6 Breathtaking New Hampshire Places to Paddle This Summer
If you’re looking at your paddle, you’re doing it wrong. Getting in the water is just the beginning, you want to go somewhere that’ll take your breath away. New Hampshire is full of picturesque backdrops for your journey and here are six to get you started.
The Androscoggin offers up a little of everything for the both the beginner and seasoned kayaker. Originating in Errol, NH the Androscoggin River winds its way through several New Hampshire towns before cutting across the northern portion of the White Mountains. Kayakers can take advantage of the many in and out points along the river to explore the extensive hiking trails and parks that dot the river's shores including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Mollidgewock State Park. This river is an ideal spot for those traveling with both whitewater enthusiasts and those looking for a more leisurely river ride.
Errol Rapids offers a class II/III rapids course suitable for seasoned whitewater riders and those looking to tackle a course for the first time. Its inclusion in the Northern Forest Canoe Trail means there are plenty of outfitters and guides like L.L. Cote and Northern Water Outfitters at your fingertips if you need additional direction or equipment. The opportunities for recreation and sightseeing along the river are plentiful and a guide is highly recommended both for safety in navigating the rapids course as well as to maximize your enjoyment.
The Contoocook River
The Contoocook River, running from Poole Pond northward to Concord, is perfect for those with some whitewater experience looking to take on some serious rapids. This is a fast flowing river and contains one of the most popular and expert rapid runs in New England, rating a Class III/IV, running from Hillsboro to West Henniker.
For those with less whitewater experience or who are looking for leisurely river kayaking, the Contoocook provides plenty of flat water closer to Concord. For those looking to stretch their legs, Daisy Beach is a popular destination for a picnic and a swim along the river. Like many of the rivers in the New Hampshire region, the Contoocook is perfect for prime wildlife viewing, giving home to over 100 species of birds, including America's favorite, the bald eagle. Rental equipment and guidance are available from various local outfitters including, Contoocook Canoe.
Don't let the name fool you, Grafton Pond, a local New Hampshire favorite located in the Grafton Woods Reservation, is actually a 300 acre lake, boasting a wild shoreline and dozens of rugged islands to explore. Grafton Pond is an ideal location for those looking for a rambling kayak adventure. Paddlers can hop on and off the lake and explore the various hiking trails extending throughout the Reservation or play on the islands they encounter on their trip. Grafton Pond is a popular nesting site for loons and you are bound to encounter the birds and their offspring in addition to other wildlife as you soak up the sun on this gentle paddle.
The Ammonoosuc originates in Mount Washington's Lake of the Clouds and meanders its way through several New Hampshire towns offering views of dozens of historical sites and wildlife along the way. The raw beauty of this area is unparalleled and it’s a must paddle for those looking for a true return to nature. Suitable for all kayaking skill levels, its close proximity to the White Mountain National Forest ensures that the shorelines of this river deliver an incredibly diverse ecology and animal sightings including the endangered bald eagle, Peregrine falcon and osprey.
The Pemigewasset River
New Hampshire’s natural beauty, the Pemigewasset River, or “Pemi” as it is affectionately known by locals, originates in Franconia Notch State Park and flows south until its confluence with the Merrimack River 70 miles south. The rustic Pemi is generally less trafficked with plenty of stretches of serene water and calm sandy beaches for those who like to enjoy a relaxing swim and picnic break with their paddle. If a dip in the crystal clear waters rejuvenates you, take a shot at the popular 8-mile stretch of Class II rapids called Ayer’s Island to test your whitewater skills. Several outfitters in the area provide gear and guided tours including Ski Fanatics, Outback Kayak and Art’s Outdoor Outfitters.
If you crave the feel of misty saltwater and a strong current, New Hampshire’s coastline offers plenty of opportunities for sea kayaking. Just outside Portsmouth, kayakers of all skill levels enjoy the Great Bay, the second largest estuary on the East Coast. Enjoy rural views, open meadows, rich marsh, thick woods, and incredible wildlife sightings as you paddle in and around the ecologically diverse estuary. The Great Bay also offers island stops along the way to stretch your legs and explore. Check out the Great Bay Discovery Center to learn more about the area and to schedule a guided tour.
For a complete list of paddling outfitters in New Hampshire, please be sure to visit our Canoeing and Kayaking page.