Joel St. John

Equinox Staff


Frigid rain, sleet, and water sports. Sound like fun? To a small group of whitewater enthusiasts this past Saturday it was heaven.

The New Hampshire Whitewater championships were held at Otter Brook last weekend. With the Otter Brook Dam spitting water out at 300 cubic feet per minute, the river came to life with class II and III rapids.

Racers from all over New England came to race in NH’s only downriver whitewater event sponsored by The Birch Hill canoe club and the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association.

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The race consisted of two events: a one-mile sprint and a five-mile downriver, with both races involving four different types of boats. The one-person canoe, the two-person canoe, the short kayak, and the long kayak.

With a wide variety of contestants, paddlers ranged from 15 to 70 years old, the event wasn’t short on variety.

With an emphasis on fun and safety, the event kicked off at 11 a.m. with the one-mile sprint.

While racing is fun, safety was at the forefront of the agenda. A coldwater survival crew from Vermont was present at some of the trickier parts of the river prepared with throw lines and dry suits in the event that any of the paddlers wound up in the drink.

With temperatures in the mid thirties, fast moving water is not something to mess with. Most of the contestants were wearing wetsuits and all were required to wear helmets and life vests.

The race started at the mouth of the Otter Brook with paddlers leaving at one minute intervals just a few feet from the opening of the dam. The course snakes through the woods through some sketch rock gardens. After leveling off for a few yards it goes back to rapids, and after a few more bends in the river shoots under Rocksbury road, which is the finish of the sprint race.

The five-mile downriver race continues into some quick-water and then back to class II.

The river quickly turns to class III and there is “the drop.” It’s a section of whitewater with a three to four-foot drop in the river with a very difficult line. After the drop the river turns and snakes along Route 101 and through the historic stone-arch bridge. At this point the rapids subside and the river becomes quick water, which is fast moving water without any cavitations’. The five-mile race ends at the bridge where the otter brook meets Route 12.


Joel St. John can be contacted at

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