Charging forward through a wall of spray, I make a quick S-turn ducking my head away from a boulder as the drop approaches. Powerful whitewater churns 10 feet below.
Just seconds from powering through my very first Class 5 whitewater rapid, and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous. It’s a steep waterfall chute known to local kayakers as Thank You Ma’am.
The rapids are part of the upper Pemigewasset River in New Hampshire.
“You’re kayaking down THAT?!”
A 10 year old boy stares at me, eyes wide, as I peel off a popular hiking trail lugging my boat down into the forest. He’s not the only one watching. A small crowd has gathered along the covered wood footbridge above the falls.
They weren’t planning on witnessing some nutjob go over it in a kayak.
Paddling through swift-moving whitewater in a little kayak is one of my favorite adventure sports. Rafting is fun too, but with whitewater kayaking, you’re calling all the shots yourself. It’s you against the turbulent water.
Running rivers in a kayak is like riding a wild rollercoaster.
You get tossed side-to-side by waves and pushed around by strong currents, all while attempting to maneuver past boulders and avoiding dangerous river obstacles like sieves and strainers.
Testing your skills & endurance against the awesome power of nature.
Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Native American named Pemigewasset River runs 70 miles south from Franconia Notch where it meets up with another river, the Winnipesaukee.
It’s long been a favorite area for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. While a majority of the rapids are rated Class II, there are a few decent Class III, IV, and even V sections.
I actually grew up nearby in the Campton/Plymouth area, and worked a summer job that included dropping off and picking up kayakers along The Pemi (the river’s nickname).
Anytime I’m back in the area visiting family, I’ll check water levels on American Whitewater, looking forward to rain like a skier prays for snow.
I was in New Hampshire for my sister’s wedding (congratulations Lindsay!) and decided to run the river a few times. Mostly on my own, as friends & family have normal jobs that don’t allow them to go kayaking during the middle of the week!
However I did drag my sister along on the weekend to kayak a new section of the Pemi I hadn’t explored before, and we packed a few Cayman Jack Margaritas for the trip.
It rained a couple days earlier, so the river was flowing strong at over 700 CFS (cubic feet per second).
We had a wonderful day playing in the fast water under blue skies.
To celebrate our successful river run, we finished the afternoon with a few cans of that refreshing Cayman Jack margarita made with organic limes and proposed a toast… cheers to adventure! ★
(Click to watch Whitewater Kayaking – New Hampshire on YouTube)