Paradise Point Nature Center and Wildlife sanctuary, located on the north shore of Newfound Lake, includes 43 acres with 3,500 feet of rocky, unspoiled lakeshore.
In the early 1960s, Colonel and Mrs. Alcott Elwell gave this property to the New Hampshire Charitable Fund, who donated it to the Audubon Society of New Hampshire in 1966. Through a challenge grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Fund, contributors, and volunteers, Paradise Point Nature Center was constructed in 1969 to offer environmental education services to people of all ages.
Newfound Lake is a glacial lake that is noted for its depth, clarity, and purity. A deep river valley before the glaciers, the ice sheet scoured it deeper and then filled the valley with glacial debris. The debris dammed that water to form a very deep lake – even deeper than it is now – and presently it reaches a depth of 180 feet. Evidence of the glaciers can be seen throughout the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary’s varied habitats entice many neo-tropical bird migrants each spring and summer. Many Warblers, Thrushes, Vireos, and Scarlet Tanagers have been found here.
The marked trails at the Sanctuary are open year-round from dawn to dusk.
Seasonal note: the parking lot is not plowed in winter and may be icy from fall through spring.
Ridge trail: yellow markers
Lakeside trail: blue markers
Approximately 1 mile round trip
In contrast to the other two trails on the Sanctuary, which are dominated by softwoods, this trail passes through a hardwood forest. Continue past the red markers for the Elwell Trail to a foot-plank bridge over a small swamp. This shallow pool is a superb breeding spot for a number of insects, including the well-known mosquito. There are also cinnamon and sensitive ferns in this area.
A steep but short climb takes you past numerous rugged, rocky outcrops. Notice the variety of lichens on some of the boulders. The trail continues to The Point and an incredible view of the lake and mountains.
At The Point, notice the outcrops of rock, some with red garnet (a cousin to the gemstone rube), which you can see through the water an in the bleached zone around the high water mark.
From The Point, the trail follows the shoreline back to the Nature Center. Many of the trees and shrubs here are forest edge species, which favor the open conditions of the shoreline.
The trail will bring you down to the dock with the Nature Center in sight behind you.
White markers, 1/3 mile round trip
This is the Sanctuary’s shortest trail. From the Nature Center, it takes you to the shore of the lake. Looking out at the lake, look and listen for the Common Loons and Common Mergansers that are frequent visitors to the area during warmer months. The tail then heads back through the woods along the edge of a small swamp. During the spring and summer, look for wildflowers such as Trillium, Wintergreen, Clintonia, and Partridgeberry, as well as Bracken Fern.
Red markers, ¾ mile round trip
This relatively easy trail soon takes you to a cathedral of Hemlock trees. You then descend to a small vernal pool area where numerous species of frogs and salamanders deposit their eggs to hatch each spring. In summer, this area may be quite dry. Notice the number of deciduous trees here, such as Red Maple and Beech. Just before you reach The Point, you’ll find the giraffe tree, a Yellow Birch that has grown in an interesting way. Yellow Birch is famous for spouting on old logs and stumps. The Point is a rock ledge that looks out to a panoramic view of the lake and mountains beyond.
Bear right to head north along the trail, looking for the red markers (just before crossing a small book), that direct you back to the Nature Center. This section of the Elwell Trail parallels a wetland characterized by flora and fauna not found abundantly elsewhere in the Sanctuary. You may even feel a change in temperature as you approach the swamp. Look for Indian Pipes, Mayflower, Goldthread, Partridgeberry, Hobblebush, Bunchberry, and Cranberry on this section of the trail. Notice the spongy carpet of Sphagnum Moss among the Cinnamon Ferns. There are also Sour-gum trees (also known as Tupelo or Black Gum) that grow only in swamps and watercourses and are not often found in the northeast.
Proceeding through this old-growth forest, you’ll approach two majestic trees that are well over 100 years old – the Elwell Memorial Pines, which honor Colonel Alcott and Mrs. Helen Chaffee Elwell, donors of this property.
Continue following the red markers to return to the Nature Center.
Photo, top: view of Newfound Lake from Paradise Point, by Phil Brown.