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Taming the East Branch Pemi

Saturday May 25, 2019
Open Canoe: Tony Shaw
Inflatable: Eric Bishop
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (ft): 3.6
Gauge (cfs): 725
Author: Tony Shaw

We got home from our day of boating - and bike shuttling - last night at dusk as the next (umpteenth???) overnight rainstorm approached New England, and I see online this morning the EBP real-time gauge has doubled to 1500 cfs... and climbing. The East Branch of the Pemigewasset River (or EBP) along NH's Kangamagus Highway near Loon Mountain is a quintessential New England whitewater run, and we were surprised that we couldn't interest anyone else in this trip.

This gem is an exuberant mountain stream with clear flowing water, littered with clean, smooth, rounded boulders of all sizes that are mercifully not slippery underfoot. You can't help noticing the 4000 foot mountains rising on the horizon in almost every direction. Likewise, the many vacation homes and condos near Loon Mountain are hard to ignore, but parts of the run still feel remote and pristine.

I don't recall ever running the EBP as low as is was yesterday (750->700 cfs), but it was plenty challenging, dropping - as it does - 70 feet per mile for 6 miles, with innumerable small and medium sized holes to toy around with, and a handful of large holes to try and avoid. In Eric's honor I paddled the Outrage (OC1), and only truly once had a boatful of water (no swims). I wish I could say the same for Eric, but he still had a good time and would do it all over again, I'm sure. Early in the day I commented that the inflatable kayak with Eric at the helm seemed like a perfect match for the EBP, but as the day progressed its penchant for sticking to rocks, wrapping around rocks, and getting sucked into retentive holes helped Eric justify his audacious ice cream cone (a "small") at Big Cones in Wells River. Order a large at your own peril!

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