Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Winnipesaukee River Trail

Biking, Hiking, Canoeing & Kayaking

One of the most exciting new developments on the recreational scene in the Lakes Region is the opening of Phase I of the Winnipesaukee River Trail. This trail features opportunities for bicyclists, walkers, runners, and paddlers. In fact, we predict that this relatively unknown section of whitewater will become one of the most popular destinations for whitewater paddlers in New Hampshire in a very short period of time. Its proximity to major urban areas makes it the best whitewater within the shortest travel distance for paddlers looking to make the most of their time.

The Winnipesaukee River Trail officially opened 3.1 miles of trail on June 25, 2005. This non-motorized multi-use trail parallels the Winnipesaukee River and connects Franklin and Northfield, New Hampshire. This is the first phase of a project that eventually will extend approximately 20 miles through the Lakes Region all the way to Meredith. The National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program helped the Winnipesaukee River Trail Association, a volunteer trail organization, with fundraising, organizational support, and trailhead park design. The trail opening culminates more than five years of work for the Winnipesaukee River Trail volunteers who gathered landowner permissions, secured funds, held trail clean-up days, designed a trailhead park in Franklin, and designed a paddlers take-out.

Remains of the mills that once dotted the landscape along the river are a sign of Franklin's proud place among the great industrial cities of the Northeast during the days of the Industrial era.

The trail offers opportunities for many different levels of outdoor adventure. The trail itself is easy enough for novice level bicycling, but has some side terrain to challenge the more experienced. For upper level whitewater canoeists and for Kayakers of intermediate and advanced levels the river offers easily accessed and challenging water dropping 80 feet over the course of the 3.1 mile stretch.

For those who simply want a quiet walk with historic and natural sights to keep you coming back the trail is filled with wonder.

Biking and Hiking:
Novice level hiking and biking along a well kept and packed dirt path gives bicyclists of all levels the opportunity to peddle a quiet stretch of land along the course of the river.

For more experienced bikers there are both man-made and natural obstacles to provide a degree of challenge along the way as well.

Runable year round in a Kayak and in all but the dryest part of the summer in an open boat, this stretch of river provides the most challenging whitewater within an easy drive of Northeastern metropolitan areas. To find more challenging water one would need to venture into the region north of Berlin in the later part of the summer season.

The city of Franklin has a long history tied directly to the power of the Winnipesaukee River. During the heady days of the Industrial Revolution dams and mills dotted the landscape along this stretch of river. Travelers along the Winnipesaukee River Trail will find many signs of old manufacturing facilities and dams. You'll also see the quite well preserved remains of the Sulfite Bridge also popularly known as the "Upside Down Covered Bridge" Believed to be the last remaining bridge of its kind in the US. The bridge was burned by arsonists but its skeleton remains. The train ran across the top and the covering, destroyed by the fire, was to protect the wooden structual struts beneath it.

Natural Wonders

During the past year a nesting pair of bald eagles has returned to the region and fortunate visitors may see them fishing the river. Other species of animals are evidenced by footprints and droppings and an early moring or late afternoon trip may provide you with anopportunity to see one of these as well.

Also along the trail is an abundance of native and non native plants and trees to explore. A late summer visit recently allowed us to witness an abundance of Spotted Touch-Me-Not and a few Cardinal Flowers in their final days, a rare sight these days with over picking by folks enamoured of the bright red flower.

Location of Trail

The southern end of the trail begins on Central Street (the Main Street) in Franklin directly across from Trestle View Park next to Grevior Furniture. The trail intersects Cross Mill Road, and proceeds from there into Northfield. The trail passes some active farms and several ponds, before crossing Johnson Road and Williams Brook. Phase I ends just off Park Street near the railroad terminal. The Park itself is open and parking is available. with toilet facilities and a changing room also available.

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