The Upper Millers is a long and scenic run that contains plenty of class II-III action, popular with open boaters and anyone else who enjoys catching lots of eddies. It is a slight step up from the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield. Note that if you do get into trouble on it for some reason, this stretch is rather remote by Massachusetts standards; once you put on in South Royalston, you must go the whole 7-mile distance to Athol.
Paddlers park at the take-out on the north side of Crescent St in Athol; there isn't much room here, so be courteous to the neighbors. From the take-out, follow Chestnut Hill Ave north to Royalston and hang a right on Route 68 to South Royalston. Don't miss the turn - the sign faces the wrong way when you come up from the south.
At the put-in, park along the south side of Blossom St. in South Royalston, between the river gauge and the parking spaces by the (closed) King Street bridge. These spaces used to belong to a restaurant that frowned on boaters parking in them, but the restaurant burned down in 2018; no word yet on whether the spaces are now up for grabs.
Some people hike upstream to run the broken dam under the King St. bridge, while other people put in below. Either way, some busy III action follows until the first railroad bridge, where there is a big wave train with great access from a river-right eddy.
Many more II and III drops follow on the way down to Athol. After the second railroad bridge there is a double drop that features a couple of larger waves (that can be bypassed on river right) and further down there is a III stretch with a more gorge-like character.
Take out under the power lines and be advised that you must complete a somewhat arduous trek over sand and gravel slopes to reach the gate at the end of Crescent St.
Click the Flow Info tab for gauge info. There is a new guage for this section.
The put in is located in South Royalston, MA
From route 2, take the route 202 North exit. It is the last exit before the divided highway ends.
Stay on route 202 North until you reach route 68. There will be a sign on the left that says BIRCH HILL DAM 4 MILES. Go that way.
Once you cross the river, go left with the road and immediately park on the left between an unused bridge and a restaurant.
People from western NH can take 202 from the north side.
At the putin there also appears to be a parking area on river left above the Rt 68 bridge which could be used if you wanted to run the broken dam which is just upstream of the putin below the restaraunt.
There is a take-out half-way down the run, a short distance below Mile Long Rapid. It's hidden in the woods with a public access parking lot and path to the river; behind and next to a red house along river right. To reach it from the put-in and the center-of-town; follow Route 68 north for about 1/4 mile; bear left onto Prospect Street; go about 1/10th mile, turn left onto Gulf Road. Follow Gulf Road for 1-3/4 miles (it turns to dirt about half-way); then left onto Bearsden Road and into the parking lot. (Note: Very few of these roads are marked.)
Take Chestnut Hill rd all the way north to 68, then back south on 68. Chestnut hill meets 68 at an acute angle in a little village with a typical new england church and common area. The alternate approach which might be worth mentioning is to go South from putin on 68 to 202 south to 2A west to 32 north in Athol. Almost as soon as you get on 32 you cross the river and keep bearing right. First onto Chestnut hill rd. and then almost immediately onto Cresent which is a dead end side road. Go up to the end of Cresent were an iron gate blocks auto access to a park area. A dirt road/path leads to the river and takeout.
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The gauge is apparently being decommissioned to save money. The info linked for the dam above seems to be broken. Another page with Birch Hill dam info is here (check discharge)
Select link on the bottom "summary table" if the hotspot map is not working.
6-15-2013 1820 cfs (7.1 gauge)
really fun upper section as described above. lower section as described cl 2. all strainers were easily seen at this level. one strainer on river right when the high tension lines come into view could be a problem at higher flows (log would become more submerged.) other rivers in the area running too high for my skill level. great day with awesome weather and really good scenery. good waves for playing and practice.
As of June 2018 the listed gauge no longer reports. There is another downstream at Atol, but no data is currently known for the correlation. If you run this section please leave a comment with the level so others can catch this run.
The South Royalston USGS gauge was 1.5 miles downstream from Birch Hill dam. Birch Hill dam is a Corps of Engineers flood control dam. There is recreational boating release scheduled for April of each year.
2008 Millers River releases (Birch Hill Dam)
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
punch da hole
surfing at the railroad bridge
Parking lot at Middle Takeout
View from the Bridge
Broken Dam Side View
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In response to requests by American Whitewater, several affiliates, and other stakeholders, FERC directed Brookfield Renewable to study the impact of its hydropower operations on whitewater boating on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts. Boating groups and our supporters are seeking to determine optimal whitewater boating flows from the Fife Brook Dam and whether changes in hydropower operations would enhance boating opportunities, access and navigation.
American Whitewater, along with other paddling groups and outfitters, filed comments with FERC responding to the Whitewater Boating Evaluation at Turners Falls on the Connecticut River. The study showed that there is strong demand for boating on this section of the Connecticut River if sufficient flows, scheduled releases, better access, and real-time information are provided. The groups filed the comments in order to provide additional information for the environmental review and to respond to the unsupported statements by FirstLight, the utility performing the study, claiming that there is little demand for boating at Turners Falls.
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.
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