Connecticut River and Gilman Island
GOOD FOR: All Ages
RATING:


Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:East Wilder Road, Lebanon, NH
Hours:Sunrise to sunset
Fee: Free to paddle and camp; contact Ledyard Canoe Club for cabin and canoe rental fees
Contact:

Lebanon Recreation and Parks (boat launch), 603-448-5121, recreation. lebnh.net; Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail, connecticutriverpaddlerstrail. org/node/312; Ledyard Canoe Club (canoe rentals and Titcomb Cabin), (603) 643-6709, dartmouth.edu/~lcc/main/home
 

Bathrooms: Portable toilet on Gilman Island
Water/Snacks: None
Map:

USGS Hanover quad; Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail Waterproof Recreation Map and Guide (Wilderness Map Company)
 


A short and easy paddle on the Connecticut River leads to an idyllic island complete with camping, a rope swing, and great wildlife viewing.

The mighty Connecticut River flows 410 miles from its headwaters near the Canadian border, along the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, through Massachusetts and Connecticut, and eventually into Long Island Sound. In the Upper Valley, the river is serene, flat, and dotted with campsites, making this section perfect for families.

This trip is a favorite because of the ease of the paddling, the great campsite on Gilman Island, and close proximity to Norwich’s Montshire Museum of Science and the fun college town of Hanover, New Hampshire (see Plan B). The river creates the boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont and access is available from both shores; our preferred access point for this paddle is from the New Hampshire side of the river.

From either put-in, head north up the river. The water is flat here, with no discernible current, as the Wilder Dam just downstream creates a long and narrow lake. On your way to Gilman Island, hug the forested eastern shoreline. You may spot turtles in the sun or even a bald eagle flying overhead. The riverbanks east and west are both protected, so you will never guess that you are less than a mile from bustling towns and an interstate.

The 7-acre Gilman Island is within 1.0 mile of the boat launch and is a perfect spot to stop for a picnic or a swim. Owned and managed by TransCanada, the energy company that manages many of the dams along the Connecticut River, Gilman Island is open for recreational use and now boasts a campsite at the southern end of the island. With ample tentsites, fire rings, and a worldclass rope swing, this place is a little piece of paradise. Pack along your tents, sleeping bags, and provisions and plan to stay for a night or two. The camping is first-come, first-served, but there is plenty of overflow space if a group is already there. There is also a small island directly across from Gilman that has space for one family to camp. Gilman Island is also home to the cozy Titcomb Cabin, built by the Dartmouth Outing Club and available for rent to the public; contact the Ledyard Canoe Club for reservations.

From Gilman Island, return the way you came or paddle north as far as you’d like to continue exploring this peaceful section of river.

Plan B:

Paddle another 0.5 mile north from Gilman Island, underneath the Ledyard Bridge to the Ledyard Canoe Club on the east shore. The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont, boasts hands-on activities, wildlife exhibits, a freshwater aquarium, and many special events and programs. Though it’s easy to reach by car, you can paddle to the museum from Gilman Island.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Both Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire, offer a wide array of dining options including pubs, ice cream stands, and farm stands.



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