Sunday, April 24, 2016

Long drive for a short trip - Pemi Bristol - April 23, 2016

Ayers Island Dam
The forecast was for clearing skies, but I was beginning to wonder as I headed north to NH. The rain started as I entered MA, and continued all the way up to the NH border. Fortunately, as I crossed over into NH, I could see blue sky to the north. By the time I reached the put-in, the sky was bright and clear and the day was beautiful – maybe a little windy. 

I was heading up to NH to paddle the Bristol section of the Pemi with Joe and the NHAMC. We had 3 kayaks (Marcy, Pete and Eric) and 2 canoes (me and Joe). We put in below the Ayers Island Dam (off Ayers Island Road – go left at the recycling center and down the hill on the dirt road next to the transfer station), and took out below the park and play hole off Coolidge Woods Road.

Marcy running Wourthen's
This is a short section of river that is best to run a couple of times to make it worth the trip - at least for me. It’s about 1-1/2 miles long with a couple of nice play spots. The level was 1,500 cfs on the Plymouth gage, which was a little pushy.  Combined with the wind, it was a quick run downstream.

The biggest rapid on this section of the river is called Wourthen’s, and is located about 1/4 mile down from the put in. A ledge protrudes from the left bank (Wourthen's Rock) forcing the river to the right.  The usual line is to the right, although at lower levels you can run the drops in the middle.  We went right.

Joe approaching Coolidge Woods Road
The rapid continues for about 1/5 of a mile, and is followed by a couple of other class II rapids. The last rapid sweeps gradually to the right as it passes through a couple of ledges along Coolidge Woods Road. Unfortunately, there was too much water for me to do any playing at the play spot. 

I would have like to do another run, but no one else was interested, so it turned out to be a long drive for a short trip. Oh well..


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Outnumbered again – Knghtville section of the Westfield – April 16, 2016

Jim O'Brien Memorial Paddle Group Photo
I got together with Dan, Pat, Paul and Andy to run the Knightville section of the Westfield for the Jim O'Brien Memorial Paddle. This is an annual trip in memory of a local boater who died six years ago in a tragic whitewater accident. Once again, the open boaters were significantly outnumbered on this trip – 34 kayaks to 3 canoes. Still, it’s a fun class II/III run, and I’ll paddle with the yakkers if I have to.

The level was about 5’, 1,000 cfs. – a typical dam release level. We put in at the picnic area at the base of the Knightville Dam, and took out at the Gazebo on Route 20. The river is mostly class II rock dodging until you enter the Gorge in the Gardner State Park.

Dan approaching the Gorge Drop
There are two drops in the Gorge section. The first is an unnamed rapid that is about 25 yards long that I ran to the right (there is also a trickier shoot to the left that I ran a few years ago with Glenn). The second is a 3-foot ledge known as the Gorge Drop. It can be seen from upstream by a big rock in the middle of the river. You run this just to the right of the rock, and move left to catch the eddy, or at least avoid the big haystacks downstream.

From the Gorge Drop down to the take out there are some nice rock gardens separated by sections of quickwater.  Run took about 2 hours at a leisurely pace.  No swims to report.

Racers swimming the Hill & Dale Rapid
The good news is that there were plenty of canoes on the river (mostly tandems) for the Westfield River WildwaterRace. Supposedly, this is the oldest consecutively run canoe race in the US.  On the way home we stopped at a rapid called Hill & Dale on the novice course to see some of the carnage – we weren’t disappointed.  A pinned canoe in the middle of the river told us that the safety boats had been busy.  We saw about 10 boats come through in 15 minutes, and half of them dumped, and there were plenty of gunwale grabs on the rest. 

At the put-in - photo by Paddler Shawn

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pemi - Woodstock - April 2, 2016

Route 175 Bridge
They say that whitewater paddling is 40% skill, 5% luck and 90% driving.  I can’t say that I disagree. Mike, Chuck and Tommy were paddling the Blackstone from Singing Dam down to Plummers Landing, but I drove 2 ½ hours up to New Hampshire to paddle the Pemi with the NHAMC instead.

The Pemigewasset originates in Franconia Notch and flows south through the White Mountains to merge with the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin, NH where it forms the Merrimack.  It is a huge watershed that can be a little flashy.  With the rain last week, the level peaked at 2,500 cfs. on Friday, and dropped to about 1,500 cfs. for the trip yesterday – just about perfect.  We had about 16 boats with 9 canoes.

View of Mount Lafayette
We put-in behind the Fire Station (51 Daniel Webster Highway, North Woodstock, NH), and took-out at the Ledges (Death Valley Road at the third Route 175 Bridge, North Woodstock, NH).  This section is mostly quickwater with a couple of easy class II rapids – Woodstock Squeeze, Gravel Pit, Powerline, and the Ledges.  The biggest challenge is to remember to remember to turn around and take in the great views of the White Mountains upstream.

Harry running the Ledges