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Sunday Apr 29, 2007
Kayak: Shawn Enterline
Open Canoe: Richard Larsen, Mike Smorgens
C1: Tony Shaw
Organizer: Richard Larsen
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium high
Gauge (ft): 4.05
USGS Gauge Name/Link: Bethlehem Junction, NH

The day was supposed to be the better of the weekend days, but it was really fairly miserable. On and off light rain was the staple of the day, on the river and during the drive over and back. The water, of course, was recently melted snow, probably 35 degrees, and the air temperature on the river was at best 50 degrees. As the rain continued, Sheri Larsen, being wiser than the rest of us, decided not to paddle, and met us at each bridge to provide logistical support - and brownies at the end. Because of time constraints, one boat took out at the first bridge (Pierce Bridge). The other boats continued past the dam, and took out two bridges downstream.

The water level was a quite wonderful 4.05' at the Bethlehem Junction gauge. At this level, nothing is rocky or scratchy - there are big chutes through every rapid. Of course, the water is a lot pushier, and the waves a lot bigger, but there is nothing overwhelming. All of the major rapids required attention to features 40 and more feet downstream, and strategic manoevering to get away from the worst places. There were fewer obstructions, but you would be in real trouble if you waited until you were almost upon some of them before reacting.

Boat Breaker Rapid had an added feature - a tree trunk that extended 6 feet out into the main left-side channel about 2 1/2 feet above the water, right across where we normally make the entrance move. But, at this level there was a big-wave route just beyond the tip of the tree, so we ran the waves with the tree tip grazing the left side of our helmets.

Powerhouse Rapid seemed in some ways easier than when the river is lower, because of the higher water covering some rocks. The waves were big and powerful, but with good, strategic boat placement even the open canoes could get through without taking a lot of water. It would have been a nasty place to swim, but no one had any trouble.

We pretty much cruised down the river, with no stops to 'play'. From the put-in at 'The Big Pine Tree' to Pierce Bridge took just over 1 hour. There was another hour of on-water time to the next bridge, plus 30 minutes for the portage around the dam and lunch. From that bridge to the take-out bridge was about 35 minutes of on-water time.

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