Although New Hampshire may not be known for its whitewater, the fall drawdown of its lakes provides lots of warm-weather creeking fun. The 2017 release on the North Branch of the Piscataquog did not disappoint.
The P-Cat is the perfect river for anyone looking for an introduction to creeking and features abundant opportunities for boofs, splats, and surfing. Unfortunately, it can only be run during the spring runoff and the annual, fall draw-down.
The American Whitewater page provides great directions and descriptions of the river. Click here for the P-Cat link and more details. If you get lost, just follow the cars loaded with whitewater boats.
Right from the start, there are plenty of opportunities to surf and play. Just 500 feet from the put-in on river left, there is a retentive, yet manageable wave with a foam pile that transitions to a glassy wave on river right. This is the perfect spot to carve around in a longer boat.
The river twists and turns until it reaches Slab City, the first big drop. The line is center-left, but if you veer too far right there are a couple of sharp slabs of rock that can result in a piton. Right below this first drop, there’s a squirrely, confused hole that can be often surfed, but many are flushed from it.
After Slab City, there are a few technical Class II-III rapids that may be filled with wood. On this river, you should always be on the lookout for strainers.
Woodbury offers opportunities for splats and boofs off rocks. This rapid is an S-turn and is loads of fun to paddle. At the river bend on the far river left, there is also a fantastic splat-to-boof move that spits you right into an eddy about half-way down the rapid.
The Big One
At the entrance to The Big One, there’s a river-wide, glassy, green wave that is perfect for surfing. Although not the most retentive, the wave is comparable to Sheepscot Reversing Falls.
To run The Big One, starting out river right and make your way center-right to hit a rooster tail that will line you up for the drop. Rather than a vertical drop, The Big One features more of a rock slide which spits you out into the flat water below.
Buzzell Hill, although seemingly mild, can conjure some brutal beatdowns from the sharp granite blocks just under the surface on river right.
Although many just bomb straight down, there is an eddy out after the first ledge drop on river right. This sets up a perfect ferry from river right to left and over the drop. Again, the key is to avoid rolling on river right.
In my mind, Turnover Ledge is the best part of the North Branch of the Piscataqoug. The river bends and flows over a 4 ft. ledge that is perfect for boofing, surfing, and huge enders. Although seemingly sticky, the hole flushes you right out and into the eddy.
The 2017 North Branch of the Piscataquog release came with beautiful weather, prime flows and a perfect day on the river. It doesn’t get better than that.