Eastern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
White Brook Fen. Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
White Brook Fen. Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Velvet-leaf blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
Tamarack needles (Larix larcinia). Photo by Christopher Mattrick.
White Brook Fen
Forest: White Mountain National Forest
District: Saco Ranger District
Description: Traveling along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway (Route 112) in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire, about halfway between Lincoln and Conway there is a noticeable change in the landscape. For a moment, the spruce/fir, pine, and northern hardwoods are replaced by tamarack, black spruce, grasses, sedges, and at the right time of year a pink explosion of rhodora (Rhododendron canadense). A large opening on the northern side of the road is mirrored by a tamarack filled wetland on the south side of the road, White Brook Fen. Habitats such as this are not unusual in the White Mountain National Forest, but the ease at which you can access this particular area is uncommon. Listed as a State of New Hampshire exemplary natural community, recent survey work in this community and in an adjacent wildlife opening have revealed numerous interesting and uncommon species.
Fens are areas where water is moving downhill either above or below the surface of the ground – these are sometimes associated with streams, ponds or marshy areas. Fens are more broadly categorized as a peatlands and related to bogs. Bogs differ by having no water flow through them. Fens are constantly flowing albeit imperceptibly at times. White Brook Fen is a medium level fen system meaning that it occurs on relatively level ground and its pH is moderate neither highly acidic nor highly calcareous.
Immediately adjacent to route 112 White Brook Fen is dominated by a spongy mat of sphagnum moss dotted with various sedges (Carex sp.), cottongrass (Eriophorum sp.), rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) and tamarack (Larix larcinia). Further from the road the fen opens up into a series of braided channels, mud wallows, and pot holes. The sign of moose (f not their actual presence) is evident everywhere from browsed vegetation to scat to tracks. The vegetation changes from the sphagnum mat to a series of tussocks and large island mats of shrubs and sedges. Typical species include leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum), various grasses, sedges and violets, as well as pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea). A number of common and uncommon orchid species are also reported from this area of the fen, as well as the large opening to the south and east of the fen.
This is a beautiful and interesting place to visit and easily accessed from a well traveled roadway. There are some things to bear in mind if planning a trip to White Brook Fen. You are going to get wet. There is no way around it. There are numerous small stream channels and sink holes, some of them visible and others that are not easily identified. Where footwear and clothes you don’t mind getting wet and muddy (keep a change of clothes in your vehicle). Moose are abundant in this area. Be on the lookout and try not to surprise them with your presence. Where there are moose there are ticks, and flies, and mosquitoes. During a recent visit to this spot I removed over 40 ticks from myself during a 4 hour visit. Bring and wear insect repellant. Once you enter the fen there are no trails. You must make your own path. Be sure to have a map of the area and a compass and/or a GPS unit.
From Conway, New Hampshire, and route 16, take route 112 (Kancamagus Highway) west past its intersection with Bear Notch Road. Pass the Oliverian Brook Trailhead on the left and shortly after this you will encounter a large opening on the north side of the road. You may park at this location and enter the fen on the south side of the road or return to the Oliverian Brook Trailhead parking area. Follow the Downes Brook cross country ski trail from the parking area continuing through the wildlife opening and enter the fen from the rear.
From Lincoln, New Hampshire, and Interstate 93, follow route 112 (Kancamagus Highway) east until you pass the Passaconway Campground. Shortly after passing this campground you will encounter a large opening on the north side of the road. You may park at this location and enter the fen on the south side of the road or continue on a short distance to the Oliverian Brook Trailhead parking area. Follow the Downes Brook cross country ski trail from this parking area continuing through the wildlife opening and enter the fen from the rear.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest.
Closest Town: Albany, New Hampshire.