Bearcamp River
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:Whittier Road, Tamworth
Hours:No hours posted
Fee: Free


Bathrooms: None
Water/Snacks: None

USGS Tamworth and Ossipee Lake quad

A peaceful mountain valley paddle, complete with fun riffles, deep swimming holes, and a trout-stocked river that is navigable most of summer.

Sandy beaches and a slow current make the Bearcamp River a relaxing and pleasant paddle.

This tranquil river trip combines perfect conditions for lazily paddling through a beautiful mountain valley, and swims and picnics at sandy beaches along the way. The river is stocked with trout, and we’ve seen many large ones here. This section is fairly untamed: not too many houses are in sight, and you will have to watch out for “strainers” (trees that have blown down into the river) particularly when the water is high in spring or after prolonged heavy rainfall. You can paddle a shorter trip from Whittier Road to NH 25 (option #1), a longer paddle traveling from NH 25 to Ossipee Lake (option #2), or make a full day of it by combining the trips.

Consider establishing a bike shuttle for the whole family to travel the 2.6 miles between the NH 25 take-out and the Whittier Road put-in. We’ve found that this is often our kids’ favorite part of the day! Option #2 is far friendlier for car shuttles or for adults and older kids who are comfortable biking across a busy state highway. Combining the two would require a car shuttle or a longer bike ride.

Option #1 Whittier Road to NH 25 (4.75 miles)
The river is shallowest for the first 500 yards; when we paddled it in June, we had to drag the boat over a couple of scratchy sections. The rest of river is navigable for most of summer and many deep pools make for excellent swimming on a hot day. 

The paddle is remarkably sunny, dappled with shade as you pass through the red maple and pine floodplain forest along the way. Half the fun of this paddling trip is stopping at the beaches and coves along the way. Kids get a Robinson Crusoe-like thrill when they hop off the boat on an unexplored beach for a picnic, and you’ll spend hours playing in the clean river sand, searching for treasures washed up in the last flood. Please be courteous of posted private property.

After winding past many beaches and pools, pass under a covered bridge (3.75 miles) and arrive at the take-out at NH 25 (4.75 miles). If you’re adding Option #2 to your day, continue under the bridge.

Option #2: NH 25 to Ossipee Lake (5.25 miles)
The first couple miles from the NH 25 bridge are punctuated by numerous campgrounds and cottages, but the paddling is tranquil and there are many more fine beaches and swimming holes to enjoy. Past the NH 16 bridge (3.0 miles) the river’s character becomes a bit more secluded, and there are some good picnic beaches along the winding bends. At the mouth of the river in Ossipee Lake, a popular rope swing on the right attracts paddlers and boaters for summer fun.

When the river empties into the lake, turn left and follow the shore past some tightly spaced cottages and a small cove; a sandy beach and the terminus of Nichols Road are 0.7 mile from the end of the river (5.25 miles).

Plan B:

The Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth is a real treat and the farm animals will entrance the kids. Also in Tamworth is the Lyceum, a unique combination mercantile, café, and education center; they have many weekend naturalist programs for kids and adults.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Tamworth (intersection of NH 113 and NH 113A) has a small collection of interesting local businesses, a café, and restaurants, as well as a vibrant Saturday farmers’ market. The intersection of NH 25 and NH 16 in Ossipee is your closest bet for convenient and quick food on your way south or north. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at outfitters in nearby Conway.


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