Merrimack River Conservation Area

Area:  Merrimack River Conservation Area
Trail:  Les Clark Nature Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
Location:  Concord, NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  River, brook
Distance:  1.6 miles  
Elevation Gain:  50 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 0:45  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 1:30  
Season:  Variable
Last Updated:  08/13/2009  
Author:  Raymond and Alyssa Gilbert

Bank swallow nests along the Merrimack River (photo by Raymond Gilbert)
Bank swallow nests along the Merrimack River (photo by Raymond Gilbert)

Route Summary   

This is an easy hike along Mill Brook and the Merrimack River. There is a map kiosk at the parking lot. The route described below follows the Les Clark Nature Trail, although there are a few other trails that may be explored.

  • From the parking area located directly on Portsmouth Street, cross the bridge on the road, then pick up the trail, on the same side of the street as the parking area.
  • After walking almost 0.2 mile, cross a bridge over Mill Brook.
  • Just 0.05 mile after the bridge, you will come to a trail junction; turn left.
  • Walk for 0.2 mile, then at a junction, keep straight where a connector trail goes off to the right.
  • After walking another 0.3 mile, you will reach the shore of Eastman Cove (part of the Merrimack River).
  • Continue walking for another 0.2 mile, staying to the left as you go by two trail junctions. This will bring you to the shore of the Merrimack River where there is a bench and a canoe landing.
  • Continue on the trail for 0.25 mile where there will be a trail junction with two trails coming in from the right; keep walking straight ahead.
  • After another 0.2 mile, at a different trail junction, turn right while the other branch continues straight.
  • Walk for 0.1 mile which will return you to the first trail junction you encountered.
  • Go straight at this 4-way intersection in order to re-cross Mill Brook and return to the parking area after 0.2 mile.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Trailhead (270') 0.0 0.0
Eastman Cove shore (230') 0.7 0.7
Merrimack River shore (230') 0.2 0.9
Trailhead (270') 0.7 1.6

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Trail map of hike route at the Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Center (map by Ben Kimball)

 




  Trail Guide   

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, maintains these trails for public use in East Concord, along the Merrimack River. These trails provide for a short walk for local residents, an evening stroll in the woods, and fields – but don't forget your insect repellant, as even in the daytime, the bugs are active. The meandering, ever changing Merrimack River is slowly shifting across this area, as the curve of the river exerts its force on the bank. This is an interesting area, great for a short walk, a swim, and to see some birds and other wildlife.

The trail starts across the bridge on the same side of the road as the parking lot, and follows along Mill Brook in a wooded area. Then it passes through a dense dark grove of planted white pine trees – I have heard children call this section the "spooky forest". The trail continues along the river's edge, through an open field-like area, and reaches the silver maple floodplain forest. This is an interesting spot featuring a natural grove of maples, with little undergrowth – mostly just grass and driftwood. There are side and alternate trails, that take one past a swamp, a beaver pond, and though a wooded area.

Floodplain (photo by Raymond Gilbert)
Floodplain (photo by Raymond Gilbert)

Recent trips along the river have revealed the ever changing floodplain and the power of water. The banks continue to be washed away, as the force of the water slams into them, washing the soil away, and widening the river. The trail has fallen into the river in places and has been rerouted into the woods. This is a natural process, and is interesting to see and makes one wonder what the area will look like in ten or twenty years. Certainly in some not-too-distant future, the river will have moved over substantially, and a new oxbow lake will have been formed.

Trail along the Merrimack River (photo by Raymond Gilbert)
Trail along the Merrimack River (photo by Raymond Gilbert)
 

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NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Center is located in Concord, New Hampshire in the area referred to as East Concord. These directions lead to the parking area for trail access; see the Facilities section below for directions to the Conservation Center.

From I-93 and I-393:
  • From I-93 take Exit 15E (I-393 E) in Concord.
  • Then from I-393, take Exit 2 (Rt. 132).
  • Turn right on East Side Drive (Rt. 132 northwest) and travel for about 1.0 mile.
  • Turn left onto Portsmouth Street.
  • Follow Portsmouth Street for about 0.5 mile. You will pass the entrance road to the Conservation Center after 0.2 mile, but keep going on Portsmouth Street to reach the lower parking lot.
  • Map Kiosk
    (photo by Raymond Gilbert)
    Map Kiosk (photo by Raymond Gilbert)
  • Turn left into the unpaved parking area at the bottom of the hill.

From I-93:
  • From I-93 take Exit 16.
  • Turn east at the end of the exit ramp.
  • Following the brown and white "Conservation Center" signs, go to East Side Drive (Rt. 132).
  • Turn right onto Eastman Street.
  • After 0.3 mile, turn left onto Portsmouth Street.
  • Travel on Portsmouth Street for 0.1 mile.
  • Turn right into the unpaved parking area.

Facilities   

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests' Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area (office and Visitor Center) sits high on a hill. Formerly the conservation area trails could be accessed from their building via a long stairway and footbridge over the brook, but due to erosion and damage to the footbridge, this was all closed.

The Visitor Center may now be accessed only by road. To reach it from the trailhead, drive for 0.3 mile northeast on Portsmouth Street, and then turn right onto the center's access road. Refer to the trail map above for its location.

Other Notes   

Watch out for poison ivy.
 
Bank swallow nests along the Merrimack River
(photo by Raymond Gilbert)
Bank swallow nests along the Merrimack River (photo by Raymond Gilbert)

 

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