Looking Ahead to Spring

Need an antidote to winter? Look forward to spring and the beautiful landscape at the Ponemah Bog in Amherst.

Photo by Jim Salge

OK, right now it’s covered in snow, but it won’t be long until the Ponemah Bog in Amherst transforms into what you see here — the magenta Rhodora in full bloom alongside a primitive walkway. You’re invited to take this walk by New Hampshire Audubon, which owns and maintains the bog so people can enjoy the wide array of plant life and, of course, the birdsong.

“Its wetlands are home to rare plants and unique natural communities,” says Phillip Brown, director of land management for New Hampshire Audubon. “It is an excellent place to watch wildlife, observe plants and to seek peace and solace.” Brown adds that the name, Ponemah, is derived from Longfellow’s “Hiawatha” and means “land of the hereafter.”

The bog’s bounty began long ago — some 12,000 years — when a large chunk of glacial ice broke off to form what’s called a “kettle hole pond.” Brown says it’s one of several kettle hole bogs in the state, but that “few have such excellent access to the wide variety of plant, wildlife and natural community types that occur here, and none is so accessible to a large population center.” It’s a state-designated “unique natural feature” and part of the Watchable Wildlife program.

There’s a 3/4-mile-long loop trail on more than 70 acres that features a combination of upland forest — mostly oaks and pine — with a dense forest understory. A series of primitive “bog boardwalks” allows visitors to traverse the more open areas of shrubby vegetation and open water/bog mat vegetation. Brown says lack of handrails provides a “simpler experience that immerses visitors in the unique setting,” but that you must watch your footing. Stepping off the boardwalk onto the open bog mat, even where it’s vegetated, can be dangerous. A close eye should be kept on children and pets should be left at home.

“Among my personal favorite times to visit are during mid to late May for the Rhodora blooms and in late September for the first hints of foliage and southbound songbird migration,” Brown says. “There’s a good chance you’ll have the trails to yourself if you get out early.”

New Hampshire Audubon offers a series of expert-guided field trips that are free and open to the public from May through August each year. For more information about the field trips as well as for a trail guide to explore on your own, visit nhaudubon.org.