Exeter River

Exeter River February 2017

Exeter has been upgraded from last summer’s Extreme Drought to a Severe Drought. And thanks to winter rain and snow, the Exeter River is flowing at near normal levels. It is a beautiful sight and still draws folks to marvel at the free flowing river after the removal of the dam.

Exeter River

Temperatures are beginning to rise and we hope it’s a slow warming trend. Exeter now needs the ground to thaw enough to absorb some of the snow melt as it takes longer for groundwater levels to recover. Water restrictions are still in place and residents are urged to monitor their water use.

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Rain, Glorious Rain!

The Exeter River, almost dry as a bone in August when work to remove a landmark dam and restore the riverbed to its natural state was proceeding ahead of schedule. The dry riverbed, due to a devastating Extreme Drought, couldn’t have come at a better time for completing this enormous dam removal and restoration project.

That was then….

Left Riverbed finished

This is now….

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It is October 22 and we are still in an extended Extreme Drought with mandatory water restrictions but a welcome storm dropped close to 3″ of rain overnight. We rushed to the river this morning to see the results where we discovered we weren’t alone in our need to see the river flowing. Among the spectators was Board of Selectmen member, Nancy Belanger, who could hardly contain her excitement at seeing the results of the restoration after a decade of planning and hard work.

She told us things we didn’t know about the planning process, the animals saved during the restoration, and terms I’ve never heard… such as ‘riffle.’ “See the riffles they created,” she said as she pointed to rocks with water flowing fast around and over. When I got home, I looked the term up online. Riffle: “A riffle is a shallow section of a stream or river with rapid current and a surface broken by gravel, rubble or boulders.”- Wikipedia. Nancy said riffles are a place of shelter for fish migrating upstream during breeding. All good….

We need more rain but this is a start….

A Look at Exeter’s Fish Ladder

Several weeks ago on a soggy gray day, mister gardener attended a presentation by New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department at Exeter’s fish ladder. The public was invited to see what fish were making the annual spring trip around the Great Dam taking them from salt water to fresh water.

Fish LadderThis is the location where fresh water of the Exeter River flow into the salty Squamscott River. The dam was constructed hundreds of years ago when the town was settled by Europeans to power sawmills, grist mills and more. Naturally, it was an obstacle to the fish that needed to migrate from salt water to fresh water to spawn. With the mills gone and a fish ladder in place, they have restored the natural habitat for such fish as smelt, alewife, blueback herring, American shad, American Eel and sea lamprey.

A small crowd gathered at the street and made the short walk downhill to the river.

Fish and Game Presentationand watched as a sampling of fish were netted and brought ashore.

netBiologist Becky Heuss shows a lamprey to the gathering, with a bit of wariness on the faces of these youngsters. What better way to introduce and educate the youth to be the natural caretakers of the future.

LampreyThe mouth identifies it as a lamprey rather than an eel.

Lamprey and more fish.

fishBecky Heuss and her assistant, Edward Motyka, a biological aide, explained the challenges fish face on route and explained the efforts to improve the ecological quality of the Squamscott and Exeter Rivers.

Fish and Game

A Walk in the Spring Woods

A very short walk from our neighborhood are the Phillips Exeter Academy Trails, 140 acres of woods along the Exeter River. It’s a haven for dogs and their owners, cross country skiers, bicyclers, joggers, hikers, Exeter Academy sports teams, and for strollers like us.

trail map

Exeter River

Exeter River

Tranquility of nature abounds. Trails are wide and picturesque with hemlock and pines beckoning us along.

HemlocktrailMost of the trails were well maintained, either covered with thick leaf litter or wood chips over muddy spots. Several well-shaded areas were still covered in icy snow, packed well from cross country skiers earlier in the season.

snowIt was fun to see the newly emerging plant life along the way, some of the familiar flora we left behind in Virginia.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

We saw evidence of fauna along the way too.

The work of beavers

The work of beavers

Mallards

Mallards

Numerous bogs were alive with the chorus of wood frogs… that were quickly silent on our approach.

Bog

It’s Spring. Bogs are everywhere!

Our only misadventure was not knowing exactly where we were two miles back in the woods. There are numerous side trails and Y’s along the way that were not on the map. Should we go this way or that way?

Is that a trail marker? We almost missed it.

Is that a trail marker? We almost missed it.

Can't miss this one but should we turn here?

Can’t miss this one but should we turn here?

Thank goodness we were saved by the Phillips Exeter Academy track team who pointed us the way out.

Track Team

Track Team

We have since downloaded the app Map My Walk, an amazing GPS pedometer that tracks our route, pace, calories, distance, and time. We’ll never be lost again!