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Wildcat Falls. Courtesy photo.




Trek toward a waterfall, dam or lake
Three walks for water lovers

05/28/15
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



Wildcat Falls

Miles: 0.5
Difficulty level: Easy
What to bring: Traditional hiking footwear or sneakers. Insect repellent.
Highlights: The waterfall at the southern end of the area. Blueberry picking. Trout fishing. Deer, American kestrel, duck and turkey sighting.
Tim Tenhave, the chair of the Merrimack Conservation Commission, said while the Wildcat Falls Area in Merrimack is not the largest conservation area in town, it is the only one with a waterfall feature. Your journey begins at the north end of the area off Hemlock Drive.
“There is a nice parking lot that supports 20 to 25 cars,” Tenhave said.
The trail starts southward.
“It’s a very wide trail because it supports our maintenance vehicles for a good portion of the trail,” Tenhave said. “It’s a dirt, gravel surface. It’s not completely gravel the entire way.”
The wooded area consists of 87 acres of pine and hardwoods abutting the Souhegan River.
“There’s a small, manmade retention pond as you first enter the trail,” Tenhave said. “You enter a forest area that opens up to an open field. You pass a set of power lines and you follow along the Souhegan River until you reach the actual falls themselves.”
Tenhave said people can wade into the slow-moving river in the warmer months or go trout fishing. In the winter, the relatively flat area is used by snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
“You can actually see great ice formations along the waterfall,” Tenhave said.
Blueberry patches near the power lines can be used for picking, and walkers will encounter a small hill before reaching the falls at the end.
The area used to be called “80 Acres” and the falls were once called “Atherton Falls.” No one is quite sure where the name “Wildcat Falls” came from, but after it stuck, the town renamed the area after the falls in 2009.
Visit merrimackoutdoors.com
 
Everett Dam
Miles: 2
Difficulty level: Easy
What to bring: Traditional hiking footwear or sneakers. Insect repellent. Long pants.
Highlights: The paved walk atop the dam. Clough State Park. Swimming. Fishing. Deer and turkey sighting.
For a delightful, flat walk close to major population centers of southern New Hampshire, check out Everett Lake in Weare. The 150-acre manmade lake was formed by the Everett Dam at its southern end on the Piscataquag River.
Steve Dermody from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said besides the nearby Clough State Park, the dam itself is a major attraction.
“A lot of folks will walk on the top of the dam,” Dermody said. “That’s a really popular place for people to walk.”
Dermody said there’s a parking area at the dam entrance on the east side. The paved length of the dam is about one mile and he said a second mile of trail following the west coast of the lake completes the experience.
“[The trail] goes right along the side of Everett Lake,” Dermody said. “It’s actually an old railroad grade.”
Sections of the narrow trail have water on both sides, making it seem like you are walking on water. It’s probably best to avoid the trail after a lot of rainfall as portions of it can be submerged.
“The most popular place is a one-mile-long walk along the top of the dam,” Dermody said. “You can see the whole lake and Mount Kearsarge in the background.”
If you follow the trail to the end you will eventually come upon an area Dermody said has been cultivated for deer and turkey habitat. And Clough State Park has a 900-foot sandy beach for swimming.
“[It’s] a great place to picnic,” Dermody said.
The state park is open on weekends, during which adults will be charged $4 to enter. After June 19, it will be open on weekdays as well. Entry for children ages 6 to 11 costs $2.
Visit nhstateparks.org
 
Massabesic Lake
Miles: 1
Difficulty level: Easy
What to bring: Traditional hiking footwear or sneakers. Insect repellent. Drinking water. Dog leash for dog required.
Highlights: The Rockingham Recreational Trail. Fishing. Osprey and bald eagle sighting.
Perhaps one of the most popular destinations in Manchester, Lake Massabesic attracts families and individuals for casual strolls through its serene landscape, fishing and birdwatching.
John O’Neil, the watershed forester for Manchester Waterworks, said all around the lake is about 50 miles of trails and fire roads. But there is one mile of trail that’s particularly popular.
“There is not a contiguous trail or road that goes around the lake because it is broken off by some private land on the Auburn side of the lake,” O’Neil said.
But, he said, the Rockingham Recreational Trail, the former site of a Boston-to-Maine rail line, can be accessed from the parking and picnic area off Route 28.
“[The trails] are maintained by the Manchester Waterworks through maintenance of culvert pipes, ditching and grading to reduce runoff or erosion,” O’Neil said. “[They] are open for public recreation, nonmotorized, quiet enjoyment of the land surrounding Lake Massabesic and the rest of the watershed.”
The mile of Rockingham Recreational Trail on the north part of the lake stays close to the water with several places to stop and enjoy the view. But intrepid hikers or bikers can follow the trail for 25 miles eastward to Newfields in the seacoast area.
“It’s a nice, flat gradient trail,” O’Neil said. “It’s a major recreational corridor…. It brings you along the shores of the lake at times, and it brings you out to some of the other areas where you can access a variety of trail networks.”
Another popular spot is Battery Point by the Audubon center.
“There’s a lot of great hikes out to Battery Point and some other areas around it,” O’Neil said. “They have a few different viewing areas for ospreys and bald eagles.”
Visit manchesternh.gov 
 
As seen in the May 28, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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