Monday, September 7, 2009

Grafton Pond is Awesome!

Be sure to add this place to your wish list and if it's already there, then I would recommend moving it to the top of the list -- don't wait two years like I did! Doug and I kayaked here mid-day on Saturday (during Labor Day weekend) and found the parking and boat launch busy. But once you’re out on this 235-acre pond, it almost feels like you have the place to yourself. There's plenty of water and shoreline to explore without feeling crowded. Apart from that, what makes Grafton so special?

First, the things it doesn’t have: motorboat traffic (gas-powered motors and those larger than 6hp are prohibited); road noise (no major roads nearby) and shoreline development (I counted only 4 houses). I learned afterwards that most of the land around the pond is protected by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Thank you, SPNHF!

And now for some positive features that Grafton Pond does have : it’s dotted with many rocky islands, marshy inlets, and deep coves that invite exploration. Apparently, there’s good fishing for smallmouth bass, thanks to the pond’s underwater habitat. It’s fun to paddle around the islands, not sure what you might find on the other side. We didn’t go ashore, but we may do that next time.

Grafton also has abundant wildlife (according to the AMC guide), including a number of nesting loons. We saw a total of four loons, more than we’ve ever seen in one place. There was an adult pair and a mother and chick. We watched as the chick sat on the surface of the water, while its mother dove deep to catch fish; then she would surface and feed the chick. How cool!

We had a great time at Grafton Pond yesterday and will definitely be returning, maybe earlier in the day next time so we can spot more wildlife.

Things to Know Before You Go: The boat launch is shallow and easy. There's a parking area that accommodates about 15-20 cars and there's also one port-a-potty.
Safety: There are many granite outcroppings and fallen trees (true of all ponds this season), so be watchful. We also had to contend with a wind-driven current in open areas that got quite gusty at times.

Getting There: This is one time when the directions in the AMC Guidebook threw us off track. Here’s how we eventually got there: From southern NH, take 89-North to exit 17. Follow Route 4-East to 4A, which takes you past Mascoma Lake and through the town of Enfield. Take a left onto Grafton Pond Road (about 9-10 miles from exit 17). Follow this dirt road to the end, take a right and the boat launch is on your left.

P.S. We combined our paddle at Grafton Pond with a side trip to Saint Gaudens National Historic Site located about 20 miles away in Cornish, NH. Will post more on that later.


The Former PK said...

I am definitely putting that on my list. I like that there is no road traffic. I often find that a lot of the ponds are right near the road.

I'm interested to hear about your visit to the historical landmark too ... I've never been.

Lucie said...

Hi Patrice,
Good to hear from you! Grafton Pond may be replacing Gilmore Pond as our new favorite. I don't think anyone could possibly be disappointed with a paddle on Grafton, unless the wind proves to be too much. It's quiet, has tons of wildlife and so many coves, inlets and islands to explore.Well worth the trip!

MHoffmanPhoto said...

In the short 4 months that I have lived in NH so far, I have paddled Grafton Pond countless times. It is far and away my very favorite place to paddle, even though Eastman Lake in a stones throw from my house!
I think the pond supported 2 families of loons this year. About a month ago, I took my dad out for a paddle there. We got so ridiculously close to the loons. They would dive for fish and surface next to our kayaks. One of the chicks nearly ran head-on into the bow of my kayak!

Lucie said...

We've encountered some "friendly" loons this season, too; most notably at Gilmore Pond. They seemed unperturbed that we were sharing their space. Maybe it's because the chicks have grown up and the adults are less protective? I don't know. Thanks for writing!

Paul Bryant-Smith said...

Thanks for your post about Grafton Pond. My family will be going on Saturday and you've helped us to prepare for what should be a fantastic trip.

Paul Bryant-Smith said...

Thanks for your post on Grafton Pond. My family will be heading there on Saturday and you've helped us prepare.

jimbo said...

Grafton Pond is an awesome paddle destination. It has a really cool history. To really enjoy it, you MUST respect the Loons. Keep clear of nesting places. If you do not recognize these places. Ask others, the locals know what to look for.

Meredith said...

I feel so privileged to live so close to this beautiful natural area. My son and I went for a paddle a little over a week ago and saw two chicks and two adults together. We kept our distance and were still able to take many photos. I saw one chick waddle up the parent's back...a real treasure.

Was at Squam Lake when in Center Harbor; we put in at a quiet public boating area. It was so hard to see the motor boats just zooming around and seeing the loons out there. It seems so perilous for them.

Thanks for starting this blog!

Anonymous said...

If you had any respect for this place you wouldn't be advertising it as you are. I live less than a mile down the road and have lived in Grafton my whole life. It is absurd how overrun this place has become, and acting as you do about it does not help the situation. People seem to take a perverse pride in sharing "secrets" like this and guess what, they aren't secrets any more. It's a wonderful place- please appreciate it and go home without getting on a soapbox about it. If you call some place paradise you can kiss it goodbye. Also, Grafton is a town, not just a pond. You speak of it as though the town doesn't exist. Most Graftonites can't even be bothered to go to the pond named after their town any more because of the outrageous influx of tourists from out of the area. Please be respectful of this. Thanks.

Lucie said...

I view Grafton Pond as a beautiful resource that belongs to everyone in the state of New Hampshire and those who visit, too. It's hardly a secret since it appears on all the state atlases, maps and guidebooks, including one published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Sorry that you feel it's been overrun by tourists and that my blog has contributed to that.
Honestly, I think it's only a short matter of time before any beautiful spot is "discovered," and word gets out. My guess is this probably happened with Grafton Pond years ago.
I encourage all visitors to treat any natural area and wildlife with respect. Thanks for writing.