Is the Merrimack dangerous

For those of you in the know, would you consider the parts of the river in the Methuen-Merrimack stretch SAFE to kayak in this time of year and into April or so. I ask because I have had very little interest in kayaking in general until last year BUT have worked in the area in EMS for several years and have gone to many a call about missing/drowning/in the water kayakers/canoeists this time of year. Now, given that we only get called when something went wrong, do those of you who know the area consider it safe for a yak or am I just asking for trouble? There may be thousand of people paddling around out there and I’d never hear about it unless one of them fell off.

It can be dangerous.
Like any body of water there is some risk involved. I know at the mouth where it empties into the ocean there is a very strong current which is very dangerous. FishHawk

Don’t Know About That Far South
We run the Merrimack from the headwaters to Sewalls Falls above Concord, NH. This year it is frozen over but there have been years where we run it every month of the year. As with any cold water paddling caution needs to be taken and we usually have 3 of us who go in case of an accident.


spring flood
This time of year the current can be very fast.

The definition of “safe” is …
…dependent on padler skill and paddler preparedness. I paddled what I would now consider a very “safe” river many years ago, but this was before I had a clue what I was doing. By the luck of the draw, I ended up paddling solo in a tandem aluminum canoe, and I pinned that boat in a strainer. Only the unusually warm water and the help of friends kept that situation from becoming dangerous, but had it been different sort of collision with a different sort of strainer, it concievably could have been fatal.

Nowadays, I’d never run into such an obstacle, but this time of year you need to think about cold water no matter how easy the paddling conditions. Even a good paddler in easy conditions will occassionally find some “dumb excuse” to tip over, so one should always be prepared for what happens if you end up swimming in cold water.

If you have to ask, don’t go. I mean no
disrespect, but you should know it is safe for you by means of your own discovery. No other person should tell you it is safe for you. If you have doubt, consider hiring an instructor/professional to paddle and work with you to discover this answer. Bill

Methuen, below the dam?
Are you talking below the dam in Lawrence?

If so I’d say the biggest danger now is inexperienced folk in cold water. That’s the same hazard as in the local lakes except the Mac is likely to be open sooner.

To the best of my knowledge there are no rapids or features on that stretch that would make it more dangerous than lots of other local rivers.


aw man
thought this was going to be a topic about Ironclads!!

is she dangerous?
The Minnesota thought so. To the Monitor, not so much, only hard to hit.

Yeah thats what i was thinking