On October 18th, approximately 250 to 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) will be released into the Little Suncook River from the Northwood Lake Dam in Epsom.
This release will start at or near 8 AM for the date specified above, and will be reduced to near normal levels by 4 PM that same day. DES reminds people that canoeing and kayaking have inherent risks, and paddling the state’s lakes and rivers is at the paddler’s own risk.
The Little Suncook is located in south-central New Hampshire, flowing into the Suncook River east of Concord. This small exciting creek starts at a dam forming the outlet of Northwood Lake in Northwood. There are three distinct boatable sections. The upper two separated by Bixby Pond halfway between Northwood Lake and the lower takeout in Gossville; the third a short section of the Suncook River below where the Little Suncook flows into the Suncook [as of June 2006 this lower section on the Suncook is no longer boatable].
This river is runable during the spring runoff, after periods of heavy rain, and occasionally in the fall during the annual drawdown of Northwood Lake. It is difficult to catch the river at a runnable level; too little water and it can't be run, a little too high and the water extends into the trees with no eddys available for stopping or scouting. It is also extremely narrow for it's entire length. Boaters must be constantly on their toes due the constant twists and turns. Strainers are always a hazard here, additionally open boaters are constantly having to duck to avoid the low hanging trees and branches.
Put in near the intersection of Routes 202/107 (approximately 13 miles east of Concord) at the Route 107 bridge a few dozen feet below the Northwood Lake dam. The first section is a hairy narrow class IV rapid with numerous tight turns and few eddys. The rapid is steap and full of rocks requiring the paddler to react quickly. Any swim or roll is likely to be dangerous even at high levels due to the high water velocity and shallow stream bed. Towards to bottom of this rapid are two river-wide holes in quick succession (or ledges at low water levels). At a medium or higher level the first hole slows you down so much it can be difficult to get thru the second. You can sneak past the holes along river-right. Scout the entire length of this rapid before you put on to check for strainers.
If the first rapid seems a bit much, put in several hundred yards down Route 4/202 by one of several roadside pulloffs. Below here the river is a combination of quickwater and rocky class III-IV rapids that require just the right water level. One spot to be aware of is where the river splits around a small island the size of a medium house. Go right around the island as the left is an impassible channel thru some large rocks.
You can take out next to a road-side pull off one-half mile upstream from an offical state rest area. The the river follows along the road closely here.
Bixby Pond (also called Cass Pond) is not entirely flatwater. It has enough of a current to help you quickly get across it. The first part of the pond is a maze of different channels thru a wetlands. Stay left for the first part then cut right before entering the main part of the pond. At the bottom of the pond is the lower put-in (43.22293, -71.31739).
Put in at Cass Road, where the outflow from the pond flows thru a small dam. A portage over the dam is recommended, a hydralic forms in the dam at anything higher then a low level. The rapids continue here, there is no flatwater, and the entire river moves. You'll be surprised at how big a blast this dinky little stream is. There are three class III rapids here. The first a short technical rapid a quarter mile below the put-in. At lower levels go far right to pass thru the rocks. [Note: As of June 2006, there is a strainer requiring a portage around a blind corner between the first and second rapids on this section.] About another quarter-mile furthur on the river approaches a bridge at Center Hill Road. Here you'll find a fun class III rapid full of little twists and turns. The river continues on for another mile or so, the third rapid passes under a small footbridge. Here there are several holes, drops and big waves (especially at higher levels). The difficulty of this rapid can approach class IV at the higher water levels. A little furthur on you'll reach the takeout before the bridge on Black Hall Road. There is a church here, with an area along the river that provides plenty of parking. Note: As of Fall 2007, the church was moved down the street and replaced by a Cumberland Farms Store at the take-out.
The Little Suncook continues on, flowing into the Suncook River half a mile below the Black Hall Road bridge. This last section of the river has a nice 3' runnable dam followed by some class II then a nice pool drop class III rapid. Snake around an S-curve and there's a nice, three level class IV rapid. Drop over the first section into bubbly pool with some current on river right. From there, drop into the next level where there's a nice eddy mid river. The last bit can be taken far right or a sneak route on the left has an easy drop. For a challenge, take on the middle section but paddle hard or the hydraulic will grab you.
The take out is a small beach on river left just below this rapid. You can carry your boat upstream along the road and to a seperate put-in for this section. It's about a 10 minute hike. [Note: Since the spring floods of 2006 the river has cut a new channel and this lower section is mostly dry. The State of New Hampshire is investigating restoring the levy to return the river back to the original channel but no decision has been reached.]
There are three distinct sections of this nice, class III+ river with one class IV rapid on the last section.
The upper two sections are described above. I have spent some time clearing strainers out and with a bit of manuevering, you can make a fluid run.
The last section of the river has a nice 3' runnable dam followed by some class II then a nice pool drop class III rapid. Snake around an S-curve and there's a nice, three level class IV rapid. Drop over the first section into bubbly pool with some current on river right. From there, drop into the next level where there's a nice eddy mid river. The last bit can be taken far right or a sneak route on the left has an easy drop. For a challenge, take on the middle section but paddle hard or the hydraulic will grab you.
The take out is a small beach on river left just below this rapid. Carry your boat upstream along the road and put in back where you put in for this section. It's about a 10 minute hike.
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I edited the difficulty for this reach from a solid IV to III+ (IV)
I realize this may be up for debate, so please comment if you disagree with this change.
I believe the previous IV rating applied to the presence of both IV drops on the run. Since only one IV rapid exists on this run, I believe the change now more accurately reflects the true nature of the run.
Ran the Upper Section down to just above the dam 2/27/2010. There was some wood but nothing river wide. With decent paddling skill everything was avoidable and we were able to paddle around everything.
10 years ago
by Ben Natusch
A paddlers gage is painted on the Route 107 bridge abutment at the upper put-in. Be aware that the river flows through a lake and over another dam in between the two sections; so changes in gage readings will be delayed before being reflected on the lower section. Release levels are controlled by the State of New Hampshire Water Resources Board.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Norm Rehn shows us how it's done
Third Class III
Second Class III
First Class III
Dangerous place to be
Middle of Class IV Drop
Top of class IV drop.
Upper Put-In and Gage
1st. rapid at Very High water
Final Class IV rapid before the river changed routes; this is now dry riverbed
Dam leading into the final rapid. It's now dry riverbed after the river diverted
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