The Lamprey River Source to Sea Paddling Camp was a success! This was our first STS Camp program on the East Coast and we’re grateful to have partnered with Seven Rivers Paddling out of Newmarket, New Hampshire. From July 8th-12th we paddled five different sections of the Lamprey River with 14 students aged 10-15. The camp followed the Lamprey River from its source in Northwood New Hampshire to the point where it reaches salt water in Newmarket New Hampshire. Along the way we learned paddling skills, learned about rivers & nature and had a ton of fun outdoors!

Research shows that the more exposure someone has to the outdoors at a young age, the more likely they are to be interested in learning about it, and feeling concern for it (Chawla 1989). The greatest influence for becoming an environmentalist is this visceral exposure to it in childhood (Chawla, 1999). We are extremely happy helping to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards through our Source to Sea youth program.

We began Day One by meeting up with students at Northwood Meadows State Park. The source of the Lamprey River is Meadow Pond, in the interior of this state park and about a 1/2 mile portage into the woods. After loading up carts with all our canoeing, kayaking and standup paddling gear for the day, we made the trek in and paddled Meadow Pond. After some paddling instruction and lunch, we paddled to the far end of the pond to explore the source of the Lamprey River. We found a tiny stream exiting the pond, barely big enough for a toy boat. That stream feeds the meadow that eventually becomes a small river. From there, the Lamprey flows about 50 miles to reach Great Bay and join the Atlantic. Every one of these kids has been on or in the Lamprey River at some point in their lives. It’s a prominent river in this area with rich history. But, none of them had ever visited the source of the river, or even knew where it was. This was an important moment for this camp as we discussed how a trickle of water becomes a large volume river in just 50 miles.

By Day Two we were becoming a team, and that was important because day two was undoubtedly our hardest day. Not our longest, not our most technical, but our hardest due to the 15+ large strainers blocking the river. Each time we reached a strainer all 17 of us would have to get out of our boats or off our boards, climb onto a tree or swim around the strainer to reach the other side. As a team we managed to haul all the boats and boards over the strainers, one at a time to reform our group on the other side. Most of these strainers fell naturally or were coerced into place by the local healthy beaver population. Once fallen, some nonprofit groups do manage the strainers for recreational boaters, but most are left in place in order to create excellent trout habitat, another important function of this river. This stretch has been classified as Wild & Scenic by our federal government and we can tell you that Yes, it is wild and it is scenic. Even though this was a physically taxing day for all, and we arrived 30 minutes late, all the kids did amazing and told us they would do it again next year.

After that long, tiring day climbing over trees, we began Day Three just below Wadleigh Falls. Day three would be our longest day, over nine miles, and included some fun whitewater along the way. Most the kids enjoyed the mild whitewater and found it challenging, but exciting. We kept a strong pace this day, knowing we had to cover some mileage and reach our destination on time. Arriving at Wiswall Dam two minutes early, the kids powered through another incredible day with great attitudes. Sadly we didn’t have time to discuss dams and fish ladders, but we spent time throughout the day talking about river dynamics, changes that happen over time and the results of human impact.

Day Four began at Packers Falls, the biggest section of whitewater on the entire trip, a stout Class III. Water levels had lowered since our scout trip and the biggest of the rapids was still big, but calming down. Opting to put-in below the rapids, we did take some time to hike up to the rapids and practice swimming them. Peter taught the entire group proper posture for floating whitewater and each student tried it a number of times. This was one of the funnest starts of the week. Eventually we made our way downriver, running two more really fun rapids in the process before reaching the ‘dead’ water above the dam in Newmarket. The last mile was slow and we took our time with a long lunch on the river bank. Once back, we would use our extra time for some well deserved swimming that the kids absolutely could not get enough of. The air was warm and so was the water – perfect swim conditions all week. On this day we noticed quite a difference in water conditions as we got closer to the dam.

Day Five came rather quickly and we were getting close to Great Bay. Launching below the dam in Newmarket, New Hampshire, we were officially in tidal influenced brackish water. We had reached the salt water and were going to race the tide out to see the bay. After the paddle we returned to Newmarket for lunch and some more swim time. Closing the day with some journaling and creative time, kids reflected back on our entire journey.

We’re proud of these students! Anika and Grey. Ben, Lyric and Abby. Annika, Addison, Thomas and Kingston. Meghan, Aurora, Elijah, Ethan and Grayson. Thank you! You are all a shining example of strong youth that set your minds to this and did it. Well done! Best Camp Ever!

Thank you to all our supporters who donated money to the Judy Jensen Memorial Fund. Judy Jensen was a founder of this program, a valued part of Rivers for Change, a talented paddler and a great friend. We miss her and will continue her legacy through this fund. For this program the Judy Jensen Memorial Fund awarded 13 scholarships to students.

Thank you to Suzanne at the Lamprey River Advisory Committee for giving us valuable advice and for being an important resource for this program.

Thank you to Cris at the Lamprey River Watershed Association for filling me with inspiration and being a great positive voice urging us forward.

Thank you to Peter Sawtell at Seven Rivers Paddling for being an awesome paddling partner all these years and for being willing to tackle this program. Thank you to assistant guides Liz, Merideth, Emma & Kate.

Jonny Boston’s provided us with delicious lunches each day and Juniper Cottage Bake Shop donated cinnamon rolls for the group. Thank you!

Our Source to Sea Camp program began three years ago on the Truckee River in California and we’re so excited it is continuing on this great river. Look forward to information on next years Lamprey River Source to Sea Paddling Camp in July 2020.

For more pics, check out the gallery on our Lamprey River Page – scroll to the bottom.

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