Map 1 - The Connecticut Lakes

Welcome to the Headwaters region of the Connecticut River. Over 400 miles from the sea, the river is wild and cold, with trout to match. The Connecticut rises in tiny Fourth Lake, accessible by a footpath along the US/Canadian border and then through protected land. Which of several outlets actually becomes the river depends on the mood of resident beaver. Third, Second, and First Connecticut Lakes are next in the chain, offering fine, deep habitat for a renowned fishery that includes landlocked salmon and lake trout. A stiff breeze can raise a strong chop, so be careful if you are canoeing on a windy day.

The infant river is too small for navigation between the upper lakes. Watch the roadside wallows on your travels along Route 3, known as Moose Alley.

Enjoy the Common Loons, which nest throughout the region, from a distance. Get too close, and you could disturb the adults or threaten their young. If a loon starts to repeatedly dip its bill, splash in the water, or flash its white belly in your direction, back off. Artificial nesting islands set up on some of the lakes help loons raise their chicks away from nest predators and secure from water level changes. Keep your wake low near these structures, and respect warning buoys. Lead sinkers have been banned in NH to protect waterfowl like loons, which suffer from lead poisoning after ingesting them. Loons need their privacy, but aren’t shy about contributing to the night music of the lakes. To learn more about loons, contact the Audubon Society of NH’s Loon Preservation Committee at 603-476-5666.

The four Connecticut Lakes are natural impoundments along the river, although hydro dams have raised the levels of First and Second Lakes. Lake Francis was created in the 1940s to provide flood control. The three-mile stretch of river between First Lake and Lake Francis is expert canoeing and kayaking water only. Be aware of water releases from the dams. Thanks to a 1998 agreement with the hydro power company, some 3000 acres surrounding the lakes are now permanently protected from development and will continue to provide the beautiful backdrop and clean waters you find today.

These pristine lakes deserve the utmost respect from boaters. If you have brought your boat from out of state, wash it carefully to avoid introducing aquatic exotics to the river system. For more information, see introduction.

 

Map 2 - The North Country

The river drops 400 feet between Murphy Dam at the foot of Lake Francis and the N. Stratford/Bloomfield bridge, a distance of some 35 miles as the trout swims. For the most part, this is canoe, kayak, and wader water.

This section of the river is too narrow for travel over headway speed, and is often too shallow for any motorized boating. Shallow drafted boats will find the river easier going between the Route 2 bridge and Gilman Dam. If you do use a propeller, please do not create a wake: riverbank washing into the water adds sediment which covers trout spawning habitat. Avoid climbing on eroding banks.

Please ask landowner permission, if you cross private land to reach the river, and treat the land as carefully as you would your own. Carry out what you carry in. Leave crops and standing grass undisturbed, and close pasture gates behind you. Leave your vehicle where it will not obstruct access to farm fields or equipment.

The breached dam at Lyman Falls, 8 miles below the Columbia covered bridge, is a place to pull out and scout ahead. The falls can often be run on the NH side, but plan on a portage if your skills or the water level aren’t up to it.

Wild brook trout are one of the Upper Connecticut’s many treasures. Fishermen should know about the catch-and-release section (use barbless hooks) designated from a point 250 feet below Lyman Falls to 1600’ above the N. Stratford/Bloomfield bridge. For more on fishing, refer to the introduction.

The river’s exceptional natural beauty here was recognized by an act of the New Hampshire legislature in 1992: the seven mile stretch of the Connecticut from the mouth of Wheeler Stream to the c. 1885 steel truss bridge between Stratford and Maidstone is the only segment of the Connecticut River officially designated as “natural”. No motors may be used on this section. Propellers don’t stand a chance here anyway, and the spectacular view of the Percy Peaks is best enjoyed at a paddler’s leisurely pace.

In the section from Stratford to Gilman, the river shifts from quick water to meandering across a valley of rich soils, taking shortcuts during high water and creating oxbows. In at least one place, a Vermont farmer can watch the sun set over New Hampshire. The natural valley flood storage offered by the open lands near the river helps prevent flooding downstream.

The breached Wyoming Dam at the Guildhall/Northumberland bridge is dangerous and should be portaged on the Vermont side.

 

Map 3 - Moore Reservoir

Below the Gilman Dam, the river is too shallow for motorized boating until it spills into the vast and beautiful expanse of Moore Reservoir. Impounded by the massive 178’ high Moore Dam, Moore Reservoir at 3500 acres is actually New Hampshire’s fourth largest lake, and its largest undeveloped lake. Thanks to a recent agreement between the hydro power company, federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and the CRJC, the reservoir will stay that way, to remain open for wildlife habitat, water quality protection, and public recreation. The state line is inundated here, and much of Moore Reservoir is actually Vermont waters.

Moore Dam, completed in 1957, is the largest conventional hydro station in New England, and has a generating capacity of 192 megawatts. In addition to its many access ramps and picnic areas around the reservoir, USGen New England maintains a visitor center on the NH side of the dam, which is open Thurs.-Mon. from Memorial Day - Columbus Day.

During the boating season, expect that water levels could vary up to nine or ten feet. Watch for changes in water level: call toll free 1-888-FLOFONE (1-888-356-3663). Make no mistake about underwater boating hazards. The water level fluctuates as power is generated, and may bring logs, shoals and rocks within propeller range. Boaters should give as wide a berth to shallows and submerged rocks as they do to canoeists and other small craft. Wind-driven waves, boat chop, and floating debris can also be a threat on this big piece of water. If you don’t know the area, use special caution.

Anglers will find trout, northern pike, land-locked salmon, pickerel, perch, and bass. Don’t be surprised to find an osprey or a bald eagle fishing, too.

Boaters can help keep the Moore experience a good one by practicing “carry in / carry out” and parking responsibly..