Where to find whitewater in the Granite State
My one and only whitewater paddling experience was in college, and I still remember the thrill of spilling down the river, nearly launching out of my perch in the raft, trying to hear the instructions from our guide over the roar of the water. It really was thrilling and fast-paced, and you cannot help but shriek and holler at least a few times on your journey. The opportunity to do this fell into my lap, but it’s an adventure worth taking the time to plan for, and one I would happily do again. In New Hampshire, whitewater opportunities abound, and guides and outfitters are available just about anywhere there is water.
Rapids up to Class V on the International Scale of River Difficulty can be found in the Granite State, but for less-experienced paddlers without an instructor, it’s best to stick with Class I and II rapids.
The Appalachian Mountain Club recommends the Connecticut River for a good Class I paddle, stating on their outdoors.org guide to local Class I and II rapids, “Put in at West Stewartstown for an even paddle by grazing dairy cattle. A quick, 100-yard Class I-II rapid occurs below a nearby bridge. Pull out before Lyman Falls Dam and portage around. Lyman Falls State Park is below the dam.”
For an alphabetical list and detailed descriptions of all New Hampshire’s rapids and what conditions to expect, go to americanwhitewater.org, and you’ll be sure to find something for every ability.
Safety and Precautions
Having some instruction in navigating rapids and plenty of previous paddling experience is necessary if you are going to take on whitewater yourself. Familiarize yourself with whitewater safety and rescue well before heading out. Include at least two other paddling partners on your trip, and let someone else know where you’ll be and when you plan to return. Strong, able-bodied swimmers are ideal on whitewater excursions, and life vests should be worn at all times in the water by everyone on the raft. Have some basic rescue and first aid skills (and equipment) and avoid especially high and/or cold water when you can.