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Difficulty IV
Length 3.7 Miles
Gauge Warner at Laing Bridge Lane
Flow Range 1.10 - 4.40 FT
Flow Rate as of: 28 minutes ago 0.14588 [FT] 👍 ℹ️ ⚠️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/27/2020 12:10 pm

River Description

This video shows the entire run from Melvin Mills to Waterloo at 6ft:

The Warner is a popular river located in central NH about a 20 minute drive northwest of Concord. It has a huge watershed resulting in a long season that starts in March and can last thru the end of May (or longer). The large wetlands in the headwaters also sometimes delay the effects of rain as well as extending the length of time the river is running. 

This river is not what you think of in a typical New England whitewater river. It is drop-pool for much of the run with flatwater paddling between each of the major whitewater sections. The water is also darker then typical New England streams since much of the upper parts of the river pass thru wetlands. The geology is likewise a bit different; the rocks are sharp and solid, not the usual collection of loose piles of stones.

This is a highly technical river, narrow and shallow in the whitewater sections. The upper two-thirds of the run is mostly class III difficulty mixed in with several surfing waves and some class II sections. As you approach the gorge the pace quickens. Pinball Rapid is class IV at medium and higher levels, as are the Sluice Dam and Bridge Abutment sections immediately after. These however are just a warmup for the gorge.

One-and-a-half miles below the put-in is the Warner Gorge. The gorge is a wonderful series of tight drops one-immediately-after-the-other packed into a short-but-intense quarter mile. This section is the main event and the primary reason this river is so popular!!! Scouting is recommended for the first-timer; the gorge is easily reachable from the road. Just park at the Upper Take-out and walk upstream along an old road bed.

Immediately below the gorge is the Upper Takeout, followed by a 15 minute flatwater paddle to a runnable dam (closed boats only, too shallow for open boats), and then more flatwater paddling to reach a long, enjoyable class III rapid just above the middle takeout. [Note 4/25/07: The cable stretched across the top of the runnable dam has been removed by the owner (Thanks Pete!!!). It will be replaced during the summer months only.]

Beyond the last class III rapid is another 30 minute quickwater/flatwater paddle to the Waterloo takeout located by the old railroad station and a covered bridge. Starting just below the covered bridge is the final class IV section formed by the remains of another old mill and dam.

A typical run to the gorge takes an hour-and-a-half. The lower sections (Middle, Waterloo takeouts) add about 30 minutes each, the bottom section adds another 15 minutes. At medium or high river levels the lower sections are well worth the extra flatwater paddling.

Technical info

Put in elevation........635'
Take out elevation......492'
Total drop..............143'
Average drop/mile.......60'
Distance................2.4 miles
River width average.....25'
River geology...........schists small boulders some ledge
River water quality.....Good, clarity neutral to good.
Scenery.................Old overgrown mill and dam ruins; a number of
                        old bridge abutments from roads and railroads.
Wildlife................Deer, merganzers, hawks. 


Gas/Convenience Stores..Several just off I-89 exit 9 interchange.
Nearest Restrooms.......McDonalds, just off I-89 exit 9.
Camping.................Many in region; none very close by.
Restaurants/Pizza/etc...Follow 103 north of I-89 into downtown Warner.

Regional Weather

Go here for a NOAA weather forecast.

Regional Map - Rivers of the lower Contoocook region

Rivers of the lower Contoocook region
Map by Mark Lacroix


Rapid Descriptions

Melvin Mills

Class - III Mile - 0.5
One-half mile below the put in, Melvin Mills starts upstream of a bridge then tumbles past a house built up on the remains of an old mill building. There is a short class III drop here into a large pool. Look out for debris on the river right side of this drop. There are a few more class II-III rapids for the next mile or so.

Surfing Hole

Class - II+ Mile - 0.55
At the top of the pool a nice surfing wave forms at low and medium levels.

Second Class III

Class - III Mile - 0.75
The second class III has a nice ledge in it with a hole on river right.

Third Class III

Class - III Mile - 1
The third class III begins as the river flows away from the main road again.

Play Wave

Class - Mile - 1.1
There is a nice set of surfing waves in between the Third Class III and Pinball Rapids.

Pinball (Upper Half)

Class - III+ Mile - 1.15
A long technical rapid with lots of rocks and holes to avoid. The rapid starts out mildly just as the river turns away from the road and passes the first set of old bridge abutments.

Pinball Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 1.25
The last bit of Pinball is the most difficult. The route gets steeper and very fast with large rocks in the middle of the fastest channels. At high levels this section becomes very fluid and pushy. Some paddlers however consider it easier at higher levels since you can paddle over the rocks.

Sluice Dam

Class - IV Mile - 1.45
Shortly after Pinball look for a horizon line with a bridge and small buildings on river left. Scout this drop to find the best line. Here, there is the remains of an old mill/dam, there is also evidence here of a newer, yet still abandoned small scale hydro electric project. (NH Dept Environmental Services Dam Bureau ID 243.29, owned by Warner River Hydro). There is a concrete bypass on the far left that leads under a culvert then into the small hydro building. There is another steep narrow concrete sluice (4' wide)on the left. If you run the sluice turn your paddle parallel to the boat to avoid loosing it (or your arms) from the vertical concrete sidewalls. The sluice then drops into a hole and a trashy runout.

Note: As of 2005, there is an extra board in the sluice diverting some of the water to the side channel and making the sluice higher and steeper. A run over the dam instead of the sluice is recommended at all except high levels to avoid bottoming out and damaging one's boat. A portage is recommended for open boats and low and medium levels. Update 3/07: The board in the sluice has mostly been worn away by the river, however the board could be replaced by the dam owner at any time.

Bridge Abutments

Class - IV Mile - 1.5
Either channel thru the bridge abutments provides a good run, however the left channel is more turbulant and washes up against a large rock on the bottom and requires quick maneuvering to avoid. Warning 4/22/07: There is a large log blocking both channels; extreme caution is recommended.


Class - Mile - 1.52
The paddler's gage is painted on the river right abutment of the Laing Bridge Lane bridge.

Gorge Drop 1

Class - IV Mile - 1.6
The Gorge is a longish rapid with anywhere from four-to-seven more-or-less distinct drops (depending upon water level and how you count). You can recognize the start of the gorge by the long rock wall on river left that used to be the base of an old and long gone mill building. The first drop is known as the Meltdown Hole, if you hug the right bank by the rock you will dive deep and pop up several feet downstream.

At medium and higher levels this drop can be paddled along the left or center as well. Be aware the center route runs from left-to-right and tends to flip boats not lined up correctly.

There is a nice large pool/eddy at the bottom of the drop where you can pick up the pieces. The pool immediately leads up to the next drop. Several more drops continue for the next 1/4 mile.

Gorge Drop 2A

Class - IV Mile - 1.65
The second major drop in the gorge can easily be boat scouted since it's steepness slows down the upstream current enough to approach the edge, while not being so steep you can't see what you're getting in to.

There is a small eddy along the right just below the initial drop, however it's difficult to enter since the drop curves to the left and momentum brings the boater into the second half (2B) of this section.

Gorge Drop 2B

Class - III Mile - 1.66
Drop 2B is formed about a dozen yards below 2A where the channel narrows and passes over a ledge. It's not as steep as the prior sections but the speed forms a good set of waves. A large eddy to the right is immediately below the drop where one can stop, pick up the pieces, and scout the next section. At higher levels drop 2B washes out a bit and the entire 2A/2B section blends together into one continuous set of waves.

Gorge Drop 3A

Class - IV Mile - 1.68
Drop 3A is very similar in character to 2A. An abrupt steep drop that can be easily boat scouted. There is a large eddy to the right below the drop, however at medium and higher levels the area between sections 3A and 3B becomes a continuous set of waves and holes where momentum tends to carry boaters directly from 3A into drop 3B.

Gorge Drop 3B

Class - III+ Mile - 1.69
At Drop 3B, the channel curves to the left. The smoothest route is far left however it's difficult to get there since the channel guides the boater to the right side and over the steepest part of the drop. Water volume is not as high since some of the water is diverted thru sieves below the eddy between sections 3A and 3B. Below this drop are eddys on both sides of the channel where once can scout drop 4.

Gorge Drop 4A

Class - IV Mile - 1.7
After the first series of abrupt drops the river character changes for the last part of the gorge. Instead of distinct and well-defined drops, Gorge Drop 4 stretches out as a longish, technical, rocky and pushy rapid that demands superior river reading skills and quick reactions. At lower levels there is a large eddy between the upper and lower halves of this section.

At higher levels the two halves blur into one continuous and quick rapid. Open boats in particular find themselves quickly swept down this rapid teetering on the edge of disaster.

Gorge Drop 4B

Class - IV Mile - 1.75
The bottom part of Drop 4 in the gorge is primarily defined by a large bridge abutment in the center of the channel. Either side of the abutment is a fine run, however getting to the right above the abutment is tricky since the channel usually pushes to the left. Below the abutment the left side is full of rocks and river debris so a paddler must quickly move the right.

Upper Take-Out

Class - Mile - 1.85
The Upper Take-out is located just below the Gorge. Park anywhere along the flat stretch and paddle almost up to your car.

Swain Lowell Dam

Class - III+ Mile - 2.3
Halfway between the gorge and the last class III rapid there is an old hydro dam (NH Dept Environmental Services Dam Bureau ID 243.07). At medium and higher levels closed boats will enjoy the trip over the edge paddling left of center. Open boats are advised to only paddle this drop at medium or higher levels or risk damage to the boat. The dam can be easily portaged on the right. At high levels closed and open boats can paddle over the rocks along the far right. At very high levels a dangerous hydraulic forms at the base of the dam. Warning: During the warm summer months (the swimming season), a cable will extend across the top of the dam. It is provided by the dam owner as an important safety line for the many people including children who walk across the dam crest to swim and boat there. The cable will normally be taken down after each Labor Day. Since the cable (if present) extends across at helmet height it presents a hazard for paddlers At least one paddler snagged her helmet in the cable as she miss-judged the distance when dropping over the lip of the dam. It is recommended that paddlers take turns with a partner lifting the cable up high out of harms way as one paddles over the dam.

Drawing showing pool below and eroded (now filled) cavity.
This dam, originally built in 1905 has recently been undergoing renovation and restoration. The current owner reinforced the weakened and eroded base of the dam with 250 tons concrete in 2001. It is his intent to maintain the area as a retreat and local summer swimming hole. According to the owner, immediately beyond the base of the dam the river bed drops off in a pool approximately five feet deep before becoming shallower again a short distance downstream of the dam. On the river left edge the old turbine has been recently excavated and is visible just below a new concrete platform. This turbine connected to gears and a shaft that extended up into the small mill building above. When in operation it generated only 50 horsepower.

Last Class III

Class - III Mile - 3.23
After about a mile-and-a-quarter of flatwater, you'll come to the last Class III which brings you to the second take-out. The longest on the river (at almost 1/2 mile), the rapid starts just past a curve in the river where it passes under the main road twice. Just above the bottom of the rapid you'll reach an old railroad bridge and the middle takeout. At medium and higher levels this rapid is a blast and well worth the long flatwater paddle to reach.

Hidden Hole

Class - III+ Mile - 3.65
Near the bottom of the last class III (immediately above the bridge and take-out), be on the lookout for a hidden hole that extends almost completely across the river. Stay river-left for the cleanest route. The Middle Takeout is located here.

Middle Take-Out

Class - Mile - 3.68
The middle take-out is by an old bridge found near the end of the last class III rapid (and immediately below the hole). Road access is easy from either side of the river, however the only parking is on the side road on river left. The class III rapids continue for another hundred yards or so beyond the takeout.

Typical River Character in Lower Section.

Class - I Mile - 4.5
In between the middle and lower takeouts is a 30 minute paddle thru flatwater, quickwater, and a couple class I rapids. Portaging and/or dragging over a tree or two is usually required since the current flow is never strong enough to wash away strainers. At medium and higher levels the few class I rapids in this section wash out.

Waterloo Take-Out

Class - Mile - 5.15
The Waterloo Take-out is by a covered bridge. Take-out on river left along the old railroad bed.

Waterloo Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - 5.2
Just below the covered bridge at the Waterloo Takeout is the remains of another old mill dam plus one more difficult rapid. The falls are abrupt and full of debris from the mill so take care. The cleanest route is along the right. At high water hydraulics form at the base of the dam as well. Stay well away from the channel along the left edge as this flows into the remains of an old hydro building (with no safety grate). The falls can be easily portaged from the island in the middle of the channel.

Bottom Class IV

Class - IV Mile - 5.21

At the base of Waterloo Falls is a longish class IV rapid. Run the falls along the right; the rapid is pushy at technical at lower levels. At high levels big waves and holes form.

Bottom Take-Out

Class - Mile - 5.5

Take out just below the Bottom Class IV along river-right. It is a steap 8 foot climb up the bank to the edge of the road.


default user thumbnail
Sean Reese
5 years ago

At Bridge Abutment (mile 1.5) the right channel is completely blocked with downed trees. The left channel is partially blocked but still runnable at the far left. Updated 4/07/2015 This has been cleared - C. Begley

default user thumbnail
8 years ago

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Gage Descriptions

There is a hand painted paddlers' gage on the river-right bridge abutment on Laing Bridge Lane.

There is also the USGS Davisville Gage located 8 miles downstream from the bottom takeout (12 miles below the gorge). Measurements from this gage should be considered an approximate indication of upstream river level.


Paddler's Gauge Levels

Min Sug. Level: 1.2
Low: 1.5 feet
Medium: 2.8 feet
High: 3.5 feet
Max Sug. Level: 4.3 feet


Rising Gage Correlation Observations:

Date      Davisville USGS    Warner Laing  Interpretation
          Stage      CFS     Bridge Gauge
05/17/14  5.5RR_____ 575_____2.1___________Medium Low
08/30/09  5.6P______ 600_____2.4___________Medium Low
03/29/09  5.93RS____ 757_____2.6___________Medium Low
11/17/06  7.1RS_____ 1500____4.1___________Very High


Falling Gage Correlation Observations:

Date      Davisville USGS    Warner Laing  Interpretation
          Stage      CFS     Bridge Gauge
10/13/07  4.34FS____ 158_____1.6___________Very Low
11/18/07  4.60FS____ 233_____0.95__________Boney
05/22/07  5.35FS____ 480_____1.93__________Low
04/10/16  3.61FS_____495____~1.50__________Medium Low
03/22/14  5.32FS____ 501_____2.0___________Medium Low
03/31/07  5.8FS_____ 700_____2.5___________Medium Low
12/03/06  5.9FS_____ 724_____2.5___________Medium Low
11/11/06 ~5.9FS_____ n/a_____3.0___________Medium High
05/03/08  6.03FS____ 810_____2.85__________Medium
04/22/07  7.0FS_____ 1450____4.2___________Very High
04/17/07 10.2FS_____ 5000___~6.5___________Flood


Other Gage Correlation Observations:

Date      Davisville USGS    Warner Laing  Interpretation
          Stage      CFS     Bridge Gauge
          4.78______ 265_____1.3___________Very Low
          4.9_______ 303_____1.5___________Very Low 
11/25/06  5.0_______ 360_____1.7___________Low
11/11/03  5.3_______ 450_____1.8___________Low
07/02/06  5.6_______ 575_____2.2___________Medium Low
          6.0_______ 778_____2.8___________Medium
07/14/06  6.25______ 930_____2.6___________Medium
11/23/05  6.4_______ 1020____3.0___________Medium High
          6.4_______ 1019____3.3___________High
          6.6_______ 1150____3.5___________High
          6.9_______ 1360____3.9___________Very High

*RR=Rising Rapidly, RS=Rising Slowly, S=Steady, FR=Falling
Rapidly, FS=Falling Slowly, P=Peaking, V=Valley between peaks.


Note: Because of the long (8 miles) flatwater section between the whitewater run and the USGS gage (which also passes through a large wetlands area), the USGS gage cannot be relied upon when the river is rising or falling. Depending upon the amount of water stored in the wetlands, the rainfall, and rate of rise or drop in the water level, changes in river level in the whitewater section can be delayed anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. Also, for additional river level information, there is an observed correlation between the river level on the Warner and that of the Contoocook. When the Contoocook is running at a medium level the Warner is usually medium low. When the Contoocook is high the Warner is usually high. (Thanks to Tim Driscoll and Norm Rehn for gage correlation observations.)

Directions Description

Put in

From the south, take Interstate 93 to Interstate 89 (south of Concord). Follow I-89 approximately 18 miles to exit 9 (the second Warner exit).

There are gas stations, McDonald's, etc, at this exit so it's an easy place to meet up with people.

Go southwest (right off the exit ramp) on NH 103 approximately 4.25 miles to Melvin Mills road. Turn and follow the road approximately 1/2 mile to the put-in where the road comes close to the river next to a small bridge. There is ample parking.

Paddler's Gage

Pull off Route 103 by Laing Bridge Lane (in between the Put-in and the Gorge). The gage is under the bridge painted on the river-right bridge abutment.

Upper take out

For a shorter run, that includes the best whitewater, turn off Rt 103 onto West Roby District Road just below the Gorge. Park here at the bottom of the hill a couple hundred feet from NH 103 along the river.

Middle take out

From NH 103, turn onto Morse Loop, a dirt road approximately 2.5 miles downstream from the Put-in. The takeout is a short distance down the road where an old bridge [closed] crosses over the river.

For an alternate access to the middle take-out turn right approximately 2.0 miles downstream from the put-in and cross over the river on East Roby District Road. Follow approximately 1/2 mile where the road (dirt at this point) turns away from the river and climbs a hill. There is a short washed-out and overgrown road that leads down to the river and the take-out. East Roby District Road also offers excellent access and viewing of the river for the entire length of the long class III rapid.

Waterloo take out

Follow NH Route 103 to Waterloo (Near and just a short distance southwest of the I-89 interchange); turn off 103 at New Market Road and follow the signs to the covered bridge. Put-in/take-out just upstream of the bridge.

Bottom take out

From the Waterloo take-out, cross over the covered bridge, turn left immediately past the bridge. Follow the road for approximately 1/2 mile going up a hill then back down towards the river. The take-out is immediately past the guard rail where the road approaches the river again.

No Accident Reports




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Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1206155 04/10/16 Skip Morris
1215050 05/27/20 Brooke Sofferman updated description
1215049 05/27/20 Brooke Sofferman updated description
1193392 03/30/09 Skip Morris
1195909 08/31/09 Skip Morris
1203384 05/19/14 Skip Morris