Celebrating Protection of the Ammonoosuc River Forest

Anna Berry | July 12, 2022
A group of staff and community members pose at the entrance to the Ammonoosuc River Forest.

The opening day at the Ammonoosuc River Forest. (Photo: Carrie Deegan)

From concept to completed trail, the new angler access trail at the Forest Society's Ammonoosuc River Forest officially opened on Saturday, July 9 in Bethlehem.

A forest society staff member stands on the new trail.
The newly constructed trail at the Ammonoosuc River Forest. (Photo: Andy Crowley)
The trail was built to provide access for fishing the Ammonoosuc River on a sustainable path, which provides access but limits environmental impact from visitors.

Landowners Dick and Nancy Gould generously sold 273 acres along 1.8 miles of the Ammonoosuc River in December 2020 to Forest Society at a price of only one-third of the land’s full value, enabling the permanent conservation of the property. The Ammonoosuc (“small narrow fishing place” in Abenaki) is one of the largest rivers in the northern White Mountains, originating in Lakes of the Clouds on Mt. Washington’s western slope and flowing westward to meet the Connecticut River in Woodsville. With scenic vistas and key cold-water fisheries in its upper reaches, the Ammonoosuc River is home to wild brook trout, as well as rainbows and browns. 

Visitors to the Ammonoosuc River Forest walk to the river.
Visitors to the Ammonoosuc River Forest walked to the river on the opening day. (Photo: Carrie Deegan)
Funding for the project included contributions from from the NH Land & Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the NH Fish & Game Department’s Fisheries Habitat Account, the NH Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation & Enhancement Fund, and “Moose Plate” funds provided by the NH State Conservation Committee. Trout Unlimited and its members also played a key role by providing more than $60,000 in direct support.

Visitors looked at the view by the Ammonoosuc River.
Blue bird skies for opening day at the Ammonoosuc River Forest. (Photo: Carrie Deegan)
The new reservation, the Forest Society's 191st, consists of two sections: 80 acres on the north side of the river, abutting Route 302, and 193 acres on the south side of the River, abutting the White Mountain National Forest. The upstream end of this forested property starts at the Carroll/Bethlehem town line, just upstream of the NH Fish and Game angler access parking area on Route 302, about two miles west of Twin Mountain. The property runs downstream from there for 1.8 miles, with frontage on both sides of the river for 1.1 miles of that distance.  

The recreational value of the property is significant above and beyond its well-known trout fishery. The land includes an established snowmobile trail (“Twin Mountain Connector”) running through the property’s southern section and then into the White Mountain National Forest. Many kayakers and whitewater canoeists delight in this stretch of fast water each spring. Great views of the Presidential and Franconia Ranges are visible from trails within the property, and also from Route 302, where over a mile of undeveloped frontage provides a scenic buffer along this designated “New Hampshire Scenic Byway.” This project also protects local drinking water supplies due to the significant sand and gravel aquifer underlying the property and supplying water for nearby homeowners with on-site wells. It also protects historic features of the old Boston & Maine Railroad bed, whose culverts are made of massive, hand-cut, granite beams.

Haystack Brook, which flows northerly through the property and into the Ammonoosuc River, provides high-quality habitat for eastern brook trout, both as a refuge from high main stem temperatures in the summer and also as spawning ground in the fall.

“Trout are great indicators of the health of our rivers, lakes and ponds,” stated Art Greene, Ammonoosuc Chapter representative for Trout Unlimited (TU) New Hampshire, when the property was protected in December 2020. “The conservation of this river frontage is significant for the protection of wildlife and water quality. TU is honored to have played a part in conserving this valuable land, not only for our anglers, but for all outdoor enthusiasts.”

Trout Unlimited members, community leaders, and Forest Society staff celebrated the opening of the trail together at the forest on July 9.