Detailed report of mile 373-248 (Canaan-Bugbee) on CT river

Starting Date: 
Friday, August 20, 2021
Starting Location: 
Canaan bridge put in
Days On The River: 

I've appreciated all the other posts that give information about the river, and rather than give a personal account of my trip, I'm hoping to give pertinent information to anyone wanting to paddle this segment of the CT. Below you'll find information about campsites, the nature of the river at significant spots along the way, and some of the portages.

First, to sum up... This was a 12-day paddle done in late Aug, 2021 when the river was reportedly as low as it's ever been--please keep in mind my experiences throughout this report are largely determined by the water level. I averaged anywhere from 7 to 17 miles a day, done in a 10.5 foot kayak (and was joined by two friends in a canoe for a few days, too). The weather was mostly quite good: dry and warm. I used a hand-made portage cart.

I put in at the Canaan bridge (mile 373), an easy access spot. The river at this point was narrow, flowing a decent pace, and it felt more like a canal than a river. For some reason, it had a southern feel.

Mile 368: Capon Brook Campsite (CS): a very pleasant spot with a cobbled sandbar at such low water. The best spots for setting up tents happen to be right where the privy is located, so the privy becomes a tad less private. There's a small bench overlooking the river and sandbar, which is nice: it's rare to find someplace to sit other than a kayak/canoe or a picnic table!

Mile 368-361: the river flows well, occasional class I. No need to walk/drag a watercraft at any points.

Mile 361: Holbrook Point CS: One of the most beautiful sites of the trip. Located on a ledge overlooking a secluded spot on the river under silver maples which still allow for a good amount of light into the campsite. There are 2-3 obvious tenting spots, the usual amenities as well. The privy is hard to find, but it's there up a side trail. Very few bugs here especially near the bluff where the table and campfire are.

Mile 359: Columbia Meadows: I didn't stay here, but from the appearance, would greatly recommend Holbrook over Columbia Meadows.

Mile 354: Around this point, the river changes fairly dramatically: while it had been flowing at a steady pace, it's now additionally cluttered with large rocks that, at low river, present a fair amount of navigation. There's some good class I that borders on II given some maneuvering needed to avoid rocks that could pin you a bit. I occasionally took on a little water from large waves.

Mile 352-350: In low water, the rocks became heavily clustered to the degree that they were no longer avoidable, and I was often getting stuck. The half mile or so above Lyman Falls (351) and for nearly a mile after Lyman, the river is nasty and frustrating; it was easier to walk through the rocks then constantly scrape bottom or be unable to find paths through them.

Mile 351: Lyman Falls: the breached dam is difficult to identify upon approach, especially in low water, but avoid river right where there is an obvious hazard of white water flowing directly into a large cement block. The dam can essentially be run at far river left (I saw a canoe do it) though I had beached just before the run to stay at the campsite located right there. No portage is really needed here. At worst, you just drag your craft a few feet around the very small drop river left.

Lyman Falls CS: A pleasant spot on NH side upstream of a small brook that enters right at the breached dam. If the site is taken, you can probably find good spots immediately (100 ft?) downriver of the dam on the VT side in the State Park (poorly signed). There are two sites, one upriver, one downriver a short walk from the access trail.

Mile 350-347: River has frequent Class I which are easily run and quite fun.

Mile 341: Maine Central Railroad Trestle CS: If possible, camp on the beach there for the CS is a good 100 yard hike up a narrow trail to a treed-in spot where there is a fire ring, picnic table, and very little space to put even one tent. The beach area definitely has that feel of being well used at night by locals though on weekdays, you'll probably be alone.

Mile 341-334: river had light current, the boulder fields gave way to pebbled beaches and sand bars as the river twists about.

Mile 334: Sam Benton CS: An awesome site. Complete with large sandbar and good swimming area, the site is up high on a bluff under a few large shade trees, but at the edge of a huge haying field. The site is extremely well kept, stocked with wood, grill, grill cleaner, toilet paper, butane lighter, hammock, solar privy--you get the picture. It's high-class camping here. There's even gas tiki torches.

Mile 326: The river becomes abruptly sluggish and wide as the Ammonousooc river joins in. It will stay sluggish for quite a while (like, to Gilman Dam, mile 302).

Mile 324: Scott C Devlin Memorial CS: We chose to skip this site and press on another 7 miles. The CS had a very hard take out (no space to dock a water craft, very steep stairs). There was about a 70-100 yard hike to the campsite, and the site was located in a pine forest that allowed in little light. The privy was right in the open oddly enough.

Mile 323: Wyoming Dam portage: It's easy to miss the stone steps on VT side, but if you go under the bridge, you've missed it. At the start the trail is narrow up the rock steps and we had to carry the kayak and canoe before putting them on carts above the stairs. The trail continued to be narrow and twisting, making it difficult to navigate the long canoe. Overall though, it was quite manageable.

Mile 317: South Guildhall CS: A small site with space for 3 tents without much privacy. The bugs were bad here. There's a picnic table and firepit, though the site is so closed-in by brush it was hard to find downed wood.

Mile 313: Beaver Trails CS: CLOSED. What remains is an RV park that didn't look appetizing.

Mile 313-302: The river continues to widen, at some points to about 200 yards, and is quite sluggish.

Mile 302: Gilman Dam Portage: An easy take out and gradual descent to the put-in. The only trick is the last 20+ yards that can't be done with a cart so that everything must be carried by hand over rocks.

Gilman Dam CS: There's camping along a large sloping field of scrubby grass that's barely maintained halfway through the portage. There's no privy here and finding a tree to hang food was exceptionally hard due to the fact they were all pine and small aspen (?). Note that unlike any other previous morning, everything was exceptionally wet with dew and I learned why: the dam's falling water puts off a huge amount of mist which I think saturated all the air nearby. Be prepared for a wet tent and fly.

Mile 299: Dalton CS: Just 1.5 miles downriver of the dam is this very nice site which is well worth going to rather than camping in the field at Gilman. It's secluded, there are the usual tables, fire pit, etc.

Mile 301-297: some bouldery and easily run class I. The river is edged with pines and rocky shores, and feels abandoned to nature. It's one of the prettier spots of the whole trip.

Mile 297: Thus starts the Moore Reservoir where the river broadens to over a half-mile wide. It's like paddling a long lake for the next 6 miles, where the winds are often from the south, making it a tough paddle.

Mile 291: Moore Dam: Look for the large portage sign on the VT side at the edge of the man-made rock wall. Take out is generally easy and the descent not too steep. HAZARD: the wooden ramp leading to a small, plastic floating dock at the put-in is not completely attached to the dock. It's easy to get a cart trapped in the gap that suddenly presents itself between the ramp and the dock. Better to avoid it and deal with the difficult, though predictable, steep incline to the beach.

Mile 290: Moore Primitive CS: At .7 miles from the dam put-in, the site is unmarked (or barely marked) and there are reports of paddlers missing it. There's essentially no landing for your craft, and an abrupt climb to the ledge. The site is perhaps half a mile upstream from I-93 and the traffic noise is constant. The site has 5 tent platforms all fairly clustered together but under an open pine forest that lets in the light. There are few trees for hanging food and one local reported bears were common. The site is easily accessible to locals. The port-a-potty is an easy walk down the trail downstream where there's a boat launch.

Mile 289: a half mile past the I-93 bridge, the river turns pleasant for the next 6 miles to Comerford Dam

Mile 283: Comerford Dam: Be forewarned, this is a horrible portage. Others have written about and have had the same experience as I. The take-out is simple and you follow a paved road over the dam itself. After a very quick walk, the signs point you down a steep, grassy incline to a narrow gully. If you choose this route, be prepared for a hazardous run. Scout it out first, then decide BEFORE leaving the paved road as returning to the road from the gully will be super hard. The portage route's grassy slope becomes incredibly steep, in fact treacherously so, especially if you're carting your craft. Below this, the path gives way to rocks which a cart likely couldn't manage. There's then some very steep stairs, etc etc. Do your scouting all the way to the put-in so you know what to expect. I was soloing at this point, and I expected my kayak and cart to slip from me and make a solo run down the black-diamond slope on its own.

There is an alternative to the above, doable if using a cart. Do not follow the portage signs. Instead, continue down the paved road for perhaps half a mile--it will descend and eventually turn and continue uphill. About 100+ yards uphill, you will see a dirt road cutting off to the right. This dirt road is quite rocky and rough, but will lead you to the put-in after a 5+ minute walk. If you're not sure about the strength of your cart, stop and check it frequently. Someone who also wrote about this portage--I only read it AFTER doing the portage myself--mentioned that his cart broke down during the rocky road descent, and my cart, too, also came apart, and needed binding with extra rope. Expect this portage to take some time. It took me 2 hours, which included a LOT of scouting different routes, and repairing my cart.

Mile 282-280: The river narrows, feels quite remote, with some quick water. It's one of the nicer paddles.

Mile 280: Stevenson CS: A small site, very shady, too much so on a cloudy day. There's a lot of poison ivy here, so be careful. The privy is falling apart, though still quite usable. The site has enough space for 2 tents cramped together over uneven and tree-rooted ground. Table and firepit as usual. Think cozy. Think small.

Mile 276: McIndoe Portage: no problem!

Mile 273: Stephan's Island CS. Stephan Is. is the 2nd of 3 islands, landing on the VT side. It's a spacious, beautiful, well kept site in an excellent spot. All the amenities. Highly recommended.

Mile 273: Fiddlehead Island CS: the 3rd of 3 islands, (southernmost), the site is unmarked on the VT side of the island, found only by an old rope swing that I'd like to think marks its former, glory days. The site is fairly overgrown. The privy was reported in the past as needing repair, but I'm sorry, I didn't check on it. Stephan's Island CS is by far the better choice here.

Mile 272: Rygate Dam and CS: The take out is at the orange safety buoys river left, not 100 yds upstream where there seems to be an obvious take-out, but LITERALLY right at the buoys. The campsite there is very nice with a shelter, firepit, etc. It looks peaceful and spacious, though you are right at the dam. The portage is easy aside for the last 20-30 yds which require a carry rather than a cart.

Mile 270-265: the river narrows, there's good swift water here, lots of quick turns and some large class I. A beautiful stretch through some narrow parts of the river which are divided up by rocky islands. One of the most interesting, different pieces of the CT.

Mile 265: Howard's Island NORTH CS: A misnomer! Howard's Island is not really an island, and not to be mistaken for the first, actual, small island 2 miles past Woodsville bridge! The far left channel that would define Howard Island as an island was non-identifiable in low water such that the NH shoreline looked uninterrupted, and thus the CS was on the NH side, not the VT side (of Howard's Island) as the Paddler Trail's site reports. The CS is well signed. The site is excellent, spacious, on the edge of a large haying field about 1.5 miles walk around the periphery. All amenities, including a large, horseshoe fire pit, a high food-hanging limb 10 ft from the picnic table, and a strange 4-foot high wooden cross that someone situated in a small alcove as if to make a private nave.

Mile 265: Howard's Island SOUTH CS: I couldn't locate this site, as another paddler wrote previously in 2017.

Mile 265-249: The river remains about 80-100 yards wide, moves slowly, but is quite pretty.

Mile 262: Horse Meadow CS: This site has numerous spaces to set up tents apart from each other. Someone has put some time into this spot, complete with the skeleton of what looks like a teepee forming around a large tree, a picnic table with a horizontal bar over it that seems like it could support tarping in the case of rain. The site is fairly shaded.

Mile 253: Vaughan Meadow CS: 1.2 miles downstream of Bedell Bridge abutment. Spacious with plenty of tent spaces. All amenities. On a bright, sunny day, the trees kept out so much of the light that it felt a bit oppressive. The mosquitoes were horrible, too.

Mile 249: Bugbee Landing. My take-out. Requires a short jaunt up the Waits River.

A general note about dams: While portaging the dams was always a pain--sometimes an incredible one in the case of Comerford--the river always seemed more remote and quiet (and quicker) for a few miles immediately downriver. These were some of the most beautiful, enjoyable spots on the route.

A few things to offer which you might not consider:

--the wonders of micro-fiber: rather than bringing a towel, I brought a small, micro-fiber wash cloth that I could use for soaping myself up, washing myself off, and then, because the towel can be so well wrung out, I could use it to mostly dry myself off. Because this fabric is both so absorbent and able to be wrung so dry, another washcloth placed on the floor of my kayak caught a ton of water that dripped in from my paddle, and could periodically be wrung out, keeping my kayak a lot drier.

--going solar: I've been using a solar powerbank recharger which has USB ports to charge my phone and GPS watch. Definitely worth taking with me and strapping on the front of the kayak to charge throughout the day.

--Food: I'm a vegetarian and I made and dried most of the food I brought. Tofu, well marinated, can be dried to leather hard, and kept fine for the 2 weeks. Quorn fake chicken dried rock hard and never rehydrated, yuk. Edamame doesn't dry well. Drying hummus is a bad idea. I craved sweet as well as sour things and anything strongly flavored--much of my foods tended to be bland and centered around nuts. Tortillas will keep at least a week and are good substitutes for crush-able bread. I brought a bag of strong-flavored potato chips, and made them last many days because they were the best treat. I wish I'd brought another bag. Next year, I'm seriously considering making turkey jerky and letting my principles slide for the sake of indulgence. Oh, and did I mention chocolate? I didn't bring any. What was I thinking?

--Stove: if you're soloing, I can't recommend the Lightweight Backpacking Solo Stove enough. You use only the smallest bits of wood you find, (and pilfer any leftover charcoal from an old campfire to keep a slow burn going), and it's incredibly practical, efficient, lightweight, easy, and quickly cooks for one person. It's the best piece of equipment I own. I actually carry a small tuperware of charcoal, a sheet of newspaper, and a ziploc of small sticks so that even a few days' of rain won't prevent an easily cooked meal.

--Clothes: besides the usuals, I found wool socks with an pair of Crocs (or any all-plastic slip-on shoe that will dry immediately and are not your water-shoes) and Merino Wool leggings were indispensable.

--Portage carts: I made my own based on someone's specs on Youtube ( It worked, but there are a lot of edits I would make to this, like, securing each PVC joint with screws to make them stronger. Comerford Dam essentially pulled the cart apart. I also had trouble with the wheel binding when the washer caught on the innertube nipple causing the threaded axle to corkscrew itself so tightly into one of the wheels that I had to hike out to a visitor's center to seek tools to repair it. (Good thing I brought extra cotter pins.) In retrospect, I think it would be safer (i.e. wouldn't wreck your trip if your cart falls apart) to buy a portage cart that has a good track record.

That's about it. Have a great trip. Hope this was helpful!

Be safe, and leave everything better than you found it.

Stewardship needs: 
Stevenson: privy repairs. No signage: Moore Primitive and Fiddlehead Is. ME Trestle RR: needs clearing for even one tent spot. Update Comerford portage to incl alt route by dirt road. Moore Primitive: difficult to access. Thanks!