updated 10/17/2006 6:49:18 PM ET 2006-10-17T22:49:18

Like many Bostonians on weekends, the Contoocook River flows north, fleeing city life for farmlands and woods and finding special solace in the golden hue of fall foliage season, when the oak, maple, and birch trees begin to turn. And like some Commonwealth dwellers, the 'Took can also be pushy and volatile, thanks to the rapids around the towns of Jaffrey and Henniker. This personality mix makes the New Hampshire waterway, at 71 miles long, a favorite among New England paddlers.

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For a calm nine-mile journey, start in Concord, from where the Contoocook River Canoe Company will shuttle you and your crew to the put-in, near rolling pastures and a covered railroad bridge, at Contoocook Village in Hopkinton. The river winds through thickly forested areas where yellow and red leaves flutter from the trees in autumn; in summer, water temperatures of 70-plus degrees Fahrenheit and softly sloping riverbanks create ideal picnic and swimming areas.

You can also cast for the largemouth bass and pickerel that call the Contoocook home, and there's a good chance of catching rainbow trout near the mouths of the smaller Warner and Blackwater Rivers. (Deer, fishercats, and foxes also inhabit the area.) Two miles before the take-out at the Canoe Company's shop, stop at Daisy Beach, in 500-acre Lehtinen Park, for a hike or a swim. You're in the city of Concord, but urban chaos is still far away.

Scott Underhill

When to go: September and October are prime leaf-peeping months, but plan to take extra clothing for the plunging temps.

Quick info: Contoocook River Canoe Company (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) at or (603) 753-9804.

Text message to get river flow Data: CKCON to

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