Conn. River trip: Wells River to Cornish, 70 miles

Fri July 16: Daughter Macey drove Tom and I up to wells river after work. Launched at the Wells river-Woodsvill Access just south of the bridge. (mile 268 as referred to in the Conn. River Boating guide). We had supplies for 2 nights camping. I was in my 12.5 foot Psunami kayak, tom in a 14.5 foot Perception Kayak, each with 2 storage hatches. River level was at 2800cfs at Wells river gauge. Note; we spotted Tom's vehicle down in Cornish, 69 miles away.

Took off at 8 pm. Hit quick water and riffles/class 1 rapids that were easily done even in moonlight, but were exciting just the same. Ran two hours and started looking for a place to camp. Couldn't find anything, both sides banks ver tall and muddy, and mostly had cornfields above them. Finally at 11pm, we found a place we could pull the boats out and access some woods around mile 259 on the Vt side. hung our hammok tents in the trees and were in bed at midnight. Did 9 miles in 3 hours that night.
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Sat july 17: Up early because sunrise directly on our tents. Cooked bacon and eggs on a small campfire and got underway by 8am. Beautiful morning mist on the water till 10am, then beautiful warm sunny day. Had decent current helping us along, and slight breeze behind us. Made good time, had lunch in Orford at noon (mile 329). Pulled out under bridge NH side and walked to the general store. also bought batteries there. Across the bridge in Vt is a town, Fairlee, with many more stores and such. spent the afternoon looking for places to get out and swim since it was quite warm. not so easy as you'd think- finding a beach or non-mud and weedy place to get out of a kayak and swim off the shore. ended up stopping at boat ramps along the way. Passed under Thetford bridge (rt 1130 around 3:30 and the Ompompanoosuc River around 4. at 5 pm we pulled out at a beautiful high pine knoll campsite right across from the the Ledyard Canoe Club (mile 219). Sunk two beers in the water to cool them off, and soaked 6 ears of corn to be cooked in the ashes of a fire later. (Note: we actually brought the corn ourselves, but could have picked it anywhere we wanted all along this entire trip.) Much to our surprise, a busload of people showed up across the way for a wedding reception, so we had free musical entertainment from across the river till 11pm. We were quite tired after paddling 40 miles, but sat up near our fire and listened till 11, then crashed.
Sun July 18th. Overcast all day, no more being fried in the sun. woke up at 7am and underway at 8:15. cruised by the Gilman Island campsites around 9:30. Beautiful part of the river, reminded me of lake George islands with rock shorelines and overhanging pine trees. Would be a great place to camp.
Made Wilder dam portage by noon and hauled the two boats together (5 rest stops) about a quarter mile around the dam on a well marked portage trail, NH side.
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Reached Sumner falls around 1:30. Scouted it out and decided to go for it. A little background- neither of us had ever run rapids in a loaded touring kayak before, its nothing like an empty white water boat. And neither of us had run Sumner falls before, but we figure that low water, warm day, and near the end of our trip was as good a time as any to learn what we could or could not do with these boats. So, from the portage head on the VT side, got out in the current and rode a toung that slanted toward the middle, putting us in a fast moving, bumpy class 1-2 run right down the middle of the whole area, avoiding the main falls area to the right. We had to keep fighting to stay left so as not to go over the drop to the right. Ended up making it safely to a beach on the NH side, maybe 3 or 4 hundred yards. But from there, we could see another 100 stretch of white water that you can't see from the portage side vantage points. This run ends in a real bumpy drop that is riddled with standing waves and rocks. I went first, made it all the way to the last 4 feet, hit a rock and went over. No big deal, floated into quieter water and dragged my boat out.

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My buddy Tom didn't want to try this section, so I took his boat and tried again. This boat, the 14 footer, was definetly not made for white water. I went over halfway down the stretch, had enough time to climb up the back of the boat and ride it through to drop at the end, half hanging off.
Lesson learned: Portage Sumner Falls.
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As soon as we set out from recovering from the non-portage, I snapped my paddle in half while paddling a normal stroke. This being a recent purchase of a $300 light weight Accent paddle. Lessons learned: carry a spare paddle. Had to paddle canoe style with half a paddle for the last 6 miles down to our waiting car in front of the cornish Covered bridge (mile 1990) Pulled out of a mere 20 mile day at 3:30pm. Home in amherst Ma. by dinner at 6! Great trip!!

Starting Location: 
Wells river VT
Days On The River: 
2
Hazards: 
No hazards this trip. The portage trail around Wilder dan is a bit rough at the bottom end. Took a bad tumble over a log and some rocks down there.