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Get Out on the Water with Contoocook River Canoe Co.

By Allison Wilson

On warm, sunny days in Concord, tourists and locals alike flock to the Contoocook River. This scenic spot is a favorite of paddlers, swimmers, fishing enthusiasts, and beach picnickers. They share its peaceful waters with a bevy of wildlife: ospreys, otters, ducks, blue herons, king fishers, beavers, and deer. Those looking for adventure on the river will find that Contoocook River Canoe Co. is a great place start.

"The section of river that we run is not fast moving and is perfect for all levels of paddlers," says Patrick Malfait, who owns the company with his wife, Lisa. "It is good for families, beginners, youth groups, and family and business outings. Our section is also deep, so even in the middle of summer there is plenty of water and customers never have to portage their boats. We also shuttle customers' personal boats."

Patrick and Lisa are self-described water people, who grew up canoeing with their families and met each other while scuba diving at Great Island Common. After they were married, they lived on the Contoocook River. Because Lisa, a professor, was home during the summers, they thought they'd try renting out canoes from their home on the river bank.

"There is not a lot of public access on the Contoocook in the Concord area so we thought we could offer this beautiful resource to others," Patrick says. "We opened our business with six canoes for rent from our beach in 1997. Several years later, we added retail to our business and shuttle service for the Contoocook and Merrimack Rivers and I left my corporate position to run our business full-time."

Today, their company has about 200 canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards for rent. Their retail business is one of the largest in New England: they carry 28 different manufacturers of canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards, as well as over 20 manufacturers of paddling accessories.

The business has expanded to include a satellite location on Glenn Lake in Goffstown on summer weekends. It also offers guided fishing trips on the Contoocook River, Stumpfield Marsh, and Turtle Town Pond; canoe and stand-up paddle board instruction; group and private courses in introduction to paddling; and rolling and rescue courses with experienced instructors.

Like their instructors, the Malfait family is very knowledgeable about the river. Patrick and Lisa's children were babies when they opened the business and, now in college, grew up working on the water with their parents.

"We all have a love for being around water," Patrick says. "We get out on the river as much as we can during the summer and often paddle in the fall season. In addition to paddling, our son loves to fish and surf and our daughter enjoys paddle board yoga."

The family also finds time to host special events at their outpost, including the New Hampshire Boat Show, Reel Paddling Film Festival, Discover Wild New Hampshire Day, and Contoocook River Canoe Co. Demo Day.

Though the winters can be long in Concord, summers on the Contoocook River are worth the wait.

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Allison Wilson is an award-winning writer and communications professional whose...

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