Press Release: Forest Society Protects 1.8 Miles Along the Ammonoosuc River in Bethlehem

December 2, 2020
Fly fishing Ammonoosuc River Forest Project SPNHF

(Photo: Tom Howe)

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

-- Excerpt from A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean, 1976, The University of Chicago Press


BETHLEHEM, N.H. (Dec. 2, 2020) — Landowners Dick and Nancy Gould have generously sold 273 acres along 1.8 miles of the Ammonoosuc River to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (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. 

Dick Gould, an avid fly fisherman, is keen about conserving the land to protect wildlife habitat, ensure clean water, and provide more angler access to the river. What he and his wife are doing also reflect some deeper motivations.

“The land, the fishing, my family, they’re all interwoven in the fabric of who we are; it’s why Nancy and I decided to conserve this land. We hope others will breathe in the air and land around them and enjoy fishing, hiking, or just sitting along the river and in the woods,” said Dick Gould.

The snow covered Ammonoosuc Forest with a frozen brook at the foreground.
The snow-covered Ammonoosuc Forest was photographed in December 2020.
The new reservation, called the Ammonoosuc River Forest, 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.

“This is such a beautiful part of the state, just down the road from our Rocks Forest Reservation,” said Jack Savage, president of the Forest Society. “This project protects a clean flowing river, wildlife and opportunities for visitors and local residents to enjoy the outdoors — it’s about ensuring a quality of life for those of us who love New Hampshire, and we’re proud to help make it possible. We’re grateful to LCHIP and all those who supported the project.”

To enhance fishing access to the Ammonoosuc River, the Forest Society plans to construct an additional parking area off Route 302, with a short trail down to an old railbed that closely parallels the river. The southerly portion of the property is accessible via town roads off of Route 3, and will have three-season parking and opportunity to get onto extensive wood roads and trails. This section of the property also borders good fishing water, and in addition provides superb habitat for upland game, deer and moose for the enjoyment of hunters and hikers alike.

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,” states Art Greene, Ammonoosuc Chapter representative for Trout Unlimited (TU) New Hampshire. “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.”

A fly fisherman casts into the Ammonoosuc River, surrounded by vivid fall foliage.
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. (Photo: David Pushee, Pemigewasset Chapter of Trout Unlimited)
“In addition to the Goulds’ generous sale price, many organizations and individuals came together to complete the fundraising effort,” said Tom Howe, senior director of land conservation at the Forest Society and manager of the $565,000 fundraising campaign. Funding for the project included $300,000 from the NH Land & Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), $130,000 from the NH Fish & Game Department’s Fisheries Habitat Account, $46,200 from the NH Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation & Enhancement Fund, and $24,000 from “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. A strong, early commitment from TU’s Ammonoosuc Chapter set an example for other Chapters, and its local volunteers helped raise other funds for the project.  Elsewhere in New Hampshire, the Pemigewasset, Saco Valley, Great Bay, and Basil Woods (Concord) Chapters also made generous contributions, revealing the statewide significance of the project. In Massachusetts, the Boston and Nor’East Chapters added further support, reinforcing the importance of this fishery and recreational resource beyond our state’s borders.  And at the national scale, this project was one of the first recipients of a grant from TU’s recently created Coldwater Land Conservancy Fund, designed to foster partnerships with land trusts in the conservation of key cold-water fishery habitat. To qualify for the $5,000 grant, the Ammonoosuc Chapter had to match it dollar-for-dollar with contributions from its own members.  An anonymous donor further elevated the incentive for local TU members to give by offering an additional $5,000 if they could reach their goal, which they did.