The Connecticut River rises in a little pond known as
Fourth Connecticut Lake on the Canadian border, and there begins as a mere trickle
its 410-mile journey to the sea. It proceeds through a series of lakes in a
dense, spruce fir forest populated with moose and other woodland creatures.
It's still just a narrow stream where it reaches the town of Colebrook, NH,
perched on the banks in the shadow of Monadnock Mountain rising on the Vermont
shore. The proud people of the region who once formed an independent
republic early in the 19th century continue the traditions of outdoor
life represented by logging and backwoods recreation, where a short drive can
take you over the border into another state or another country altogether.
Colebrook is the Waypoint community for an area that includes Pittsburg, Clarksville, Stewartstown, Dixville, Columbia, and Stratford, NH, and Canaan, Lemington, and Bloomfield, VT. Its visitor center is located on a scenic bend of the Connecticut on Route 3, 1.5 miles north of Colebrook's downtown. The Center includes exhibits about local history and events, and also hosts the area's education center for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
The designated Byway routes in the Colebrook area are Routes 3 and 145 in New Hampshire and Route 102 in Vermont.
Nature & Scenery
The headwaters of the Connecticut River at tiny Fourth Lake located on the Canadian border and accessible by a footpath created by The Nature Conservancy. Which of several pond outlets actually becomes the river depends on the mood of resident beavers. Third, Second, and First Connecticut Lakes are next in the chain, followed by Lake Francis. All offer fine, deep habitat for a renowned fishery that includes landlocked salmon and lake trout. In Pittsburg, a town larger in area than the state of Rhode Island, Route 3 links the lakes and is a prime moose watching corridor.
Beaver Brook Falls in Colebrook is picturesque in all seasons, including winter, when its accumulation of ice is a spectacular sight.
The Connecticut's exceptional natural beauty in this area was recognized by an act of the New Hampshire legislature in 1992. The legislature designated as "natural" the seven mile stretch of the river from the mouth of Wheeler Stream across from Columbia to the c. 1885 steel truss bridge between Stratford and Maidstone, the only segment of the Connecticut so named.
From Stratford to Gilman, the river shifts from quick water to meandering across a valley of rich soils, taking shortcuts during high water and creating oxbows. In one place, a Vermont farmer can watch the sun set over New Hampshire.
In the northeastern corner of Vermont, the 72,000-acre Nulhegan River basin is a complex of bogs, freshwater wetlands, and spruce fir forest. It provides nesting habitat for loons, hooded mergansers, black, ring-necked and wood ducks. At least 13 rare plant and animal species have been recorded from this site, which site has the only viable population of spruce grouse in the watershed. It also provides extensive contiguous forest for breeding migrant birds. The has named the Nulhegan basin a special focus area, and manages the habitat there in partnership with the state of Vermont and other adjacent landowners. For more information about birding and nature observation in the area, visit the Connecticut River Birding Trail.
For more about Nature & Scenery on the Connecticut River Byway
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Roadside signs in Stewartstown and Clarksville mark the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. Despite the short growing season this far north, farming is a cherished way of life for many families. Old-fashioned county fairs are held at the Lancaster Fairgrounds, on Labor Day weekend, and across the Canadian border in Ayer's Cliff.
Joining maple syrup producers are a number of tree growers and wreath-makers, among them Weir Tree Farms.
In the Colebrook area you can buy many agricultural products directly from the producers.Farmers Markets
For more about Farming on the Connecticut River Byway
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The 1783 settlement that ended the Revolutionary War
set off a boundary dispute involving the U.S.-Canadian border. Here in northern
New Hampshire, residents finally took things into their own hands in 1832 by
declaring themselves the United Inhabitants of Indian Stream Republic. They
drafted a constitution and created a militia of 41 men. But they couldn't
agree among themselves about whether to form an alliance with Great Britain
or the United States, and civil war seemed likely. When the New Hampshire Assembly
proposed the Republic become part of New Hampshire, it agreed. In 1840 the former
Republic was incorporated as the town of Pittsburg.
Log trucks on the region's roads are part of a tradition that goes back to the 19th century log drives on the Connecticut. Crews of the Connecticut Valley Lumber Company spent the winter months felling trees, and when snowmelt swelled the rivers in Spring, sent them floating on down the river. Into the first decades of the 20th century, hardy crews of "white-water men" risked life and limb in the hazardous work of floating the logs as far down river as Massachusetts and Connecticut. At pulp and saw mills the logs were processed into paper and lumber. Railroads and improved highways and changing culture brought the era of log drives to an end.
Family Homestead in Stewartstown, NH illustrates a way of life that existed
prior to rural electrification. The protected 100-acre property displays the
1826 homestead, barns, furnishings, and tools of this early hill farm, reflecting
the traditional spirit, values, and way of life of settlers of the Connecticut
River Valley headwaters.
The Canaan Historical Society (802-266-7135) is home to exhibits on history and art.
Among the historic bridges in the Colebrook area are several covered bridges. The Pittsburg-Clarksville Bridge spans the Connecticut River, and the Happy Corner Bridge and the River Road Bridge both span Perry Stream in Pittsburg. The picturesque spans the Connecticut between Columbia and Lemington.
State historic markers in the area offer a glimpse into the past, where tangible reminders remain or where events may have passed without a trace. The marker in Pittsburg narrating the creation of the Island Stream Republic was one of the first erected in New Hampshire, in 1958.
The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire supports and sustains culture, heritage and the arts in the Colebrook region with a variety of events, performances, and activities.
Colebrook and Pittsburg serve as the provisioners for recreation in the backcountry. Colebrook is proud of its numerous, if small, restaurants, and the church suppers and high school concerts and plays that take the place of movies and theaters. Colebrook celebrates its heritage with a Moose Festival in August and a Snowdeo in February.
The Poore Family Homestead Farm Museum, located seven
miles north of Colebrook on Route 145 in Stewartstown, is a restored family
farm that welcomes the public to experience the life of a mid-nineteenth century
farm family. Events include an Open Barn and Celebration during the Fourth of
Notre Dame de Graces is a local Catholic shrine built about fifty years ago to serve the motoring public. For at least the past 20 years, an annual "Blessing of the Bikes" has drawn thousands of motorcyclists. The tradition has grown to include blessings of snowmobiles, antique cars, and recreational vehicles.
A road from town leads east to Dixville Notch and The Balsams, one of the few surviving "grand hotels" of the White Mountains. It began in 1866 as Dix House, in which guests were treated to meals prepared by the host, a system which became known as the "American Plan." In 1897, ownership passed to Henry S. Hale, who renamed it and built it into a grand resort. Hale's third addition, in 1916, an elaborately ornamental six-story tower, was the first concrete and steel structure in New Hampshire.
The history and flavor of local culture may be sampled in a colorful on-line journal known as Northern New Hampshire Magazine.
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The Great North Woods is a mecca for those who are passionate
about camping, hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling. Trout and land-locked
salmon may be found in the Connecticut Lakes. The Connecticut in this region
is suitable for canoe and kayak. The Northern
Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile water trail tracing historic Native American
travel routes across the Northern Forest, celebrates the region's rich human
heritage and diverse natural environment. The Canoe Trail follows the Nulhegan
River to its confluence with the Connecticut River in Bloomfield, and continues
downstream to meet the Upper Ammonoosuc in Groveton.
A good source of ideas of things to do in the region is the Nulhegan Gateway Association. The maintains a list of Vermont trails, greenways and waterways, for hiking, biking, birding, paddle sports, horseback, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. A similar list of includes routes for hikes, mountain bikes, ATV's and snowmobiles. Those looking for a true wilderness trail experience will want to know about the Cohos Trail, a 162-mile remote trail in northern-most New Hampshire.
The Connecticut River Joint Commissions provide maps
of the river that identify river access and describe other important aspects
of boating on the river. In this region, beginning with the river's source,
State parks in the area are numerous:
When the Great North Woods were logged in the second half of the 19th century, unique, narrow-gauge rail lines were set deep into the forest to bring out the logs. These proved as ephemeral as the old logging camps themselves, but traces of them remain in the woods as trails, or grown back up with trees.
A small historic train station still stands alongside the track in North Stratford, in the village near the bridge leading to Bloomfield, VT. Residents are preparing to restore it to include an exhibit of railroad history.
For more about Railroads on the Connecticut River Byway
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Colebrook Farmers' Market
43 Colby St., Colebrook Feeds parking lot. Saturdays, July-October, 9-11am. Vegetables, fruits, baked goods, wool yarn, jams and jellies. Rain or shine, 603-237-4430.
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Clarksville, NH 45TH PARALLEL
At this point you stand on the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. At this point you stand also at longitude 71 degrees, 24' West from Greenwich, England. A line from this point through the center of the earth would emerge in the Indian Ocean 982 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
Located in a triangular plot at the junction of NH 145 and Clarksville Pond Road.
Pittsburg, NH REPUBLIC OF INDIAN STREAM
In 1832 the settlers of the area between Indian Stream and Hall's Stream, claimed by both Canada and the United States, set up the independent republic of Indian Stream. Yielding to New Hampshire in 1836, Indian Stream became part of Pittsburg and in 1842 was recognized by treaty as United States territory.
Located on the north side of US 3 at the Town Park.
Stark, NH CAMP STARK GERMAN PRISONER OF WAR CAMP
In the spring of 1944 a high fence and four guard towers transformed a former Civilian Conservation Corps Camp on this site into New Hampshire's sole World War II prisoner of war camp. Approximately 250 German and Austrian soldiers, most of whom were captured in North Africa, lived in Camp Stark while working in the surrounding forest where they cut pulpwood vital to wartime industry. The camp closed in the spring of 1946 when the prisoners of war were returned to their homeland. Several maintained the new friendships they had formed with local New Hampshire residents.
Located on the south side of NH 110, about 1.6 miles east of the Stark Covered Bridge.
Stewartstown, NH 45TH PARALLEL
As you stand at this point on the 45th parallel you are halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.
Located on US 3, about .5 mile north of West Stewartstown.
Stewartstown, NH METALLAK
Hunter, trapper, fisherman and guide, well and favorably known by the region's early settlers. "The Lone Indian of the Magalloway" was the last survivor of a band of Abnaki inhabiting the Upper Androscoggin. Blinded by accidents, Metallak died a town charge in 1847 at the reputed age of 120. He is buried in the North Hill Cemetery on road to the east.
Located on the east side of NH 145, about 1 mile north of Stewartstown village.
Stratford, NH LOG DRIVES
The dramatic process of conveying lumber logs and pulpwood from northern New Hampshire forests to manufacturing centers, by driving them down the Connecticut River, spanned the turn into the Twentieth Century. Hardy crews of "White-water men" risked life and limb in the hazardous work on the annual spring drives.
Located on the west side of US 3, about 1.7 miles south of the center of North Stratford.