Popular attraction

Lost River Gorge springing to life after fall fire

May 30. 2018 12:42PM

Paradise Falls inside Lost River Gorge is charged by the running melting cliffs of Kinsman Notch. 

NORTH WOODSTOCK — The trees in Kinsman Notch have turned bright green, surprising workers at Lost River Gorge who had just opened the popular attraction for the first time since a major forest fire darkened the nearby mountain pass last fall.

“We’ve been watching those burned trees along the Dilly Cliffs way above Lost River,” said Kate Wetherell, the attraction’s general manager, “and have been surprised to see green leaves coming out where there was so much fire and destruction just months ago.”

“It’s funny, but I keep catching myself, and sometimes other employees, looking up at the cliffs to see what is different,” she said. “We know the landscape will continue to change as the land regenerates, and really, we feel lucky to be able to watch it happen.”

Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves had to shorten its season last fall when a major forest fire hit the area above the gorge, spreading from the conservation land into the White Mountain National Forest and even affecting traffic on the Appalachian Trail.

The public area of Lost River Gorge, which involves hand-crafted boardwalks through and around the boulder caves, was not involved. However, the fire was visible from the grounds, and the management was asked to turn their parking lots and adjacent land over to the fire-fighting efforts.

The staff used the time to work on some new features they have been adding to the gorge, including a giant bird’s nest viewing platform large enough to hold visitors, and to improve parts of the boardwalk through the upper gorge.

Wetherell said she is grateful the firefighters kept the fire away from the attraction, and that none of the new features in or above the gorge were impacted. The former Dilly Cliff Trail is now permanently closed due to concerns over unstable footing and the possibility of loose rock falling from the steep, burned-over cliffs above. Now there are plans to add a new map and trailhead kiosk at the entrance of the Ecology Trail, where visitors can see the results of the forest fire and watch as the land changes and heals.

“It’s an incredible thing to watch, and a great lesson for us all,” Wetherell said

The gorge has been open to visitors since it was discovered in 1852 by two brothers during a fishing adventure that turned into discovery of an impressive boulder cave system. Over the years, boardwalks and steps have replaced ladders and ropes to allow visitors to better explore the gorge and caves. The recent additional bridges, forest trails and pavilions have opened new areas to visitors.

Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves is owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and managed by White Mountains Attractions in North Woodstock.

EnvironmentHoliday or vacationTourismNorth WoodstockPhoto Feature

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