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Camping/Tubing in Campton NH on the Pemigewasset River
Camping in Campton and Tubing on the "Pemi"
Normally I write about the local walks or hikes that our family does but this time I thought I would share about another outing we had in July of 2012 with my Sister and our kids.
In NH there are 2 rivers that are well known as rafting rivers, the Pemigewasset and the Saco. My Sister had once stayed in a campground in Thornton that was situated along the "Pemi" (the local term for the Pemigewasset). There was a place within the campground that you could put your tube, or boat in and go down river and still be able to get out at the campground. The name of this campground is Branch Brook Campground. It is a facility that supports both tents and RV's. The sites along the river are premium sites and run about $37 a night for a tent site with electricity.
We were looking to do something with the kids without spending an arm and a leg. Since we were only staying one night we decided on the Campton Campground which is a federal campground right off of Interstate 93 at exit 28. When we were driving there, we came around a corner and there were people stopped, and out of their cars. When that happens, you know there is wildlife to look at. On the right was a small pond with a bull moose up to his belly in the water, eating the weeds under the water. The kids thought it was so cool. We could see the entrance to the Campton Campground just op on the left from here. They charge $20 a night which is pretty decent. All the sites seemed pretty level with gravel, and good sized. There was 1 flushable ladies, 1 flushable mens room, and showers available at $2.00 for 5 minutes. The fireplace had an attached grate on a hinge that we used for cooking.
There isn't a front office with this campground, just a box where you get an envelope, tear off the slip to display on your dashboard, and put your money in the envelope in put it in the drop box. There is a notice not to bring wood that is not from New Hampshire or Maine, purchasing local firewood instead as they are trying to combat invasive insects to the forest. Another thing I will note is the "Do Not Feed The Bears" notice. Also the dumpster has a locking latch, and there are notices taped to every picnic table regarding the storage of food only in your vehicle because as they put in the notices, a fed bear is a dead bear. We only stayed there one night but it we didn't see or hear any bear. You may reserve campsites in this campground as long as it is 7 days in advance, other than that it is first come, first served. We were there on a Thursday night and it wasn't even 1/2 full. When talking to the woman regarding the campground reservations, she said weekdays are generally pretty safe to show up and be able to pick a campsite.
The next day we had made reservations 48 hours in advance at Ski Fanatics in Campton for tubing / river rafting on the Pemi. We could have gotten our own tubes and floated down the river but it was worth the $15 each to rent the tube, get dropped off 2 miles upriver, and have Ski Fanatics have 1/2 hour pickups at a specified location at the end.
We took an extra blowup tube of our own that we put all our drinks, and snacks in a mesh bag and tied it to the tube. I wouldn't call this ideal because the tube we had didn't have a middle so the heavy water bottles scraped on some of the rocks we went over. About halfway through we switched the water bottles to each individuals tube. The tubes that we rented had a rope ring around the outside and our bottles had loops between the bottle and the caps so we just hung them on. We will come up with an even better system next time or just rent the floating cooler from Ski Fanatics. It's only a 2 mile stretch but it takes an average of 3 hours to float down. Because the water level was so low, it took us about 4 hours.
The water was pretty clean, although it didn't move too fast. The only live things I saw were a few tadpoles and frogs (in a rock puddle on the banking), minnows or baby fish, and a duck or two. The first half of our trip we were the only ones except for a few kayakers but this was also a weekday. I would assume that weekends are pretty busy. Once we reached the spot where the Branch Brook Campground runs along the river, it did get busier but there was plenty of room for everyone. There is also plenty of places to have a picnic lunch or just stop for a swim. We went in mid July and it seemed cold at first around 11 am but with a sunny day in the 90's it felt great.
The tubes that you can rent are large. My 9 years old had a hard time reaching the water to be able to steer the tube. That may have been partly due to the lifejacket she was given to wear which was the kind that goes around your neck and ties at the torso. You are not required to wear these but they do make you take them. It did make me feel better in case the tube got snagged on a rock, and when we weren't using them we just clipped them to the ropes on our tubes.
This goes without saying but sunscreen is very important, as is the need to reapply. Take it from a person who now has a great tan ;-)
We chose to do the tubes but they also offer kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards. With the boats they can take you upstream where there is class I and II rapids to maneuver.
If you really want do go it alone, we were dropped off at Gilcret Cottages & Motel but you could probably use google earth to locate an area to put your tubes in if someone dropped you off. We were told to exit the river at the first bridge (2 miles downstream) but you could exit just under the first bridge to the right and I saw cars parked there. Our driver also told us that you could get out at the next bridge but do not go beyond that because there is a waterfall or dam or something and that would be bad news.
The water level in a lot of places came up to my shins or up to my waist. There are a few areas that are definitely over my head even in this low water level. There were a few "rapids" that consisted of rocks not much larger than my fist but the water did pick up speed in these places. Because the water level was so low, the adults were just trying not to get stuck in these spots. Water shoes were a great addition to this trip. The rocks are somewhat slippery and you may have to pick up your tube in places dedending on the season.
This was a relaxing day on a river with family. We might even do it again this summer if the water level doesn't fall too low.
Until next time, have fun out there!