“Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!” Maybe Dorothy and her friends were worried about those wild animals on their trip to Oz (and justifiably so), but you won’t find anything like that to worry about when you visit Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln. Well, not lions or tigers … but you certainly will find bears, which have been a part of Clark’s since 1931.
Now enjoying its 85th year of entertaining visitors in the White Mountains, Clark’s Trading Post on Route 3 has been an attraction in the region since 1928, when Ed and Florence Clark opened “Ed Clark’s Eskimo Sled Dog Ranch” featuring pure-bred Eskimo sled dogs, along with artifacts, souvenirs, “tonic”, and maple candy.
According to the Clark’s Trading Post website, the Clark’s bought their first black bear in 1931 and, in 1949, Edward and W. Murray, the sons of Florence and Ed, began training the bears for public performances. More than 60 years later, the Bear Show continues to be one of Clark’s Trading Post’s main attractions at the popular family destination, with the bear training now being handled by the son and daughter of the late W. Murray, Murray and Maureen.
Until recently, I had not been to Clark’s Trading Post since I was on a Girl Scout field trip to Franconia Notch in 1973, and things have really changed since then! The only thing I can recall from 40 years ago was the bear show (which I think at that time was held outside) and a visit to the gift shop, where I bought a $2 silver certificate which I still have today. Now, visitors can enjoy bear shows in a covered show arena, as well as take a ride on the White Mountain Central Railroad, watch a circus act featuring Chinese acrobats, test their climbing skills on a climbing wall shaped to resemble the Old Man of the Mountain, play with water blasters in a lagoon, ride a Segway, and visit five museums, all of which are included in the price of admission. At last count, there are seven gifts shops on the premises, and four places to satisfy one’s appetite.
Bear shows are probably the biggest attraction at the Trading Post, and they take place two or three times a day, from the third week in May through Columbus Day Weekend. The schedule can vary (there may be different times for mid-week, weekends, high-peak summer, and foliage season), check the season calendar online at www.clarkstradingpost.com. Each show lasts about half an hour.
Another main attraction is the White Mountain Railroad train ride, a 30-minute ride on a steam-powered locomotive. Train rides are scheduled so that visitors will not have to miss a bear show in order to ride the train. The ride is 2.5 miles long and takes riders through a covered bridge over the Pemigewasset River. The bridge was built in 1904 in Vermont and, in 1963, Edward Clark and two of his sons bought the bridge, dismantled it, and brought it back to Lincoln to be re-assembled.
A high point for many on the train ride is watching the antics of the notorious “Wolfman” whose main goal seems to be chasing the train in a threatening manner in an attempt to keep people away from his secret mine filled with precious ore called “unobtainium”. The Wolfman has been a major draw to Clark’s Trading Post for years and, so far, no one has been able to find the legendary mine that he is guarding.
One of the more unique activities at the Trading Post is being able to try out a Segway in the Segway Park. The Segway was invented in New Hampshire by entrepreneur Dean Kamen and, according to the Trading Post website, Clark’s has the only Segway Park in the nation. Visitors may opt to take a three-minute glide on a Segway just to have a chance to try one out, or enjoy a 45-minute “Segway Safari”, a guided tour through “Wolfman Territory”. The three-minute glide ride is available all day at no extra fee. The 45-minute guided Safari tours leave at 45 minutes past the hour, and reservations are accepted. There are weight and height restrictions for the Segway rides.
Activities that particularly appeal to the younger crowd (and the young person inside many adults) include the blaster boats and the climbing wall. The blaster boats are located in the pond and provide a fun way to cool off on hot days. The boats are available most of the season, except mid-week hours from mid-September through mid-October. They are available Columbus Day Weekend. The climbing wall, shaped to resemble the Old Man of the Mountain, provides a challenge for people of all abilities. Weight restrictions apply
Other activities at Clark’s Trading Post include performances several times a day during the summer by Chinese acrobats, from mid-June through Labor Day, and tours through two unusual buildings, “Merlin’s Mansion” and “Tuttle’s Rustic House.” Merlin’s Mansion promises to “turn your world upside-down” and Tuttle’s Rustic House is full of odd and unusual things.
Several gift shops are located on-site, including the main gift shop, the maple cabin, and the candle shop. Stop by Kilburn’s Photo Parlor to have your picture taken in a costume of your choice, and visit Liberty Press to have your name put in the headlines of the Clark’s Trading Post newspaper. Children will especially enjoy mining for minerals at the newest attraction, River City Mining.
Five museums at the Trading Post give visitors a chance to learn more about a variety of subjects ranging from fire-fighting and cars to Americana, antique games and oddities, and the history of the Clark family.
If you are hungry, you can find pizza and subs at Pullman’s Pizza and Subs, as well as fresh popcorn at the Popcorn Wagon, ice cream at the Peppermint Saloon, and a variety of snacks, burgers, and sandwiches at the Whistle Stop Snack Bar.
From now until Oct. 6, the grounds of Clark’s Trading Post are open weekends from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the Main Gift Shop open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Midweek, Sept, 3-6 and Sept. 9-13 only, the Gift Shop will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. From Sept. 16 through Oct. 11, the grounds will be open midweek from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., with the Gift Shop open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
For Columbus Day Weekend, Oct. 12-13, the hours are 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. for admission to the grounds, while the Gift Shop will be open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. On Monday, Oct. 14, the grounds will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the Gift Shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Clark’s Trading Post is located on Route 3 in Lincoln. For more information, call 603-745-8913 or log on to www.clarkstradingpost.com.