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Rattlesnake Maintenance Completed!

Repairing the Squam Region's "Over-Loved" Trail

Over the course of 2022 and 2023, the Squam Lakes Association (SLA) partnered with the University of New Hampshire (UNH) to tackle much-needed trail maintenance on Old Bridle Path up to West Rattlesnake!

When you're seeking a stunning vista in the Squam Region, either for personal enjoyment or to share the beauty of Squam with visiting friends and family, West Rattlesnake is usually the first hike that comes to mind. Here at the Squam Lakes Association, we love how the accessibility of Old Bridle Path creates an opportunity for new hikers to experience the beauty of the Squam region—and that the incredible view still makes the trail a go-to for seasoned hikers. Due to this wide appeal, Old Bridle Path is hiked annually by upwards of 30,000 people. Few realize just how much of an impact the tens of thousands of boots that meander up the trail have on the surrounding ecosystem.

 

WEAR & TEAR

The wearing down of the soil, known as erosion, is one of the biggest impacts on our ecosystem that arises on trails. As we walk along a trail, the tread of our feet dislodges soil, rocks, and roots. When it rains, all of this loose organic material is carried with the water as it runs down the trail into surrounding waterbodies, which can negatively impact the health of our streams, rivers, and lakes. Erosion also damages the plant life adjacent to the trail corridor as roots are trampled and essential soil washes away.

Here at the SLA, we conduct annual trail work to mitigate these impacts. This involves clearing trees and branches that have fallen or grown into the trail and maintaining existing drainage structures that redirect water off of the trail. These efforts minimize the impacts of erosion and encourage hikers to stay within the trail corridor. However larger projects, such as building any structures on the trail, involve significantly more time and effort—and Old Bridle Path is in serious need of new drainage structures, steps, and retaining walls.

 

THE WORK

Starting in June of 2022 and ending in August of 2023, over 4,000 hours of work was invested into the trail by trail crews, volunteers, staff, and AmeriCorps members.

All this work has numerous beneficial impacts.

 

Steps and Drainage Structures

(The new stair structure as seen in the first photo of this page.) 

If you had hiked the trail prior to maintenance, you may have noticed that many of the wooden steps were rotting, some had been worked out of the ground, and others had the dirt washing out from underneath them (see image above). Additionally, the steps were frequently placed in a way that required you to take an enormous step to get up! 26 drainage structures, 221 steps, and a 20' timber ladder structure were rebuilt and installed along Old Bridle Path to replace the rotten structures. The new steps and drainages slow down the flow of water on the trail and move water off-trail more efficiently which minimizes the impacts of water-caused erosion, ensuring the trail tread remains sturdy. Step installation increases accessibility. By reducing the rise of each step to no greater that 5 inches whenever possible, the steps become more manageable for more people. The new steps also encourage hikers to remain on the trail, increasing the durability of these structures and minimizing the impact on the surrounding plants and animals. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retaining Walls

Retaining wall near the summit of West Rattlesnake.

When water runs over the trail in heavy storms, it can often dislodge and carry away vegetation and soil, increasing the erosion of the trail and surrounding landscape. To combat this erosion and prevent future runoff, 204' of retaining walls were installed along Old Bridle Path. The new retaining walls installed will allow vegetation alongside the trail to regrow and reduce the impacts on erosion into the trail corridor (see right).

 

Trailhead Informational Kiosk

A new informational kiosk was installed at the trailhead of Old Bridle Path to better inform hikers of the trails on West Rattlesnake.

 

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU!

We would like to thank the University of New Hampshire for partnering with us to help complete these projects. We would also like to thank the AmeriCorps members from the Lakes Region Conservation Corps and the National Civilian Community Corps who served many of their hours on the trail, hauling materials and equipment up, clearing the old structures, building new structures, and maintaining the existing trail while doing so. We'd also like to thank the countless volunteers who helped carry the heavy timber logs up the trail to the new step and retaining wall locations.

     

 

 

 

Donate Now to Support the Work on the Trail!
Click Here to Contact Katri Gurney with Any Questions about the Project

While the work on this project is now completed, for your convienience, we have left the information about alternative hikes in the area here for you to keep in mind when planning to hike in the Squam Range. 

Click Here for Ways to Help
Click Here for Alternative Hikes