We put in at Granite Rd. in Wakefield. The landowner adjacent to the put-in was friendly enough, advising where the best place would be to park. From this point the river meanders through and alder swamp until it reaches the first beaver meadow. The stream was narrow, requiring single-file canoeing for most of the day. Many blow-downs were encountered. Through-passages were cut for most.
Due to the low water levels, the current was neither swift nor lazy. Views of the Green Mountains, in the first meadow, as indicated by the guide were very slim due to the overgrowth. In this area, there is still considerable amounts of alder growth. We encountered some beaver activity, but were able to drag our canoes over the low dams. The presence of the dams probably improved the paddling between, retaining enough water to sink a paddle. Be advised, the river bottom in this stretch is a mucky mess. Shorts and sneakers, or other water shoes are recommended.
Where the river enters the woods, again we encountered bigger growths of trees and consequently, more trees blocking the river. A handsaw is highly recommended unless one likes to portage around these tangles. Many pines blocked the river, but after trimming the branches, we were able to pass under most of them.
Our group covered about 5 miles the first day, finding a campsite in the Pine River State Forest. We were anxious to get off the water early, as thunder was sounding in the distance. Campsites are sparse, but pristine. We heard no civilized sounds that night.
Sunday morning, September 14, we broke camp. We scattered ashes and buried the fireplace. The spring floods should finish the job. We were in our boats by 9AM, but were soon back out, as the stretch of river between the two beaver meadows is choked with log jams. Our handsaws were no match for many of these and we began to run tight on time, so this section remains uncleared. Some of the log jams were large enough to support all 4 canoes, equipment and occupants and still have enough room to sit and break for lunch. We could see evidence of old chain-saw cutting, but it was old, probably from the clearing efforts described in the guide. Fresh keel marks can be seen on the logs. A keen-eyed paddler can find slightly worn routes through the tangles.
Through this section, and at low water levels, canoes must be walked in the rocky areas. On this day, we carried or pulled our canoes over jams approximately 20 times. Many occasions required wading in water as deep as our armpits. One must be cautious, as there are many underwater snags, invisible in the dark water. Every one of us suffered at least a few bruises and abrasions. Sturdy canoes are recommended. Fiberglass canoes will take a beating.
The second beaver meadow is in the Heath Pond Bog Natural Area (this borders the Ossipee Lake Natural Area). Short canoes have the advantage here, as the river meanders in tight curls. The corners are so sharp, I swear I went full circle and saw the back of my own head a couple of times. By the time you've finished this part, you will be proficient at ruddering, j-stroke, draws, cross draws, and probably invent a few maneuvers of your own. The views are gorgeous in this section. The river passes under a bridge which we thought was Rte. 25, but turned out not to be. In the lower portion of the river, passages were previously cut through most of the blockages, but only wide enough for a kayak to fit.
The river widens as you approach Ossipee, and the sounds of cars get louder as you approach the Rte 25 bridge. We continued past the bridge about another half mile to a spot along Hodgson Road. Like a lot of waterfront these days, no access was available onto the lake itself. We reached our take-out about 7 PM.
For a trip with diversity, scenery, a constantly changing landscape, and some interesting challenges, this is the river. Until the river is cleared of jams and strainers, a high water trip would be mighty dangerous. Constant teamwork is necessary for solo paddling, and communication is imperative. With the extreme meandering of the river, we put the estimated trip length at 20 to 25 miles. Be prepared a long two day trip.