Souhegan Blue Water Canoe Trail
Souhegan River Paddling Guide
The SWA sponsors several weekend canoe trips on various sections of the river in the spring and summer as part of our expanded canoe trip schedule on different rivers throughout the area. These trips every weekend are all free. Everyone is welcome! Check out the schedule! The Souhegan begins at the confluence of the South Branch and West Branch in New Ipswich, NH. The South Branch drains Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, MA. The northern section of the watershed drains Pack Monadnock Mountain. The Souhegan flows north and east to the Merrimack River in Merrimack, NH. The upper portion offers a good intermediate whitewater trip; farther down, the river has a mixture of smooth water and rapids. Riverbanks are usually unsettled except through Downtown Wilton and Milford. Although it may be possible to canoe the river upstream from the first trip, it is not recommended because there is a difficult gorge above the old power station below town. Some kamikaze MVP (Merrimack Valley Paddler) kayakers do run this gorge under the right conditions. Several of these trips can be combined comfortably in one day. Trips 1, 2, and 3 can be done in a long day early in the spring. Trips 6 and 7 are usually combined and available into the summer. The put in at Trip 8 offers low water paddling all summer long. All the times offered here are approximate.
- Greenville to Rte 31 bridge - 1 mile | ~1.5 hours | Class 3
- Rte 31 bridge to Monadnock Water at Rte 101 - 3.5 miles | 2.5 hours | Class 2
- Monadnock Water to Downtown Wilton - 1.5 miles | 1.5 hours | Class 3-3+
- Jones Crossing to Boys and Girls Club - 3.5 miles | 2.5 hours | Quickwater up to Class 2
- Milford to Amherst Canoeport on Rte 122 - 2.5 miles | 1.5 hours | Quickwater up to Class 2
- Rte 122 bridge to Amherst Canoeport at Boston Post Road - 2.25 miles | 1 hour | Quickwater, Flatwater
- Amherst Canoeport at Boston Post Road to Seaverns Bridge - 2 miles | 1 hour | Quickwater, Flatwater
- Severns Bridge to Davidson Road - 2 miles | 1.5 hours | Quickwater, Flatwater, Class 3
- Davidson Road to Weston Park - 2 miles | 1.5 hours | Flatwater
- Weston Park at Turkey Hill Bridge to Wildcat Falls - 1.5 miles | 1 hour | Flatwater
Trip 1 - Greenville to Rte 31 bridge
This is a popular early run for southern NH whitewater enthusiasts. There is a painted gauge on the side of the wall at the put in that is very hard to see until you are in your boat. A level below 1 will be scratchy; a level above 3 is very high. There is also a gauge on the left, downstream side of the Rte 31 bridge that is easier to see that roughly corresponds to the upper gauge. There is also a USGS automatic gauge that can be accessed at http://www.water.usgs.gov/rt-cgi/gen_tbl_pg. A stage level above 4 means the river is probably passable. The Merrimack Valley Paddlers kayakers closely monitor this stretch and you may be able to get the most reliable information at http://www.mvpclub.org.
Put in at the site of the old hydroelectric plant on a short side road off NH 31S just south of of the Wilton/Greenville town line. There is a sign saying, “Souhegan River Access.” Parking is available on either side of the road. Carry several hundred yards down the access road. The put in is just downstream of the very difficult, narrow gorge where a dam was removed in the early ‘60s. The rapids are rocky, with several small ledges, and they generate considerable waves in high water. Eddies are small, and rapids are continuous. There are two play waves on river left just above and under the bridge at the take out. The MVP has cleaned the debris left from the dam removal from the gorge upstream of the put in. The MVP and SWA monitor the area and try to keep it clean. The MVP and NHAMC are responsible for this area’s being donated for public use by the Taft family of Greenville. Return to Trip List
Trip 2 - Rte 31 bridge to Monadnock Water at Rte 101
There is an enjoyable playwave right below the bridge that boaters can enjoy while waiting for the shuttle to be set up. Below the bridge, the river follows the road closely for a while. The first drop is rocky, then the river becomes slightly easier, offering choices among the rocks.
Where the river turns away from the road, a huge boulder sits in the river to the right. A sharp left turn shortly below concerns boaters, but the large rock on the right, known affectionately as Bump Rock, has a pillow that makes it easy to miss. There may still be large tree across the river shortly downstream that may be passable on the right. Let us know after your trip!
At the large island, the left-hand channel is blocked by fallen trees. The right-hand channel has a ledge where a zig-zag course may be easier to plan after scouting. This ledge is the most popular playhole on the river.
Below the island, the river becomes easier, splitting again in several places.
Most parties take out on the left just above the Captain Clarke Bridge upstream of the Monadnock Water Company. Do not take out below the bridge on their land. They are not boater -- or river -- friendly. Walk out between the road and the fence upstream of the bridge on public land or the easier walk on the upstream side of the fence through John’s Cycles. They are friendly, but you may want to secure permission when you set shuttle if you’re concerned or have a large party. Shuttle parking here is off the road on the grass on the land in front of Monadnock Water. They have put up a no parking sign on the edge of their property that scares boaters, but the land between the sign and the road is public. Park in front of the sign off the road. Do not park on the triangle. Boaters may also take out a bit further downstream at the less convenient old NH 101 bridge. Return to Trip List
Trip 3 - Monadnock Water to Downtown Wilton
From here, the river is dammed, diverted, and not worth boating until the bridge at the intersection of 101 and 101A, across from Granite Bank, known as Jones Crossing. Return to Trip List
Trip 4 - Jones Crossing to Milford
To continue this trip, portage by car around the center of Milford. From the Boys and Girls Club, drive straight ahead at the stop sign where Rte 13 bears right into the Oval. Take the first right onto Souhegan Street and follow about a half mile to a dirt driveway just past the power station. This is private land that the owner allows boaters to use, so be courteous and don’t block any way.
If the Souhegan St put in looks too rocky, here's an alternative: portage around the Oval to 101A/Elm St east toward Nashua; enter Kaley Park on the left next to the Milford Health Clinic. There are steps into the river. Plenty of parking. This is a better option. Return to Trip List
Trip 5 - Milford to Amherst Canoeport on Rte 122
Just below Kaley Park the river splits around an island. The left side that was blocked with trees is now open (July 2016). Keep us informed after your trip!
There is a small Class 2 wave beneath the high NH 101 bridge. This drop is best run on the right.
Expect to find trees across the river in various places that may require portaging. There are also several trees just beyond the drive-in theatre. Take out on the left just before the Rte 122 bridge, across from the golf course.
To drive to the take out, go to the north side of the Rte 122 bridge. There is a “Canoeport” sign and dirt road running parallel to 122 that leads to the parking area. Return to Trip List
Trip 6 - Rte 122 bridge to Amherst Canoeport at Boston Post Road
This section of the river and the next - as far as Severns Bridge-has enough water to be passable most of the summer.
The main feature of this section is the golf course. Kids especially and golfers will enjoy picking up golf balls lost in the shallow water and along the banks. Some boaters carry a net to pick them up off the bottom.
The river here has a sandy bottom and the river meanders all over the place. There is one oxbow on the right that is still passable when the water is high...but you probably won't even notice it. Also, check out the unfortunate riprap erosion control along Brewsters Fields on the right.
The take out is marked by a set of wooden steps leading up to the parking lot. But pass the steps and take out just around the corner to avoid hauling your boat up the steep, eroded bank. As all along the river, watch for poison ivy.
To drive to the take out, take 101A east to the traffic light at the Timeless/Joey's Diner. Turn left. Turn left again in front of the white New England church. And turn left again. Take the left fork. This is Boston Post Road. Pass Souhegan High School and take a dirt driveway to the Amherst Canoeport parking lot on the right just before the bridge. Return to Trip List
Trip 7 - Amherst Canoeport at Boston Post Road to Seaverns Bridge
This section of the river is a continuation of the last section. The river meanders around. There is often wildlife to be seen. When a few rocks begin to appear on the otherwise sandy riverbed, you’re approaching the take out at Seaverns Bridge. The take out is on the right just before the bridge up an eroded slope (which we hope the town will fix soon).
To drive to the take out from Boston Post Rd, cross the bridge and take the next right onto Thorntons Ferry II. Follow to the stop sign and turn right. Cross Severns Bridge and turn right. However, if you are combining this section with Trip 6 from Rte 122, follow the directions to Boston Post Road, but at the fork, take the right. This is Severns Bridge Road. Follow a couple of miles to the bridge.
Good parking across the road. Return to Trip List
Trip 8 - Severns Bridge to Davidson Road
Although high water is necessary to get all the way to the next takeout, this is the most popular spot to put in and paddle both upstream and downstream and back to your car during the summer.
About a mile after the putin the river takes a sharp right turn - this is where to turn around and paddle back upstream during the summer. During high water you can continue downstream over a Class 2 ledge best run on the right. There is a big, red barn on the steep right bank. The pool below is above two islands. Take out on the head of the right island to scout or carry. This is Indian Ledges.Run down between the two islands and eddy on the right on the ledge. From here it’s an easy carry around the more shallow rapid ahead. If there is enough water, the rest of the rapid may be attempted, but expect to hit a rock or two. Staying center, left may be best.
One may take out or put in here from the end of Davidson Road, which is off Amherst Rd. There is a well defined trail through the woods. Return to Trip List
Trip 9 - Davidson Road to Weston Park
Check out the unfortunate mess on river-left being done by the landowner to control erosion. Return to Trip List
Trip 10 - Weston Park at Turkey Hill Bridge to Wildcat Falls
To drive to the take out, go to the Merrimack DPW Garage on Turkey Hill Road. Drive all the way in alongside the furthest ballfield. Park under the powerline.
This marks the furthest practical place to go on the river. However, if you wish to either see Wildcat Falls (and it’s worth it) or to portage around, take out on the left side of the river. This is the Wildcat Falls Conservation Area in Merrimack. There are trails all through along the river. The opposite bank is an unattractive jumble of cottages.
Put in below the falls and there are several interesting Class 3 rapids in the short stretch under the Everett Turnpike bridge.
The Merrimack Village Dam at DW Highway was removed in 2008; however, shallow, sharp rocks preclude running this rapid. Take out on the right next to the gas station. It is not practical to portage further. There are only 200 yards of flatwater from the dam to the Merrimack River. Baboosic Brook enters on river left just before emptying into the Merrimack.
Return to Trip List