Monday, May 23, 2022

Providence – May 22, 2022

I was up early and out the door to paddle a trip that I will be leading this summer for RICKA – the Providence River on July 4th. Cheryl had mentioned that parking might be limited due to construction. When I arrived parking was limited, but due to a large number of boat trailers rather than construction. If we had to, we could drop boats and park on the street in front of Tockwotton on Waterfront Drive.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

River Bend Farm - May 21, 2022

My first thought was to paddle Tville with Paul, but they were starting a little late. My second thought was the Upper Wood River with RICKA, but even that would take most of the afternoon. I had some family stuff to do this afternoon, so I decided to do a local run at River Bend Farm.

The level was 2.8 on the Northbridge gage – a low but fluid level. This is a tricky little run with lots of twist and turns. In many places, the current pushes you into trees hanging into the water on the outside of bends. I am supposed to lead a BVPC trip here in June, but if the level is much lower we will probably stay off the river.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so no pictures.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

NHAMC Class III Step-up Paddles

I made it to 6 of 7 different rivers - missed the Swift but it was great to run the Ammo, Took and Lower Winni.

NHAMC Class III Step-up Paddles from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

As our leader Frank said “whitewater is a great teacher - it shows us how to be humble on the river, how to work with the current and not fight it, and it provides a place where people of all types can rely on one another in friendship.”  So true. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Lower Winni – April 30 2022

Surf wave below the put-in
I’d been fighting a cold all week, but I really wanted to do the last class III step-up paddle with the NHAMC. This week’s trip was on the Lower Winni – another river that I've wanted to run in my canoe for a long time. The weather was right, the level was right, the group was right and I was felling OK, so I went and I'm glad I did.

The Winnipesaukee River (also known as the Winni) is a 10-mile river that that runs from Lake Winnipesaukee to Franklin where it joins with the Pemigewasset River to form the Merrimack. There are two whitewater runs on the Winnipesaukee.

Running Coliseum
The Upper Winni from Tilton Road to Riverfront Park in Tilton is an easy class I/II run that is the site of an annual slalom race. It was one of the first trips that I did with the NHAMC way back in 2006, and I have run it many times since.

The Lower Winni from the Cross Mill Road Bridge in Northfield to Trestle View Park in Franklin is a class III(+) run from 1,000 cfs to 1,500 cfs. Above 1,500 cfs some of the rapids become class IV. I ran it in a shredder at 1,100 cfs on New Year’s Day several years ago. The level on this run was 3.6 ft, 725 cfs (class II+/III) - a good beginner and open boat level.

Above Railroad
We met at the put-in at the Cross Mill Road Bridge to run the shuttle. It’s a relatively short run of about a mile-and-a-half, so people often do multiple runs. The river started off with waves and rocks as we ran through Snowmobile and Iron Ring. Even at this level there is lots of potential for a pinned boat or a nasty swim. 

The first major rapid is known as Coliseum. At higher water levels this can be a very dangerous rapid since about a third of the river channels into the foundation of an old mill building on the right – the “Room of Doom”. I took the left line catching the eddy at the top, and then running down the left side avoiding the wall on the left and the rocks in the center.

Approaching Zippy's 
Another half-mile downstream is the next major rapid – Railroad. The river splits around the center support for a railroad bridge with routes on the right and the left. The right side has a 3' drop that we took twice when I ran this in the shredder - once resulting in a swim. This time I took the left line staying just to the right of the large rocks on the left side. 

There were more rocks and waves as we ran through Sulphite to the last rapid - Zippy's Final Plunge. Unfortunately, there was wood in the usual lines through Zippy’s, so we took out above. One run was enough for me - I made it down fine and considered myself lucky. I did walk up the Winnipesaukee River Trail to get some pictures of the crew going through Railroad on their second run. 

Waiting for the rest of the crew at Railroad

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Contoocook - April 23, 2022

Getting organized 
When I was just starting to paddle, I was always amazed at some of the rivers that other open boaters would run. One of the more challenging rivers that I have wanted to run for years is the class III “Freight Train” section of the Contoocook in Henniker. I finally got my chance as part of the NHAMC Class III Step-up Paddles.

The Contoocook River arises at Contoocook Lake on the Jaffrey/Rindge line and flows generally north for 71-miles to Penacook where it empties into the Merrimack River. There are two sections of the Contoocook that are popular for whitewater boating – the class III “Freight Train” section from Hillsboro to Henniker, and class II section from the twin bridges to the Ramsdell Bridge in Henniker.

Heading out
We met at 10:00 at the class III put-in on Western Avenue and ran the shuttle down to the take-out at the Remsdell Bridge. The normal take out for the class III section is at the twin bridges, but we would be running the class II section as well. The river was at a perfect open boat level – 7.3 feet, 950 cfs on the Henniker gage. Paul described it as low and technical. 

We had 20 paddlers that were divided into 3 pods. I was in the first pod with Frank. I saw one other open boat on the river – Charlie Sweet who was running a trip for Boston/AMC. We headed downstream and worked our way through the various rapids. At this level, most were class II+. I ran class III S-Turn without a problem – it was actually shorter than I expected.

Happy face below Freight Train
We got out of our boats to scout class III Freight Train, and watched as a group of kayakers came through. At this level, the rapid is a series of three drops with big holes in the middle and large standing waves below. The first drop has a large rock with a small rock next to it on river right. If you hug the left side of small rock, it will line you up to run the next two drops just right of the holes. I went a little too far to the left on the first drop, and got twisted around on a rock in the second drop. I ran the second drop backwards, but got myself turned around for the third. I filled my boat up in the standing waves below and had to head to shore to empty. The rapid looks entirely at higher water.

Most of the group called it quits after the class III section, but a few of us decide to continue downstream through the class II section. The last time I ran this section was in 2005 on the first day of the NHAMC Whitewater School. At this level the top was flatwater, but the Broken Dam Rapid at the Ramsdell Bridge was fun.

Approaching the broken Dam Rapid on the Class II Section

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Pemi - Woodstock – April 9, 2022

Running the Ledges
I thought I would be leaving today for a 4-day business trip to CA, but it got cancelled. That freed-up a day this weekend to paddle. For the second week in a row, I was on the road early Saturday morning heading up Route I-93 to the White Mountains to paddle the Class III Step-up trip with the NHAMC. This time we would be paddling the Woodstock section of the Pemi.

The Pemigewasset River, also known as the “Pemi”, arises at Profile Lake at the base of Cannon Mountain in the Franconia Notch. It flows south for 65-miles to Franklin where it joins the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River. There are a couple of other sections of the Pemi that I have paddled including the quickwater section from Woodstock/Thornton to Campton and the whitewater section in Bristol. The class II section in Woodstock is one of my favorites.

The gallery at the Ledges
We met at 10:00 at the put-in behind the Fire Station (51 Daniel Webster Highway, North Woodstock, NH), and ran the shuttle down to the take-out at the Ledges (Death Valley Road at the third Route 175 Bridge, North Woodstock, NH). The river was at a medium-low level – 4.5 feet, 1,250 cfs. We had 14 boats – 13 kayaks and one canoe.

We divided into two groups of 7 for the run downstream. The two most difficult rapids are at the beginning and at the end. Right at the put-in is a 2-foot drop that is run in the center. After that, the river is mostly quiclkwater with couple of class II rapids – Woodstock Squeeze, Gravel Pit and Powerline. The biggest rapid is the Ledges at the end. It is class II+/III depending on water level. We all did a couple of laps at the Ledges trying different lines.


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Ammonoosuc - Twin Mountain to Pierce Bridge - April 2, 2022

One in every crowd
When I started paddling, I often heard people talk about “paddling in the Whites”. By “the Whites” they meant the White Mountains and rivers like the Saco, Pemigewasset and Ammonoosuc. Unfortunately, it’s a long drive for me and those rivers can be tough to catch. I've
 done a few sections of the Pemi and the Saco over the years, but never the Ammonoosuc. That changed today on a trip with the NHAMC.

After missing the last two weeks, I was looking forward to this week’s Class III Step-up trip. A couple of inches of rain on Friday brought all the rivers up, so there were lots of options. The decision was made to run the Ammonoosuc from Twin Mountain to Pierce Bridge, which includes the Boat Breaker Rapid.

The Twins - Twin Mountain
The Ammonoosuc River arises at Lakes of the Clouds in the saddle between Mount Washington and Mount Monroe. It rumbles down the mountains and flows generally southwest for 55-miles to converge with the Connecticut River in Woodville. The Wild Ammonoosuc joins the Ammonoosuc in Bath. In spite of its name, the Upper Ammonoosuc is not the upstream portion of the Ammonoosuc River, but an entirely separate tributary of the Connecticut River about 25-miles to the north.

It's a 3-hour drive up to Twin Mountain, so I got an early start. The sky was blue, but clouds hung low over the mountains as I approached the Franconia Notch. White snow on the mountain tops was a reminder of how cold the water would be. We met at St. Patrick's Church in Twin Mountain, geared up, and ran the shuttle down to Pierce Bridge. We had 14 paddlers - 13 kayaks and one canoe (guess who).

Boat Breaker
The day was sunny with temperatures in the mid-30’s as we headed out. The river was at a medium-low level – 3-feet, 500 cfs on the Bethlehem gage. The river starts off Class I/II down to the "Big Pine" turnout on Rt. 302 - this section was a little boney. From there, the river increases in difficulty to Class II+/III. The most difficult rapid is Boat Breaker just upstream of the take out at Pierce Bridge.

By the time we finished the clouds had cleared and we had an amazing view of Mount Washington covered in a fresh layer of snow on the way back to the put-in. I should have stopped and snapped a picture.

The crew at the put-in