Northeastern Bogs

July 1, 2010

Thousands of years have passed since retreating glaciers and shifting rivers scarred our landscape. In many spots in the Northeast, evidence of these ancient events can now be seen in the form of bogs. Their sphagnum moss mats—and the decaying peat beneath—create a unique habitat, complete with bright flowers and carnivorous plants. Visitors should stick to boardwalks and peripheral trails to avoid damaging these fragile, magically diverse areas, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying them. To read more about bogs, read “Beauty and the Bog” in the July/August issue of AMC Outdoors.

Philbrick-Cricenti Bog
New London, N.H.
Philbrick-Cricenti is a beautiful kettle hole bog with a great display of wetland plants along a mile of boardwalk trails. Visitors can explore the Tundra Garden, Quaking, and Bog Peril loops. Along the Access Trail from the parking area on Newport Road, white pines transition to red maples. At the first intersection, signs of bog species begin to appear, including sphagnum moss and pitcher plants. A removable wooden pole on the short Peek Hole Loop shows the peat mat’s 20-foot depth.
Distance
: 1 mile
Info
: www.nhdfl.org (search for “Philbrick-Cricenti”)

Ponemah Bog
Amherst, N.H.
In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” “Ponemah” means “land of the hereafter.” For at least 6,000 years, a bog mat has gradually spread, shrinking a 100-acre lake down to a 3-acre pond. A 0.75-mile boardwalk and trail spurs leading to viewing platforms trace the former lakeshore and offer up-close looks at the bog’s flora. Carnivorous horned bladderwort, pitcher plant, and sundew are common here, and a special viewing platform for sundew is located at the east end of the trail.
Distance
: 0.75 miles
Info
: www.nhaudubon.org/sanctuary_amhe.php


Colchester Bog Natural Area

Colchester, Vt.
One of two large peat bogs along Lake Champlain, Colchester Bog features a 400-foot floating boardwalk and a recreational path. The 175-acre bog began forming 9,000 years ago as the Winooski River shifted. Since then nearly 20 feet of sphagnum moss have filled the former river channel, forming this spongy ecosystem. A rich variety of plants thrive here, including highbush blueberries, speckled alder, leatherleaf, and the carnivorous pitcher plant. From the elevated boardwalk, visitors can view some of the taller plants at eye level.
Distance
: 0.5 miles
Info
: www.uvm.edu/~envprog


Ponkapoag Bog

Canton, Mass.
Along the northwest edge of Ponkapoag Pond is a unique Atlantic white cedar bog. From the Ponkapoag Golf Course parking lot, walk down Avenue of the Maples, across the course, to the edge of Ponkapoag Pond. A left turn will bring you directly to the bog. A right turn will send you around the pond the long way. A narrow boardwalk leads from the trail into a stand of swamp maple, through the white cedars, and out into the bog. The bog is home to leatherleaf, pitcher plants, sundew, and, in the summer, the pink flowers of the sheep laurel. AMC’s Ponkapoag Camp is located on the opposite side of the pond.
Distance
: 4 miles
Info
: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Boston (AMC Books)


Ell Pond

Hopkinton, R.I.
Nestled on 50 acres, Ell Pond provides a look at the stages of bog development. From the open water of the pond, concentric rings radiate outward: A quaking bog mat circles the pond and, in turn, is surrounded by white cedar. Next comes a ring of swampland featuring red maple and then, finally, woodlands. These outer rings are expected to gradually encroach on the inner pond. A trail from North Road leads between Ell Pond and Long Pond.
Distance
: 1.7 miles out and back
Info
: www.nature.org (search for “EllPond”), www.asri.org/refuges/long-pond-woods.html


Cedar Swamp

High Point State Park, N.J.
Within the Dryden Kuser Natural Area in High Point State Park is a bog that is known locally as Cedar Swamp. The trail begins beyond the Cedar Swamp Picnic Area. A 0.4-mile walk leads to a loop trail that can be taken in either direction. From deciduous forest to a boardwalk cutting through the bog itself, this hike offers a varied view of bogland diversity, including sundew and pitcher plants, as well as abundant wildlife. The Monument Trail can be easily accessed for anyone wanting to extend the hike up to High Point.
Distance
: 1.5 miles
Info
: Nature Walks in New Jersey, 2nd Ed. (AMC Books), www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/highpoint.html

Great Swamp
Morris County, N.J.
Formation of the 7,700-acre Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge began with the retreat of the Wisconsin glacier 25,000 years ago. Though technically not a bog, the more acidic areas of the refuge feature typical bog plants such as leatherleaf. Today, the refuge is home to more than 200 bird species—a quarter of those found in the U.S.—and 600 plant species. One mile of trail stretches out from the Wildlife Observation Center on Long Hill Road, in the center of the refuge. Blinds are available for observing wildlife, and a boardwalk allows visitors to explore the swampland safely.
Distance
: 1.5-3 miles

Info: Nature Walks in New Jersey, 2nd Ed. (AMC Books), www.fws.gov/northeast/greatswamp

Contributors: Elizabeth Bassett, Kevin Breunig, Glenn Scherer, Michael Tougias

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Allison W. Bell

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.

Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, writes the trail-running blog Running Wild.