by Katie Salvatore
The Esther Currier Wildlife Management Area at Low Plain exhibits an array of interesting wildlife and is conveniently located off of Route 11 in New London. In the winter, it is a popular trail to trek on cross country skiis and snowshoes but the area shows off its best features when it thaws.
In the spring there are young animals; the summer displays the most activity; and, in the fall, the swamp maples are the first to change color.
The main trail, which takes you the length of the area, is the 1.1 mile (one way) Davis Path – a gravel road. Along the way, several short loops and branches take you off to explore interesting sights. Unlike most trails in this woody area, this comprises of marsh, ponds, and bogs with forest on the edges.
Soon after the entrance there is an offshoot trail that leads to an overlook where you can view the entire area and Mount Kearsarge. The trail is designed to view the semi-aquatic wildlife while respecting them. Maps and guides are available at the Route 11 entrance (there is another entrance at Mountain Road, near the Shepard Spring Trail).
One of the biggest attractions are the beaver dams; one is over fifty years old! Other evidence of beavers can be seen in the characteristically felled trees and past beaver lodges. There are also hatching grounds of painted turtles (be sure to stay on the path so you don’t disrupt them).
Turtle Cove is where you are most likely to see turtles basking in the sun. To get a good look at the beavers and birds without disturbing them, there are two blinds built on the pond: the first is at Turtle Point which gives views across the pond, and the other is Marsh Point, which you cross the quaking bog to get to.
Near Marsh Point are nesting boxes for wood ducks although they are also used by other birds; this blind gives excellent viewing of shore and aquatic birds if you’re quiet. The quaking bog was formed from a glacial pond on which grew layers of moss, which sank and were covered up with the following layers.
Be careful when crossing the boardwalk here. Other evidence of the glaciers are the boulders that were dropped by them seen farther along the trail. Near them is the Big Pond, formed by gravel excavation, as well as smaller ponds which are homes to salamanders and frogs.
During high water, Marsh Point is not accessible and there is a detour path to take when there is flooding; this is a “low” area and extra care should be taken during flooding season.