Unintended Consequences – Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Can anything good come from the threat of nuclear war?  In the case of the Great Bay NWR, the answer is yes.  In the 1950s, with the Cold War nearing its height, this and the surrounding land was acquired in order to develop Pease Air Force Base, which eventually housed two Strategic Air Command units.  In 1989 the base was ordered closed and in 1992 parts of the former base was established as a wildlife refuge.  Thus, instead of this former farmland being gradually subdivided and developed into suburbia much like the rest of the New Hampshire coast, it has been preserved.

The beaver pond on the Ferry Way Trail

The beaver pond on the Ferry Way Trail

That said, this area is far from pristine, with the central seven acres of the refuge being a former weapons storage area, which is clearly visible on Google maps.  These remnants of the Cold War are slowly being dismantled and eventually the entire refuge will be open and suitable for wildlife.  (Interestingly, the satellite images also show several other buildings in the refuge, past the weapons storage and on nearby Fabyan Point.  I wonder what they are.)

A Cold War artifact

A Cold War artifact

Nevertheless, two trails have been developed for us, the general public, to use.  The first is the Peverly Pond Trail, a short half mile trail which leads through the woods to an observation structure on Upper Peverly Pond, a small freshwater pond entirely within the refuge.  Because these woods are often flooded, the entire trail is on a raised boardwalk, this making it entirely wheelchair accessible.  It also makes it a lot of fun for small children.

The Peverly Pond Trail is almost entirely boardwalk.

The Peverly Pond Trail is almost entirely boardwalk.

The Peverly Pond Trail leads to a bird-watching shelter

The Peverly Pond Trail leads to a bird-watching shelter

The second is the 2-mile Ferry Way Trail, which, after skirting the weapons storage area, leads to another viewing platform (with free binoculars) on Great Bay itself.  This is the narrowest part of Great Bay, directly opposite Durham’s Adams Point, making it the channel that separates Great Bay from Little Bay.  FYI, the trail map on the Great Bay website is out of date but the one in the brochure is correct.

The Ferry Way Trail also leads to a wildlife viewing platform facing Great Bay.

The Ferry Way Trail also leads to a wildlife viewing platform facing Great Bay.

So, thanks to the Cold War, this area has been preserved both for us and for wildlife in the years to come.  Recently, New England cottontail rabbits have been reintroduced into the refuge in an effort to recover the species.  Click here for more information.  Happy travels!

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3 responses to “Unintended Consequences – Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Pingback: Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge | jkmhoffman·

  2. HI, I finally found my way to, visited and walked the Peverly Pond boardwalk with out of state guests. Lovely, BUT the areas close to the boardwalk are full of POISON IVY which many may not recognize. Any chance that could be identified for the unsuspecting? Thank you for our access. I’m looking forward to exploring the longer trail in the future.

    • Thanks for your note Suzanne. Sorry to admit that I’m just a humble blogger and have no influence (at this time) over signage or access. Surprisingly, I don’t recall the poison ivy during my visit (and I’m allergic and hyper-aware) so it may be a recent arrival. Hopefully some other ground cover will crowd it out over time…

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