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Moultonborough Falls…Where is That?

The Laker - August 13, 2017





 

By Suzanne Weidenheft

In 1979, my husband accepted a position in Meredith, and so we left New Hampshire’s North Country, as it was called then, and set out for the Lakes Region. As this was long before the age of Google Maps, we unfolded a paper road map and perused the area for a town where we might live. There at the intersection of Route 25 and an unnamed road was “Moultonborough Falls.” Picturing Beaver Brook Falls up north in Columbia, I was eager to seek out this spot. Driving around the area, we were unable to find such a village, and eventually moved into a house in Moultonborough.

Like all the towns and villages in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Moultonborough has spectacular scenic water views that attract visitors from near and far. Mountains and hills, foliage and wildlife create a lovely backdrop around our beautiful lakes. But a little known and seldom visited spot in this town is a gem of scenic beauty and historic significance that is well worth our attention. Residents of the Lakes Region, and visitors as well, would enjoy an afternoon in this wild and secluded natural area. It would be a great place to wander about, to watch for wildlife, to commune with nature, so I decided to paddle my kayak there. Presently it is not an easy spot to get to, but the recreational and photographic opportunities are compelling.

Moultonborough Falls was an early settlement near the intersection of Route 25 and Sheridan Road, where the Red Hill River drains Garland Pond and flows under the road. Here John Moulton built his first water-driven sawmill in 1765. Moultonborough Falls Village grew up around this industry, and foundation stones of the mill, water sluiceway, and house cellar holes can still be seen. Around this same early time, some distance downstream from Moulton’s mill, the river was blocked by a dam built by Lee at the head of Lake Winnipesaukee’s Moultonborough Bay, thus forming Lees Pond. The Lee’s Mill area is visited by many who enjoy the international Steam Boat Rally each September and The Loon Center, but few know of the historic ruins of Moulton’s mills at the other end of the pond.

In addition to these remnants of our past, the Moultonborough Falls area is still important today as a habitat for abundant terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. As I set out on my kayaking adventure, I wondered if I would spot one of the eagles that frequent the pond. Great blue heron, osprey and many kinds of ducks are common here, and loons can be seen almost any day one ventures out. Moose favor the marshland in this area as good feeding ground, and deer and bear are frequently seen on firmer ground. I’ve seen otter, fox, beaver, raccoon and mink in the area, and once I even saw a fisher cat. I am not surprised by all the sightings of wildlife here, as this is a “wildlife corridor” where animals come down from Red Hill through the wilds of forest and stream and into a marsh complex potentially inhabited by rare birds and other aquatic animals.

It is such a thrill when we come in contact with nature, especially these big animals, but also dragonflies and bright damselflies, the redwing blackbird, wood thrush and pileated woodpecker. I also enjoy seeing turtles and frogs, which abound here, as well as water lilies, both yellow and white, and stately blue-flowered pickerelweed. Any town around the Lakes Region would be sadly lacking if it lost its natural flora and fauna, its wild spaces, and its visual beauty that renews the spirit. I think that’s why many visitors come here, and that is why I feel so fortunate to live here.

The 37-acre parcel of land is for sale. The Moultonborough Conservation Commission (MCC) has identified saving this parcel of land as a high priority. Along with many locals who value the natural beauty of our area, the MCC is working to buy this acreage and preserve it as a low-impact recreation area. The Commission plans to create a parking area and walking trails, to provide educational signage about the environment and history of Moultonborough Falls, and to encourage fishing, exploration, etc.

The Moultonborough Falls Conservation Area presents even more benefits to visitors and residents of the Lakes Region. One of the most important reasons for preserving this valuable parcel of land is to protect the Red Hill Watershed. One of several watersheds that feed Lake Winnipesaukee, the Red Hill River flows from Red Hill Pond in Sandwich, collecting runoff from Red Hill and the surrounding area. Much of the land abutting the river in Sandwich and around Garland Pond in Moultonborough is already under the stewardship of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and The Nature Conservancy. The Moultonborough Falls Conservation Area would extend this protected land across Route 25 along the river and around 3,800 feet of shorefront on Lees Pond. The protection of this ‘riparian buffer’, the zone between marshland and open water, is imperative for effective filtration of water coming into Lees Pond and then flowing into Moultonborough Bay. The roots and sponge-like vegetation in this riparian zone soak up silt and pollutants from storm water runoff that cloud the water or cause more rapid growth of invasive vegetation mid-lake. The healthy water quality of the aquifer in this region is sustained by this natural infiltration of the wetland zone. Shore front development in wetland areas breaks down the natural riparian buffer, causing lakes to fill in with plant-nutrient sediments. Over time, the natural progression of lakes is from a watery environment back to firm ground, but we can refrain from speeding up the process with high-impact development of the land. This is an opportunity to support the pristine and natural beauty of the Lakes Region for the enjoyment of those who live and visit here, now and for many generations to come

In this once in forever opportunity to preserve this vital link of the watershed from Red Hill to Lake Winnipesaukee, we can truly make a positive difference for the future. The Moultonborough Conservation Commission needs $335,000.00 to buy this parcel of land and to develop and maintain it for low-impact recreation. Over $100,000 has already been raised, and we are well on our way to the goal, but help is needed to meet the deadline of April 1, 2018. Charitable contributions are tax deductible; checks may be made out to MFCA and mailed to the Town of Moultonborough, Post Office Box 139, Moultonborough, NH 03254. More information may be found at http://www.mborofalls.com, or www.facebook.com/mborofalls.

When I think back to my earliest search for Moultonborough Falls, I feel I have come full circle and finally found that long-sought-after, very special place. I am so grateful that we have built a home near enough to this beautiful, natural, historic spot that I can visit often. I wish that everyone could experience this lovely place, and find it easier than I did. It is truly worth all our effort to save it.

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