It’s true, Stand Up Paddling is mostly considered a summer sport. After all, nobody wants to take a tumble into frigid waters. But just because Fall is officially here, you don’t have to pack away the SUP board yet. In fact, this just might be the best time of year to paddle. If you have never taken a river tour on your board, now is the time. The Saco River near North Conway, New Hampshire, provides some excellent paddling to see mountains, foliage, and wildlife. This stretch of waterway is normally packed with tourists during the summer, but from now until Columbus Day, it’s practically deserted.
Even if you own your own board, your best bet is to rent from one of the local shops. During this time of year, the river is quite low in some spots, and you risk dinging your board on the rocky river bottom. Best to use one of their beater boards. We did this paddle last year on Columbus Day weekend for a few hours on our way into Jackson, NH, and rented from Saco Bound, located on Route 113 in Conway. They had decent boards with good floatation so our feet did not get wet, an important factor since the water had already gotten a bit chilly. The cost was pretty cheap, and of course included a pick up at the exit point. They have pull out locations at three and six miles. However, if you are committed to taking two vehicles and using your own gear, then you can put in at the Canoe Launch on Meetinghouse Hill Road in Conway, NH, and take out at either Weston’s Beach (6 miles) or Swan’s Falls Campground (9.5 miles) in Fryeburg, Maine.
Because the river is low at this time, there are plenty of spots to stop and eat lunch on the exposed sandbars. But there are also plenty of deep holes in the river, and if you have a New Hampshire fishing license, make sure to take your tackle. We continuously saw schools of trout swimming under the boards whenever passing over the deeper areas. The kayakers that we met on the ride back to town didn’t see any because of the lower vantage point. A quick pull off into the shallows and you can cast straight into the money spots.
It just can’t be said enough. This is the best time of year to get out there on the Saco. No bugs, no crowds, no hassle. Just plenty of open river. Go get it!