A beautiful wetland hidden in a broad valley beneath impressive mountains.
Date Paddled: Oct. 16, 2016
Nearest City: Plymouth, NH
Put-In & Take-Out: Beech Hill Road
Duration: 3 hours
River Miles: 3 flatwater miles
Weather: sunny, 50’s
Difficulty: flatwater; one beaver dam to climb over
I discovered this gem of a paddle years ago in the Quiet Waters AMC series of books. The New York and New England guides were written by John Hayes and Alex Wilson and I strongly recommend them for flatwater locations and easy out and back rivers/bogs. I’ve visited the Campton Bog 7-8 times as it’s location, just off Interstate 93 and down the road from the White Mountains National Forest Headquarters (also worth a visit), makes it a surprisingly wild find in the midst of a busy area.
The bog sets behind a low dam with pristine waters stained brown with tannin. The clarity and cleanness of the water shows gradations of darkening tannin as the water deepens. The tannin is what made areas like the Catskills and Adirondacks centers for the tanning industry, a natural element found abundantly in many trees, especially so in hemlocks.All the times I’ve put-in run together in a splendid welcome. I feel at home, but not the home where furniture is never moved and conversations are predictable, but one that changes, revealing a rainbow of moods. The large boulder to the left of the put-in is like a loved auntie, adorned in a variety of bonsaied plants, all marvels in tenacity and gracefulness.Rounding the end of the stillwater, two sentinels protect the next segment. These white pines firmly established on a center island are a glory to the tree-world.I study some sundew growing in the spaghum mats and sweet gale edging the uplands containing black spruce, maple, and oak. Cavernous plants are bizarrely interesting! They digest unsuspecting insects entrapped in sticky hairs like the sundew or perhaps become entrapped in the small pond of the pitcher plant. This adaptation probably came about due to the low nutrient level in the acidic bog waters that needed some “supplements.”
The next passage is a bit hard to find, guarded by a formidable beaver dam. Portaging seemed the only viable method of gaining the far reaches so – up and over. I feel the rising anticipation as the far fall colored world slowly is revealed. The mountains rise 1000 feet from the water in a amphitheater of color. The golden yellows, russet, evergreens, and occasional red rest on the mountains like a cosmic grandma’s quilt.
The only signs of humans are the nesting boxes provided for the wood ducks. Even those can’t detract from the feeling that I’m the only person to wander here privy to the secrets of Campton Bog.