to push to the right.
Immediately below the Sulphite railroad bridge the river cuts through a break in another old dam, this time on the right. At higher water (>900 cfs)there is an interesting chute with a flat rock ski jump on the left of what remains of this old log crib dam, but be careful since debris often lodges in this narrow passage. On river right just below the break in the dam there is a nice eddy on river right with a good surf wave at higher water levels. Below this eddy Sulphite rapid starts. River left is generally shallow and impassable at medium to low water. A hole at the top of the drop can be skirted to the left. The current then forces paddlers to river right through heavy turbulance, small holes and overhanging tree branches (watch your paddle). There are a couple micro eddies on the right that allow access to some nice surfing waves within the wavetrain. The rapid then opens up to a wide section of river that has only a couple large holes to avoid just right of river center. Sulphite ends at an eddy on river left just below a almost river wide hole that offers some rough play. At high water there may not be any noticable break between Sulphite and Zippy's.
There is a medium sized eddy on river left just above Zippy's and below Sulphite. There is also a good (but sometimes rough) play hole at this spot. Downstream the river makes a gradual right hand turn and gets more difficult as you run through. Run river center and catch the eddies behind the rocks which are located about every 50 yards apart just left of center. This will allow you to control your speed and do a bit of boat scouting from the eddy. After the last boulder you will see a horizon line at river center, peal out and head directly down the center channel but be prepared to maneuver left or right to thread yourself through the easiest part of the hole below the drop. Downstream from this point the river passes under another railroad bridge with abutments at an angle to the current. This angle results in a sudden shift in current direction that you must be aware of. There are three abutments with five channels. The two channels on either bank are usually clogged with debris so they must be avoided. The second channel from the left bank is usually the easiest. With higher water the middle channel is passable and with higher water still all three channels are passable. Takeout river left just below the drop. Make sure you scout this rapid from the takeout before you run. Debris sometimes lodges on the abutments and may cut off a channel. Also if you are paddling during the winter months, ice shelves can form on the abutments and in the calm water below the drop sometimes all the way across the river. If you are paddling in high water (>1800cfs), this section should be considered class IV-IV+. At levels above 2400 cfs the current can rise up above the abutments and sieve through the wooden bridge supports also the current leads right up to a vertical unrunable dam. Many boats and paddles have been lost over this dam but luckily no people. In low to medium water avoid running near either bank. There are many pinning rocks on river left and a possibility of strainers on river right.
Also see the Zippy's map
ran the Winnie twice the day after the comment about the railroad rapid wood was posted. Level was similar, 1600 or so. Some of the tree that was sticking out to the left of the pylon seems to have broken-- the far right channel is still obstructed, but getting past it on the left is pretty easy. I didn't try sneaking on the right but it looks like that would be much harder then the left line now
I encourage everyone to contribute a brick to the new Trestle View Park project at the end of the run -- which is now almost entirely complete! The park was built/designed largely to accomodate whitewater boaters, and the town has done a very nice job of creating a very welcoming spot for us.
I encourage everyone to contribute a brick to the new Trestle View Park project at the end of the run. In the meantime, beware the copious amounts of dog poo in the lot at the take-out. It's everywhere!
8 years ago
9 years ago
by Curt Crittenden
by alan darling
11 years ago
by Skip Morris
The river is passable (but very scratchy) all the way down to 200 cfs. The minimum recommended for a relatively fluid run is 350 cfs. From 350 cfs to 650 cfs the river should be rated class III. Above 1800 cfs all rapids from Coliseum down blend together as one long difficult rapid. This should be considered a Class IV run at this level. Above 2400 cfs, class IV+. The reason for the maximum recommended flow to run the river set at 2800 cfs is the extreme danger of a swim on the lower half of the river. Actually any swim on Zippy's or Coliseum is dangerous in high water.
Several large lakes in its headwaters regulate the river. For this reason the Winnipesaukee runs more consistently and latter in the spring and early summer than most regional rivers. It is also less susceptible to quick rises due to heavy rains. Dams are located at the outflows of Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Opechee, Wentworth, etc. that can regulate flows through the river. This is mainly used to control the lake levels for fall maintenance on docks, dams, and canals, and also to allow for flood control during spring runoff. The lakes are usually drawn down around Columbus day, this usually results in 3 or 4 days of low to medium water on the river. Occasionally in the spring the lakes will be drawn down further if a heavy snowpack threatens flooding. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) controls the flow on the Winni. See the NHDES website for current conditions and flow management discussion. Lochmere dam controls the flow for this section. Flows are usually stepped up or down as conditions warrant.
Also, check out the following sites.Current watershed operations informationWinnisquam Lake operations informationSilver Lake operations information
Putin gage Flow
-.2 to .3 200 ? 350 cfs scratchy low class III-
.3 to .7 351-500 cfs Low class III
.7 to 1.3 501-650 cfs Low to medium class III+
1.3 to 2.3 651-1200 cfs medium class III-IV
2.3 to 1201-1800 cfs medium high class IV-
1801-2400 cfs high class IV
>2400 cfs very high class IV+
Estimated chance (%) of finding the river at a good low level (~350 cfs) or higher. Scratchy low levels can be found at practically all other times.
January ............50%....Watch out for ice shelves especially at the take out.
March...............80%....Ice shelves wash out middle of month.
April...............99%....Most dependable month
May ................80%....Flows start dropping back
June................60%....Lake Winnipesaukee keeps flow going early in summer.
September...........10%....Lowest water month
October.............30%....Draw down of lake gives a few days of water
November............60%....Fall rains, dormant trees
December............80%....River stays relatively ice free most of the winter.
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 10% probability for September means on average you can only expect 3 days of water. One year there could be 6 days in September with water, other years none. Spring levels are usually higher than fall levels.
There is an 18 hour delay from the time the release level is changed on Lakeport Dam to when is fully effects the class III section. This is due to several dams, lakes, and flatwater sections between the main lake and Franklin.
The State of NH DES usually makes changes for the weekend late on Friday afternoon; which will finally make their way downstream to the USGS gage just above the Class I/II Section take-out, and sometime later down to the Class III section. The upside of this is we get advance notice of what the water will be.
For predictions further ahead in time compare the current lake level with ideal summer or winter levels. The state Dam Bureau is required by state law to keep lake levels as close to ideal as possible.
Interstate 93 from southern NH north take exit 19.
At the end of the ramp take a left on route 132.
About 1.2 miles, take a left at the traffic light at the intersection of state route 3, 11.
About 1.8 miles look for Franklin savings bank on the left.
Take a left after the bank on Cross Mill bridge road.
1/4 mile to the put-in at the bridge over the river.
From Interstate 93 north, take exit 20.
Take a right on state route 3, 11.
Approximately 3 miles to Cross Mill bridge road.
Head back to state route 3, 11 and take a left.
1-1/4 mile park on the right just after the bridge over the river.
Evening Light on the Winnie
Light on the Winni
Fall on the Lower Winni
Railroad-hazard at center bridge abutment
Zippy's on the Winni
Coliseum on the Winni
Routes in Coliseum
Paddle Hard Left
Center Route at Coliseum
Entrance to Zippy's
The Play Wave
Heading for the Bridge
Drop Under Railroad Bridge
Lower Railroad rapid
Surfing at Railroad
Exiting the Room of Doom
Kevin at Bob-O-Link
Bottom of Snowmobile rapid
Fall on the Winni
Smile some more
OC1 in the Room of Doom
Map of the Winnipesaukee
Passing by the "Room of Doom"
Zippy's Final Plunge
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.
American Whitewater (AW) along with its affiliate club organizations the Merrimack Valley Paddlers (MVP) and New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club (NHAMC) are requesting a new lake level management plan to enhance downstream recreation on the WinnipesaukeeRiver near Franklin New Hampshire. A panel consisting of representatives from the Lakes region was set up to look into and recommend changes to the level management of Lake Winnipesaukee and associated lakes. The impetus for this has been the flooding over the last couple years with "no wake" rules being instituted, access under bridges, etc.
We are looking for some volunteers to help on the Winnipesaukee trail river maintenance work day scheduled for this Saturday, October 28th. The Winnipesaukee river is in the process of being shut down to 50 cfs for a two week period to allow for hydro power dam maintenance and river bank cleanup. This is a yearly project that American Whitewater, MVP and AMC have joined efforts with local town organizations to help restore a once a badly abused and neglected river.
If you want to join us please bring a minimum of working gloves and meet us at Trestle View Park in Franklin NH at 9am, if late just walk the ½ mile up the trail and join us. Other implements that could come in handy are shovels, rakes, bow saws, chain saws, pruning shears, etc.
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