In 1979, longtime conservationist and Audubon friend Ruth Crary Young donated 485 acres of her land to the Society after she accepted Audubon’s wildlife habitat management proposal. The gift was accompanied by an endowment to help support the basic maintenance of the property, which enables Audubon to fulfill its stewardship obligation and ensure the continued protection and preservation of this wildlife habitat for the enjoyment and enrichment of future generations.
A 21-acre parcel of land in the middle of the Sanctuary, which includes the circa 1830 Ermin Smith Farm homestead and another home, remains in private ownership, but there is a conservation easement that protects this land from future development. Ruth Crary Young died in 1988, leaving an additional bequest to the Society to support Audubon’s land conservation program. The original gift provided the seed for the continuing land protection of the area.
In addition to the conservation easement on the private property within the Sanctuary, Audubon currently has Grantee interest in three easements on adjoining properties; which totals 51 acres. The Grantor of these conservation easements recognized the importance of protecting the conservation vales of the land and preserving the character of the town of Deering for all to enjoy. At the same time, the Grantors, and subsequent owners, will enjoy the continued use of these protected land for forestry, maple sugaring, and other activities. The easements protect these lands in perpetuity, with the owners serving as conservation stewards of their land.
In 1997, another 133 acres, the “Lazy Brown” homestead, were added to the Sanctuary, bringing the total mosaic of protected lands to 690 acres. The land north of North Road was opened to deer hunting.
Building a large block of protected lands is very important for wildlife. For many species of animals, from moose to invertebrates, unfragmented lands are important for maintaining a sustainable population. Fewer roads means less mortality for migrating turtles, frogs, and salamanders. Corridors of protected lands that link one area to another are essential for species that move from one place to another or have large territories. The protected lands and wetlands that comprise the Deering Wildlife Sanctuary will continue to provide habitat for wildlife, scenic enjoyment and recreational opportunities for visitors, and a healthy environment for future generations.
Three trail loops constitute the Sanctuary’s trail system. Each trail is combined with portions of Clement Hill Road to form the loops. Clement Hill Road has summer maintenance only beyond the Smith Farm and is closed to vehicles from October through April. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the Patten Farm Trail only.
Loop 1.7 miles (includes 0.1 mile on Clement Hill Road, 0.5 mile on the Ruth Ethel Clement Path, and 1.1 miles on the Black fox Pond Trail
About 90 minutes
Most of this loop skirts the shore of the 36-acre Black Fox Pond, beginning with. a descent to the pond and ending with an ‘uphill climb. From .the parking area, walk west up Clement Hill Road 0.1 mile to the Ruth Ethel Clement Path, which begins at a sharp cure in Clement Hill Road.
This abandoned town road heads southwest to the north tip of Black Fox Pond, where it crosses a culvert. About 400 feet after the culvert, the marked Black Fox Pond Trail will turn left, leaving the Ruth Clement Path. The trail on the southern shore is cool and shady under the hemlocks, which dominate the shore edge. It winds around small seeps and shady glens, where slow-moving waters disappear underground and reappear. Several points along the trail afford wonderful views of the pond. The trail winds around a marsh that is surrounded by an unusual boulder pile, which is a prime porcupine den area. Look for the gnarled and stunted hemlocks that serve as winter food for the porcupines. The trail returns to the pond edge and continues to the dam. Several beaver lodges, active and inactive, can be spotted here. The pond has several floating bog mats, which are dominated by leather-leaf. Two rock outcrops are frequently used for nesting by Canada geese and .American Black Ducks; they are also resting and feeding areas for otter, raccoon, and muskrat. From the dam; you can walk northeast about 500 feet to Clement Hill Road and access the other two trails or continue around the pond on the Black Fox Pond Trail. The sunnier-eastern shore is dominated by white pine and hardwoods and is more open. The trail crosses a Stone wall onto private land and again crosses a stone wall to reenter Audubon land. Please remain on the trail and respect the privacy of the private landowners. The trail now begins its ascent back up to the parking area, first through magnificent large white pines and then through an old orchard, which is maintained for wildlife, and, finally, through typical northern hardwood forests.
Loop 1 mile plus 0.5 mile from the parking area
About 1 hour
From the parking area, turn right (south) and walk 0.5 mile down Clement Hill Road and pick up the Smith Brook Trail on the eastern side of the road, across the road from the trail to the dam The trail skirts below a ridge of ledge outcrop. Travel quietly here to avoid scaring any Wood Ducks that are in the beaver pond that will soon come into view. This pond was created by beavers in 1990. Formerly red maple and white pine woods, only white pine snags remain. This is the preferred habitat of Wood Ducks, and Great Blue Herons have also nested here; look for them in the white pine snags from May to July. Please note that both of these species are very sensitivity to sudden sounds.
On June nights, there is a deafening chorus of the reclusive and well camouflaged gray tree frog, Hyfa versicolo. During the winter, this area, which is sunny and out of the wind, can be alive with chickadees and woodpeckers, which seek shelter in tree cavities and find food in the rotting trees. The trail continues through maturing white pine woods and joins Smith Brook at the outlet of which is currently a beaver meadow. Now filled with grasses and hedges that grow up to six feet high, the beaver meadows once provided a source of food for the livestock of early settlers. The trail follows the edge of the brook to a bridge and then returns upstream on the opposite side, where it joins an old logging road. The trail continues down the logging road meets the Patten Farm Trail, and then heads back to the brook and Clement Hill Road. Turn right to return to the trail head and parking area.
Loop 12 miles (includes 0.2 mile section of the Smith Brook Trail, 0.5 mile on Patten Farm Trail, 0.5 mile on Clement Road), plus: a little more than 0.5 mile from the parking area.
About 90 minutes
This trail is open to dogs on a leash.
The Patten Farm Trail, combined with a length of Clement Hill Road, is a relatively flat, easy trail. This trail, including Clement Hill Road, harkens back to yesteryear. It passes two cellar holes; and there is a short side excursion off of Clement Hill Road to one of Deering’s early cemeteries; Much of the woodlands along the Patten Farm Trail appear younger than those of most of the Sanctuary because of more recent management activities. Like most of southern New Hampshire, Deering saw its population and agriculture peak in the 1850s. With the opening of the west and the migration to industrial centers after the Civil War, the rural areas of New England experienced dramatic declines in population. What remains today on this sanctuary is miles of stone walls and a few cellar holes. Begin at the southern end of the Smith Brook Trail (a little more than 0.5 trail south on Clement Hill Road from the parking area and about 430 feet south of the northern end of the Smith Brook Trail). Proceed 0.2 mile up the Smith Brook Trail and then bear right onto the red blazed Patten Farm Trail. After OS mile, the trail rejoins Clement Hill Road. Almost immediately across the road and a little to the east of the junction of the trail and Clement Hill Road is one of Deering’s early cemeteries, which is located within the Sanctuary. A right turn (north) onto Clement Hill Road from the trail hill take you back to the parking area about 1 mile up Clement Hill Road.
Photo, top: Deering Sanctuary, by Diane De Luca.