If you are looking for fun, educational, and inexpensive ideas for ways to enjoy the great outdoors this summer, the Newfound Audubon Center in Hebron is a great place to visit. Located along the shores of beautiful Newfound Lake, the Newfound Audubon Center is a hidden jewel in the Lakes Region.
The Newfound Audubon Center includes Paradise Point Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Ash Cottage and the Hebron Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Bear Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. All three locations offer visitors free access to nature trails year-round, from dawn to dusk, and there are nature programs for adults and children at both Paradise Point and Hebron Marsh during July and August.
At the Paradise Point Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary on North Shore Road, visitors have a chance to learn about the environment of the Newfound Lake area through a variety of educational programs and activities, interactive exhibits, and live animal displays in the Nature Center building, as well as offeirng kayak and canoe rentals. The Nature Center is open daily from through Labor Day Weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as on weekends from Memorial Day until June 30.
The Nature Center at Paradise Point is situated on 43 acres of land on the northern edge of Newfound Lake, featuring more than 3,000 feet of lakeshore frontage, and there are three nature trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty to explore in the adjacent sanctuary. The trails range from very short (one-third mile) to relatively short (one mile) and are fairly easy, following close to the shoreline. They are open year-round from dawn to dusk at no cost, and trail maps are available at the center and online at www.nhaudubon.org (and then follow the link under “sanctuaries”).
The Loop Trail is the shortest, an easy one-third-mile round-trip walk through the woods to the shore of the lake and back through a small, marshy area. The Elwell Trail is an easy, three-quarter-mile round-trip hike through a wooded area in the center of the sanctuary, reaching a lookout point (called, strangely enough, “The Point”), which offers visitors panoramic views of the lake before returning to the center.
The longest and most challenging trail in the sanctuary is the Ridge-Lakeside Trail, about one mile long, that goes through a hardwood forest past a swampy area, then climbs past a rocky area to the Point, where again you can find panoramic views of the lake and nearby mountains before returning to the center along the lake’s edge.
If you want to explore Newfound Lake or nearby streams and rivers, you can rent a canoe, a one-person kayak, or a two-person kayak for a half day or a full day at the Nature Center. The canoes and kayaks are available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, and rental rates are listed on the website at www.nhaudubon.org/newfound.
Family programs at Paradise Point include guided canoe and kayak tours on Wednesday mornings in July and August, as well as weekly Friday evening campfires at 7:30, with stories and songs. The guided tours are led by a naturalist, on a donation basis.
A variety of summer nature programs are available for children from ages 3 through 13 at Paradise Point from July 1 through Aug. 30. The programs run from 10:30 a.m. until noon. Each weekday morning features a program geared toward children of a specific age group and interest. For information about the schedule of programs available or to register, log on to www.nhaudubon.org/newfound, or email Director Melissa Grella at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call 603-744-3516.
About one and a half miles further down North Shore Road from Paradise Point, heading toward Hebron Village, you arrive at the NH Audubon’s Ash Cottage and Hebron Marsh Sanctuary. The sanctuary, which was donated to the Audubon Society in 1979, includes 34 acres and contains Newfound Lake’s only marsh area. Two short trails, one located on each side of North Shore Road, lead into the marshes. The trails are open to the public from dawn to dusk at no charge year-round, and they afford bird-watchers opportunities to observe herons and other marsh birds.
Ash Cottage is the site of summer programming for adults and teens from July 1 through Labor Day, including tai chi on Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., as well as yoga on Wednesdays at $5:30 p.m. Pre-registration is suggested. On Mondays at 5:30 p.m., there are naturalist walks along some of the trails of the Newfound Lake watershed at no charge.
On Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., the Newfound Audubon Center holds the “Red Barn Lecture Series” in a 200-year-old restored red barn at the Meadow Wind Bed and Breakfast, located just across the street from Ash Cottage. Parking is available at Ash Cottage.
Topics for this summer include presentations on the Newfound Lake watershed, tar sands, loons, blackbirds, and eagles, as well as programs on “Conservation Through Art,” “The Nature of Pondicherry,” and “Wind Power and Wildlife.” The weekly series will conclude with a New England Barn Dance on Aug. 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. More detailed information about the Red Barn programs is available at www.nhaudubon.org/newfound or by calling 603-744-3516.
The Newfound Audubon Center’s third wildlife sanctuary is the Bear Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, located just beyond the Hebron Village on West Shore Road. The 73-acre sanctuary was donated to the Audubon Society in 1999 and it is described in the trail guide as a “relatively rugged forested property with some fairly steep slopes.” At the highest point of the sanctuary (1,240 feet) there are some views of Newfound Lake and Mount Cardigan. The Bear Mountain Trail, which begins on West Shore Road in Hebron, takes about an hour and a half to hike. Parking is available at Cross Road in Hebron village. Access to the trail is free.
For more information about the Newfound Audubon Center, call 603-744-3516 (summer), or 603-224-9909 (year-round); or log on to www.nhaudubon.org/newfound.