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Everyone runs the Pemi

Saturday May 12, 2018
Kayak: Mike M
Organizer: Mike M
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (cfs): 700
Author: Mike M

Yes, that’s right, the East Branch of the Pemigewasset.  Where all the wealthy, famous and fashionable New England paddlers go.  Or at least they should, but didn’t. I got a couple miserable excuses: “Too low” (it was holding around 700), “The Saranac is in” (the Saranac isn’t 10 miles of impeccable class III-IV) and so on.  I guess this river, once one of the most trendy and fashionable paddling destinations in the northeast just doesn’t stack up to not paddling at all, even on beautiful late spring days.


Actually, doing this run alone was sort of nice.  I didn’t have to work on convincing anyone to do the hike into the upper section (because there was no anyone), and I didn’t have to convince anyone else to hike past the normal upper put-in and go even farther upstream - one of my goals for the day.  I ended up going about 2.5 miles past Franconia Brook (or over 5 miles above the roadside put in) before I decided that I needed to leave time to actually paddle. My hiking was rewarded with a couple of the best solid class IV boulder gardens in the whole Pemi watershed. This was a nice surprise, in addition to the miles of great, continuous class III, pristine water quality and wilderness scenery.  I also ran into Greg and Sawyer Hanlon, who were in packrafts and a little surprised to see another boater up there.


Most of the run is in great shape, with a lot of the messy cobble piles left by Hurricane Irene mostly eroded away.  The floods last fall cut an entirely new channel in one place, leaving a solid quarter-mile of the old riverbed almost completely dry.


Loon Mountain Rapid also changed a ton—it’s unrecognizable compared to the past-Irene version, and is a vast improvement over the shitty, rip-rapped sluice that the ski area left when they replaced the bridge.  The new version is a steep, clean drop over and around huge granite boulders well upstream of the bridge. There were two older open boaters here who absolutely crushed the bottom hole in their gigantic boats


On a side note, if you’re in the Whites when things are running, check out the Zealand River—it’s one of the nicest-looking creeks I’ve seen.  It probably runs when the Sawyer runs.


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