Visiting New Hampshire's Biodiversity


Ice Gulch



Description:
Ice Gulch is a wild and beautiful ravine that is filled with talus - an accumulation of large boulders that have been deposited by erosion of the surrounding cliffs. The exemplary natural community that occupies much of this ravine is called a subalpine cold-air talus shrubland. Because of the steepness of its walls and its east-west orientation, the north-facing slope of the gulch is in almost permanent shade, allowing ice to persist beneath and between some of the boulders well into summer. This extreme microclimate creates very difficult growing conditions for most plants, and some black spruce trees in the ravine, while little more than inch in diameter, are over 100 years old.


Above the south-facing talus slopes are cliffs which support two exemplary natural communities, the montane - subalpine acidic cliff and the montane - subalpine circumneutral cliff, in which variations in the bedrock produce differences in water chemistry and nutrient availability. These differences are expressed in the vegetation, with the circumneutral cliff supporting a number of species not found on the acidic cliff, many of them rare in New Hampshire. In one location where groundwater exudes from the cliff face, a permanently wet seep environment supports a separate suite of plants not found elsewhere on the cliff.



Directions: From Gorham, go west on Rte. 2 for 3.5 miles. Take a right on Randolph Hill Rd. Go up about 1.5 miles. Park at the Mt. Crescent House site. Go back along the road about ¼ mile, and take the Ice Gulch Path about 2 miles out to Ice Gulch. A loop can be made by returning from the top of the ravine on the Cook Path. Warning: the ravine portion of this hike is quite difficult and may require extra time.

Landowner: Town of Gorham (Ice Gulch Town Forest)

site guide and map

Images (hold mouse over image for caption)

trail through talus blocks in Ice Gulch (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
trail through talus blocks in Ice Gulch (photo by Ben Kimball)

Labrador tea in bloom in Ice Gulch in mid-August (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)  tiny waterfall along the Ice Gulch trail (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

open talus slope in Ice Gulch (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
open talus slope in Ice Gulch (photo by Ben Kimball)

lingering ice beneath the boulders of Ice Gulch in mid-August (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
lingering ice beneath the boulders of Ice Gulch in mid-August (photo by Ben Kimball)

Ice Gulch talus ravine (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Ice Gulch talus ravine
(photo by Dan Sperduto)

Ice Gulch trail guide
site guide

back to Visit NH's Biodiversity page