Whitewater Rafting in the heart of Lowell
Zoar Outdoor hauls their flotilla of rafts across the state and picks up the adventurous at the UMass Inn and Conference Center downtown.
Donning wetsuits, booties and helmets provided by Zoar, the group hops aboard the shuttle van and drives upstream to the launch spot, just inside the gates of the Concord River Greenway off Lawrence Street.
It’s a deceptive leisurely paddle to start with, along the back of Rahmalo’s gym. Soon enough, the water starts to churn. White crests lick the sides of the rubber raft. Just up around the bend in the river, the roar begins.
This is Twisted Sister territory.
Twisted Sister is the first set of rapids in the three quarter-mile stretch of the Concord River whitewater adventure. The best way to get through the holes of Twisted Sister is to “build up a lot of speed and power through them,” says Zoar Outdoor guide Matt Boyd.
Normally considered class III and IV rapids, this season’s lack of snowmelt and rainfall have brought the rapids down to class II’s. The final set of rapids and the locks tour was also closed the day that Howl was aboard because of low water.
No matter. Our adrenaline still races.
The Three Beauties set of rapids is where they put the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure sports’.
Boyd says, “you kind of have to come to terms with that from the get-go.”
The guides navigate the rafts back head first into the raging waters of Three Beauties, coax the water under the bow and “it’s just like surfing, only with a boat full of people.”
“It’s here that you may very well go for a swim,” Boyd says.
Rafters are offered the option of waiting on-shore while the intrepid surf the rapids but all those aboard that day opted to risk getting soaked. And you’ll see by this video, get soaked they did.
“The river is extremely clean,” says Boyd, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust who have cleaned up the sides of the river and work to preserve greenspace in the city. A portion of proceeds of these trips go directly to the LPCT.
Bucolic moments abound between the sets of rapids. Lucky rafters may see otter, snapping turtle, great blue heron, hawks, mallard ducks — even the occasional bald eagle.
But the real sights to see are some that few in Lowell have witnessed: the two beautiful bridges from the water side. The rafts pass under the Rogers Street bridge (1884) and the stunning stone arch Concord River bridge at Church Street (1858).
And when you’ve finished your run, the best part is that you hop back on the shuttle and do it all over a second time.