On Saturday October 11th, approximately 450 cubic feet per second (cfs) will be released into the North Branch of the Piscataquog River from the Horace Lake Dam in Weare.
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.
This is a 7+ mile, class III-III+ combination of technical drops, swiftly moving water and flat water through woods and scenic countryside. The river is narrow, less then 20' wide in many spots, providing a tight-but-passable run with many branches and blow downs that can protrude into the river. At times a paddler has to move carefully and occasionally pull off to scout or to portage an obstacle.
The river starts with a bang in swiftly moving water, channels through the trees, and few eddies. It quickly takes paddlers to the first class III drop, Slab City Ledge, and short-but-intense abrupt drop visible from the second bridge. Most paddlers opt to paddle center or far-left just kissing the wave-hole along the edge. The right side is full of rocks.
The next drop, Woodbury, offers a technical slide for the canoers and a creeky side run for the kayakers. It's followed by a number of smaller rapids.
About half-way down the river is the 'Big One', a big wide-open double-ledge slide-drop at the remains of an old mill. It starts with a slight drop over the remains of a dam, down the double-ledge slide, then a run-out through more rapids and holes. Most paddlers follow the curler down a rocky bouncy route and then through some holes at the bottom. The river is shallow here, expect plenty of bouncing and scraping off rocks and the river bed. Many open-boaters choose to walk the slide to avoid damage to boats as they bounce off the sharp rocks in the shallow water of the slide.
Buzzell’s is the most challenging rapid on the river; it's a medium length technical rapid. It requires that the paddler line up on staggered chutes that ultimately drop him or her into a garden of large boulders, deep holes and a gnarly curler.
Many paddlers have trouble (and roll or swim) when they hit the big curler and get knocked over 3/4 of the way down.
After reaching the upper takeout, you'll enter a relaxing and one of the nicest parts of the river - a mixed flatwater/whitewater paddle through farmland, wooded areas and old homesteads. The river descends through eight more class II and III rapids to the middle and bottom takeouts. The most challenging rapids are the final two just above the bottom takeout.
It's about 1 mile from the upper takeout to the middle takeout. From there another two miles to the bottom takeout just above Everett Lake. Expect the paddle from the upper takeout to the middle to take about 15 minutes. From the middle to the lower is an additional 30 minutes.
For an excellent view of the biggest rapids look at this YouTube video.
This river is very small and tends to collect a lot of downfalls every year. Local groups of paddlers usually remove several of the trees every fall before the annual drawdown, but be aware new one constantly appear. Also a note of caution there are the remains of dozens of old mill dams along this stretch. Some of these contain rebar.Technical info
Drop per mile
Mile 1 .............54'
Mile 2 .............92'
Average 42' per mile
Max 92' per mile
Put in elevation 628'
Take our elevation 338'
Total drop 290'
The State of NH—Department of Environmental Services Dam Bureau, has a scheduled release for boaters the middle of October every year. The river additionally runs in the spring and after heavy rains.
North Branch recreational release October 17th 2009
Posted by Joe Fiala on the MVP message board.
The Upper P-Cat is at a good level and should stay fairly high through early spring. This one disappears quickly and doesn't come up very often through the year, if at all. This is a creek for newbies (but seasoned creekers will like it too). It is II-III, with a couple of easily portageable IV's. It runs close to several roads in Weare, so it is no problem to get to the road at almost any time--good for cold weather. It is a small creek, narrow and mostly quite shallow. Lots of slots. There are a number of 2 ft drops, some nice chutes. Everything is easliy scoutable, most of it from the road as well. It runs along Rt.77, Woodbury Rd., Reservoir Dr. (a short bit), and River Rd. The last section runs into old East Weare, which is the dirt road that bears left off of River Rd. , just east of Peaslee Hill Rd. You can follow the river (and scout) all along the 2 miles or so until you reach the lake. That is the takeout. It begins below Horace Lake and ends at Everett Lake, at the inlet on the opposite end of the dam. There is a fast, tight section over the last 2 miles that is easy to shuttle over and over. This is one of the coolest little rivers you'll ever run. If you don't believe me, ask Marc Aucoin.
We took a walk along the Middle Lower Upper North Branch of the Piscataquog (heretofore known as the "Middle Lower Upper Branch") and found it absolutely beautiful! The snowshoeing was luscious and the ice was glacial. While the ice obstacles are significant they are not insurmountable. Ice out is a ways off but not nearly as bad as I anticipated.
This is the stretch from where the river leaves River Rd. to where it crosses East Weare Road (this is the beginning of the dirt road into the Everett Dam Flood Control Area). This is not passable by car in winter (snow trail) or spring floods.
We hiked the stretch above the bridge to River Rd. This consists of slower stretches, deeper water and unspoiled scenery. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, especially birds (pheasant and grouse in particular). We found tracks of a hydrophilic rodent, possibly a beaver or fisher, leading from pool to pool. There are occasional drops of a foot or two to keep things interesting.
If you want some sweet paddling with a real newbie, put-in at River Rd. and takeout at the bridge on East. Weare Rd.
This is the site of a former dam. The drop is about 8 vertical feet and is best run slightly river left of center right into a ski jump roostertail. If you run too far right of center you will piton off a piece of protruding ledge. Just below the drop there is a good eddy on river left right beside a great play hole/wave (Slab City).
Great play spot just downstream of the First Drop Ledge. Eddy out river left to access the hole/wave.
The gage is painted on the downstream side of the river-right bridge abutment on the John Conner Road bridge.
Four-tenths of a mile after the gage the river passes under the New Hampshire Route 114 bridge. Shortly thereafter at mile 1.5 is the start of Chase Mill Rapid. Named after the mill site that once occupied this stretch of river. Chase Mill is rather straight forward with multiple routes through broken ledge and boulders. Be careful here since strainers are common.
Another quarter mile paddle will bring you up to Woodbury Rapid. Once again this is another mill site that washed out in the great flood of 1938, there is evidence of the former mill buildings on river left of the rapid but be respectfull of the current landowners property here. The rapid starts out with a small constricted ledge drop at river center and continues through a series of holes and drops right up to the Woodbury Road bridge. Keep in mind that this rapid is also notorious for collecting strainers.
At a hard left turn you will come up to the most visually impressive drop on the North Branch. The Big One is the site of yet another former mill dam. At the very top of the drop is a nice playable river wide hole/wave but be aware of the chaos that awaits you below. Since the river is fairly wide here it takes a lot of water to keep you from scraping your hull. The most fluid run is just left of center over a couple good ledge drops then continues another 50 or so yards over a gradual downhill slide. The water here is shallow and chaotic. Near the bottom there is a large hole jutting out from river right that is easy to punch through. Far river left there is a smaller hole jutting out from river left that can be very sticky at certain levels.
After "The Big One" you will pass under the New Hampshire Rt 77 Bridge. Another mile or so of class IIish water will bring you up to a rusty steel truss bridge that carries River Road. Just under the bridge is the top of Buzzell Hill Rapid. This rapid is fairly long with a series of ledge drops each followed by a hole. A competent boater should be able to boat scout the entire drop. At the bottom there is a nice recovery eddy.
A little less than half a mile from Buzzell Hill you will encounter Turnover Ledge. This is a fairly straight forward double ledge drop with a rather sticky but playfull hydraulic at the bottom on river right. This hole is quit dynamic and will flip boaters end to end hence lending its name... Turnover.
The first take-out is where the river passes under Peaslee Road. There is limited parking here and no privacy. The river below this point is class II-III with quickwater and some flatwater between each rapid.
The middle take-out is where the river passes under East Weare Road (dirt), a quarter-mile from the main road (called Barnard Hill Road on some maps). This road is full of deep potholes and water hazards due to beavers. It is sometimes gated on both ends requiring a long carry to your car.
The lower take-out is another 1.5 miles down East Weare Road from the middle take-out; or from Route 77, turn right on South Sugar Road, drive to the end, then left and a short distance to the take-out. This is just above where the river flows into Everett Lake.
Three weeks after the last release there are now two portages needed for river wide strainers. Boat scout carefully and check buzzell's during the shuttle.
During the 2018 drawdown of Horace Lake, I ran into one of the homeowners near the upper takeout on Peaslee Rd. She was very frustrated by paddlers who were unknowingly using her driveway and property for parking. The small dirt road and grassy area on the right just before the Peaslee Rd bridge is private property. Please respect private property so we can continue to paddle this great little river. It is also possible to take out on river left and walk across the bridge.
Is it debatable that this river and ALL rapids (at the standard release level of 400-500 cfs) are at best strong Class III rapids? I ask, not to be pernicious, but to preserve the true awesomeness of genuine Class IV whitewater in New England.
Located between Lake Horace (also called Weare Reservoir) and the Everett Lake. This section is dam controlled but "run of the river" flows are usually the norm. During high water events the the Army Corps of Engineers flood control dam may hold back and flood the lower sections also known as Everett Reservoir. You can get a good idea of the flow on the North Branch by going to the Army Corps of Engineers Everett Dam Flood Control data page. Look under the "inflow" heading on the tabular data. The Everett-Hopkington flood control system is rather complicated actually linking two different river basins. During high water one or both flood control dams could be shut down complicating interpretation of the data on the graph. Just remember that the river segment we are speaking of is upstream of the dam so flood control operations holding large amounts of water back could flood out the lower portions of the run.
Best time to run the north branch is in March during the spring thaw, and during the annual fall drawdown of Everett Lake which usually provides a flow of 400-500 cfs.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Sally Blauvelt at Slab City Ledge
NB Piscat Put In
Slab City Surf
Pat at First Drop
Top of the The Big One
Joe at the Big One
Chase Mill Rapid
Pat at Buzzell Hill
NBP Class IV rapid
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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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