Livermore Falls Campton, NH QRP Adventure



Livermore Falls lenticular arch bridge

Livermore Falls is just 500 feet upstream (behind me and over my left shoulder as I shot this photo) from this very rare lenticular arch bridge. It was built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company based in East Berlin, CT in 1886 for a total cost of $7,100. Wrought iron was used instead of today’s more ductile steel. This bridge employed a unique Pratt truss with bowed upper and lower iron chords. It used to have cars go across the top. There was a smaller span to the left – see postcard image below – but it was removed by a scrap dealer back in 1959. Legend has it that the scrap dealer lost a piece of heavy demolition equipment taking down the smaller east span. As that section fell into the abyss, the machinery tumbled down into the gorge. The contractor then abandoned the job and the main span still stands to this day. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter.

The hot temperatures today gave me a chance to do a much-needed outdoor radio adventure with Jim, W1PID at the stunning Livermore Falls located in a deep gorge of metamorphic rock sliced in two by the Pemigewasset River.

Livermore Falls Features the Pumpkin Seed Lenticular Arch Bridge

Livermore Falls are located within the town limits of Campton, New Hampshire in central New Hampshire. Travel north out of Plymouth, New Hampshire along the west side of the Pemi as the locals call it, and you’ll most probably hear them.

livermore falls map

I’m re-roofing my house and it’s so hot on the roof after 10 a.m. when the sun’s out, I’ve decided for my own safety and sanity to work early morning and late afternoon unless it’s cloudy. Today was a therapeutic day of outdoor radio for the soul.

Livermore Falls is a great spot for young people who come to swim and swing from a long rope tied to an old rusty bridge splashing into the cool deep water of the Pemi as locals call it. You can see the normal water flow and tranquil nature of the river after it flows under the bridge in the photo at the top of this article.

pumpkin seed bridge livermore falls

Here’s an old postcard photo of the famous pumpkin-seed bridge. The photo was taken south of the bridge. You can see the secondary lenticular shorter truss that extends to the east shoreline. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

However, the Pemi can transform into a raging beast when a hurricane or monster Nor’easter produces vast amounts of rain in a short time. Watch the video just below to see why you’d not want to be near Livermore Falls when this happens. This footage was captured on the morning of October 30, 2017 just after a monster Nor’easter lashed all of New Hampshire.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This video was shot standing at the exact same spot as I was standing when I shot the photo at the top of this article. Pay close attention to the water flowing through the rampart notches in the foundation of the old mill around 0:10 to 0:13. Then go up to the photo and look at the same notches in the lower right of the photo. My guesstimate is the river was 20 feet higher, or more, than what it is at normal flow.


Livermore Falls

You know if this bridge could talk it would have scores of great stories. Imagine what it could say about some of the times the river was raging below trying to sweep the iron away.

Today I was fishing for some DX above the frothy water and barely avoided a skunk even though the 20-meter band was pulsating from dead to alive much like blobs float around in a lava lamp.

Jim set up in the sun about 100 feet away in the hot sun under his new dipole antenna. With his multi-band Elecraft KX3 he worked Russia, Israel, and Italy. I was restricted to 20 meters because I couldn’t get my par EndFedz antenna up as high as I would have liked to take advantage of its 40-meter extra length.

The KX3 gives you so many possibilities with its built-in tuner.

The KX3 gives you so many possibilities with its built-in tuner.

When I first powered up my trusty HB-1B the band was dead. I mean no breath, no signals, no nothing dead-on-arrival DEAD. My radio, on it’s best day, puts out a meager five watts. This is the upper threshold of low-powered radio, better known as QRP.

If you decide to do outdoor QRP radio, you discover in short order that to be successful you need some luck and patience. Today I was looking for a little help from the sun since it wasn’t scalding me on my roof. I needed it to energize the atmosphere just right to help me make a contact or two or three.

But that’s the fun of outdoor radio. You don’t know what you’ll get and so much depends on things you can’t control. This is what makes a completed QSO that much more fulfilling.

I tuned up and down 20 meters and all of a sudden while at 14.060 I heard the faintest CQ being called.

It was Roger, K3RNC from Maryland. He answered me back. After exchanging RST reports, I gave him a generous 359 and he have me a 559, I told him I was QRP.

His response, “QRP ALSO.”

How cool was that?

Here I am moments after my QSO with Roger in Maryland. TNX Roger!

Here I am moments after my QSO with Roger in Maryland. TNX Roger!

After my QSO I walked up to tell Jim and he was busy working a station. He then got up and came down and put his arm around me.

“What’s that for?” I asked because it’s rare for us men to show affection.

“I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you made a contact. It’s a fantastic day here,” he replied with a huge grin on his face.

It’s has been an odd spring this year with me gone to Antigua and then coming back working on my roof. What I thought would be lots of outdoor radio days this season has turned into just an outing here and there for me.

I enjoy Jim’s company and I know he does mine even if I still have pitiful slow CW skills. It’s no matter. I’m getting better and I’m having fun. He’s always told me to focus on fun, but keeps saying I’ll have more fun if I’m faster.

Only time will tell, but it ain’t talkin’. Who knows better than Kenny Chesney.

I love everything about Livermore Falls. My college degree is geology and seeing very hard rock resist the cutting action of running water for thousands of years is almost as exciting as making a contact pulling faint radio waves from the ether.

This kind of beauty surrounds Jim and I in NH. We're so lucky to live here.

This kind of beauty surrounds Jim and me in NH.  Livermore Falls are right there in the center of the photo where the green chainlink fence ends. We’re so lucky to live here. You can see how high the water can get looking at the dead tree impaling the fence and the driftwood above it.

Before I set up, I decided to take a walk to the base of the bridge where it connects to the earth. I wonder how many drivers would go over the bridge again a year ago if they saw how one of the primary piers was supported on stacked slabs of granite!

Livermore Falls bridge

There’s no substitute for gravity and friction. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

It’s easy to forget how blessed I am being able to drive just 30 or 45 minutes from my house to countless gorgeous scenic outdoor locations here in New Hampshire.

My guess is tens of thousands of other operators across the world would jump at the chance to do what Jim and I do. I remind myself after each outing to never ever take this beauty for granted.

I’ll do my best to chronicle and share each scenic outdoor adventure with you as they happen. If you have a chance to get outdoors, do it. It’s a completely different amateur radio experience.

7 thoughts on “Livermore Falls Campton, NH QRP Adventure

  1. Tim, loved seeing the natural beauty that you get to enjoy.
    Lost my dog Shasta on the 8 of April and that nature reminded me of her, running and smelling. I hope some day that I’ll have another, as I hope you do. I know you and a dog would enjoy that together.

  2. Ah, the Pumpkin Seed bridge. The short span did not collapse, it was pulled down by a dozer. I work with someone whose family used to own the adjacent property and he had many interesting stories about the bridge and falls.

    • Karen,

      I don’t need bear spray. I can run quite a bit faster than Jim and I’ve hidden a few pieces of chocolate in his backpack. 😉

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