We decided to mix up hiking with a little paddling on the Androscoggin River and as we pulled into the take out at Gilead, the shuttle drivers from Bethel Outdoors we already waiting for us. We loaded our gear into their truck and headed up to the put in just below Shelburne Dam in NH.
We had previously paddled the southerly section from Gilead to Newt’s Landing, so we began to pepper the drivers with questions. They did their best, giving non-descript answers until finally admitting that not many people did the section we were about to do and they really didn’t know much about it. All they could assure us was that there was enough water. Given the ongoing drought, and their previous confession we weren’t’ even convinced of that.
After a quick lunch we launched the kayaks. The put in area looks like it has recently been reconstructed as a fishing access point. There is a steep downhill carry (on wood chips) to the river and putting in was tricky. The current was very strong, even at the low water level and a strong wind was at our backs. In the first two miles we came upon several sections of class 1 rapids. They were fun, no technical paddling skills required, just paying attention
Most of the decisions involved which side of various island and sandbars to paddle on. We chose well on all but the last. We saw no other kayakers, no people on shore and only a couple of houses. There were not even paths down to the water or rope swings. Around every curve in the river a new mountain hove into view. Except for the sound of the occasional truck on Route 26 it felt like complete wilderness.
The wind remained at our back and pushed us along at a nice pace. At one section the river turns briefly to the north and we found ourselves paddling upwind. It felt like paddling up a rapid – even with the current in our favor we could barely make headway. It was a short stretch and we were soon through it, but decided it would be foolishness to ever attempt this section of the Andro with a headwind.
We soon arrived at the confluence with the Wild River. Four people were fly fishing on river right, so we stayed river left to give them room. Just then the river broadened and shallowed and a split second later we saw that the take out was ahead on river right. There was a section of fast moving water against the far bank, which I assume is the correct route, but we had no choice but to head into the shallows. Both of us quickly grounded. J managed to push through. I split my paddle but still had to eventually get out and walk the kayak to deeper water.
- Distance: 9.1 miles
- Time: 3.5 hours, including .5 hour break.
- Enough water even in drought conditions.
- Nice quickwater on first half.
- Many pebbly islands and banks to stop and relax on.
- Beautiful mountain scenery.