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Sugar River in New Hampshire

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Being beginner kayakers for the most part, we tired fast of the lazy Connecticut River to our west, and headed off to the 'mid' Sugar River (flows from Lake Sunapee to the Connecticut River, through Newport, Kelleyville, and Claremont, NH)

The 'upper' section, from the Covered Bridge in North Newport to Kelleyville is reputed to have a tricky class III which we heard was rough on beginners, so we opted for the 'mid' section, from the Kelleyville Bridge (Rt. 103/John Stark Highway) down to the takeout about 10 miles down at a field below a cow farm. We did it twice, a few weeks apart, and learned quickly to get there earlier in the year with more water! The first time the level (from the Gov't site) was just about 2 1/2 foot, the second time just barely 2'. My wife and sons had little difficulty even in the flat rocky sections, while I had many times (being a rather portly 240# then) where I was 'bumping' my way along. And several times I would go the wrong way around a large rock and end up playing teeter-totter trying to get off a rock! But, knowing the water was never over our knees, except in 'pools'-we had a hilarious run. Very rocky, and some good areas we considered 'fast'. 2003 we are going out as soon as the water is around 3- 3 1/2 foot deep. Being a narrow river, more water than that and it is going to be fast and furious.

Great farm areas to go through, beautiful covered bridge to go under, and wildlife and birds all over. With higher water, we plan to go all the way to the Broad Street landing right at a dam in downtown Claremont-not 4 blocks from our house. With low water, you can't really get beyond the first takeout-the field with a cement block building and rusted old tank truck and a practice tower for the local fire department. The river starts to spread out and lots of sandbars-so we want high water for the final couple of miles. Overall, great 'beginner' experience to learn about working around rocks, how to flood your kayak and empty it (yup, it was me-twice on the same rock-now I use the skirt) and how to pick a good channel. Anytime you want, you can literally just get out of the yak and walk to the shore and take a break.

Note: Read the river height on the USG site-gauge is actually in West Claremont. Under 2 foot-forget it. Over 4 foot, be experienced and wear helmets! Many BIG rocks you won't see in high water!


Many motels and campgrounds all around-Crow's Nest south on Rt 10 in Newport nice clean family place.


Halfway between Claremont and Newport- known as Route 11 and 103, locally as the Claremont/Newport Highway or John Stark Highway. Put in at the marked parking area almost 'under' the highway bridge at the Crazy Ed's Motorsports Sales lot. Takeout is across the bridge (east) take Sugar River Drive on your right, dirt road. Take this road about 9 (?) miles or so (I'll clock it exact this sprint) and once it turns to tar, you will come into a Y intersection (from the top of the Y) with a huge cow farm on your right. (Just before this intersection you will see a mobile home park on your left in the fields and trees). Past the cow farm and through the Y, another intersection-stay to the right-and you see the parking area with a block building, no windows, and a rusty tanker and a wooden fire tower. Park on the gravel area-the takeout is down the bank-maybe 12 feet or so. Local kids swim here, and ATV's have a trail right across the river.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location