Visiting New Hampshire's Biodiversity


Hurlbert Swamp: Northern White Cedar Swamp



Description:
Hurlbert Swamp Preserve contains an exemplary northern white cedar - balsam fir swamp community and several rare plant species. The trail to the boardwalk is nearly flat and easy to follow. The boardwalk weaves into the center of the swamp, providing a great way to get a feel for the lushness and darkness of its interior.

Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is a boreal tree species that approaches the southeastern limit of its range in New Hampshire, where it occurs only sparingly south of the 44th parallel. It is particularly abundant in the Stewartstown and Colebrook vicinity. Although it sometimes occurs in nearly pure, closed-canopy stands, northern white cedar is often associated with other conifers and to some extent northern hardwoods.

At least six natural community types, not all of them wetlands, contain a significant amount of northern white cedar. At Hurlbert Swamp, the primary community is called a northern white cedar - balsam fir swamp. This type of cedar-dominated peatland swamp is generally moderately acidic and restricted to northern New Hampshire.

In mature examples like this one, the typical natural community structure consists of overstory canopy heights of 40-60 ft. (12-18 m) with occasional to frequent leaning trees and blowdowns. Also look for a moderately well developed tree subcanopy, a sparse shrub understory, well developed hummock-hollow topography, a dense carpet of diverse mosses and liverworts, and sparse to moderate herb cover. Water level fluctuations often change the appearance of the swamp from season to season.

Potential rare plant species of cedar swamps (often found in fen-like openings within the swamps) include several varieties of lady’s slippers, sweet coltsfoot, chestnut sedge, fairy slipper, and Loesel’s twayblade. These rare species are not present in most cedar swamps.


Directions:
From Colebrook, take Route 145 north for 9 miles. Just beyond the Clarksville town line, turn left onto West Road (paved). Travel 1.5 miles to a dirt road on the left at a small artificial pond.  Follow this dirt road 1.1 miles south to the preserve (note and follow wooden signs with "TNC" and oak leaf). Park at the gate and walk east down the grassy road, which becomes a path in a quarter mile or so at a trailhead kiosk. 

Landowner: The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire

Site Guide and Map

Images (hold mouse over image for caption)

The boardwalk trail passes through a stand of Thuja occidentalis (northern white cedar) trees (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) View from the boardwalk in the exemplary northern white cedar - balsam fir swamp (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Larix laricina (eastern larch) and Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) occur at the edge of the swamp (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Caltha palustris (marsh marigold) in bloom, intertwined with a juvenile northern white cedar sprout (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Ladybug on an alder leaf on the way into Hurlbert Swamp (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

The exemplary northern white cedar - balsam fir swamp community at Hurlbert Swamp (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) underside of a cedar; fallen trees are common in northern white cedar swamps (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern) along the trail in to Hurlbert Swamp (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Ranunculus acris (tall buttercup) along the trail in to Hurlbert Swamp (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Hurlbert Swamp Preserve entrance (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Hurlbert Swamp from above

Hurlbert Swamp color aerial photo

Site Guide

Hurlbert Swamp site guide

Link: Preserve page to NH TNC
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