As you might have noticed, I like finding and exploring conservation land. Something I’ve been toying with is a project on nature preserves in New England, with a focus on New Hampshire. It seems many towns in the state, and particularly in the southern portion, are actively setting aside wild spaces. Some are doing it on their own (and for quite a while), but some are working together and with independent conservation groups to acquire and preserve natural habitats for both wildlife and humans. This is my first post in what I hope will be a continuing series about these wild areas. Whenever possible, I’ll link to maps and other information about the properties as well as give directions and any ‘gotchas’ or peculiarities I noticed either getting to or spending time there. Wish me luck and any feedback on this project is absolutely welcome. I may break it off from this blog eventually and put it on its own, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.
Although a lot of the terrain in Southern New England is similar, most green spaces have been set aside to preserve some distinct feature or group of features. Some are done to cushion sensitive ecosystems and the KNA is part of the Piscataquog watershed and comes under the auspices of the Piscataquog Land Conservancy. I can’t tell you how many times I must have driven right by the sign and parking area getting to Clough State park or the Everett Dam. Even when I was looking for the entrance, I blew by it, noticing it only at the last minute and had to turn around. But if you’re looking, you will find it. You can park on the Everett Dam road or up the slight incline to the parking area under the trees. There you’ll find a typical gate and a large sign. What you won’t find are maps, trail guides or any other info about the preserve. I’d love to have those things because a couple of times I lost the trail in heavy brush and eventually it seemed to peter out altogether. In future I’d like to explore more because there is a lovely lake on the far side of the property and the streams that feed it.
This preserve is in a larger area known as the Kuncanowet Hills which generally translates as “Bear Mountain Place”. The hills stretch through parts of Goffstown and Weare which abut Dunbarton where the Kuncanowet Natural Area is located. Another construct I’ve seen applied to the word Kuncanowet is “near the long sharp places” which may refer to this chain of hills. I really love how so many of these place names are still used, even if we don’t quite know what they mean anymore.
Anyway, what I did find was typical lovely woods with the largest beaver dam I’ve ever seen. It was next to what I believe to be a naturally occurring marsh. The two are separated by a narrow strip of forest. Here’s the marsh then the beaver pond.
While on the edge of this enormous new pond, I took the time to play with reflections and came up with a semi-abstract that I think works despite the somewhat harsh light. Hey, you work with what you have, right?
Of course there are plenty of small things to enjoy in the woods and the KNA was no exception. This poor little guy zipped away from me in fright, but then let me get exactly one shot (even allowing me to change lenses!).
Indian pipe were all around in various stages and a couple of little clusters really caught me –
As I said, the trail seemed to peter out, so at the end I sat on a rock and just absorbed the stillness and quiet. Whenever I take the time to do this, the forest reveals itself to me more fully and look what I found –
I think it might be a Destroying Angel (amanita virosa), one of, if not the most, poisonous mushrooms known. Another likely candidate is amanita bisporigera which is just as deadly. Both are gorgeous though and so how could I resist a shot of it near its sheltering eastern hemlock. The background was just ideal.
So that’s my time in the Kuncanowet Natural Area (or the Kuncanowet town forest as it’s sometimes called).
How to get there –
Head for the town of Dunbarton, NH
From the NORTH take RT 13S, Right onto Mansion Rd, Left onto Evertt Dam Rd, property on left, sign well into the trees so is difficult to see, but you will spot a turn-out like area that marks the spot.
From the SOUTH do the same except you’ll turn Left onto Mansion Rd from Route 13.
If I remember correctly, the trailhead is before the official Clough State Park entrance and it is well before the Everett Dam.
Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs!