A Place of Correspondence: Odiorne Point (Rye, NH)

“There is no mystery in this association of woods and otherworlds, for as anyone who has walked the woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer. Visual affinities of color, relief and texture abound. A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of a streambed into which it has come to rest. Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their color rhyme in the eye-ring of the blackbird. Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories, different times and worlds can be joined.”  ― Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places


Odiorne Point State Park (official state park website) has an interesting history. Originally — as far as human history goes — it was called Pannaway and was the summer home of the native American tribes Abenaki and Penacook. It’s the spot of the first European settlement in New Hampshire  in spring 1623, and by the 1660s, John Odiorne and his family had bought it and were living on the land, generation after generation, through the Civil War period, when Odiorne Point became a colony of hotels, including the grand Sagamore House, and summer homes and estates; by the late 1930s, almost twenty families lived here, including an eighth-generation descendant of John Odiorne.

Then, in 1942, the U.S. government condemned these properties (265 acres total), gave the residents 30 days to get out, and took over the land from private ownership for construction of Fort Dearborn (named after Henry Dearborn, Revolutionary War solider, physician, and Secretary of War who was born in NH) as part of the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth, installing bunkers and batteries of large (16″ and 6″) Mk2 and Mk1 ex-Navy guns in heavily protected concrete and earth casements, which you can still see on the land. The guns were test fired in June 1944 but only four years later, Fort Dearborn was deactivated and the guns were scrapped. The next year, it began to be used as a radar station by the U.S. Air Force, and from 1955-1959 it was the Rye Air Force Station, part of the Strategic Air Command, supporting nearby Pease Air Force Base. In 1961 the site was declared military surplus and was sold to the state of New Hampshire for $91,000.

Now the property hosts the Seacoast Science Center (nice blog), a small network of trails along the ocean and through lightly wooded areas (much of it overgrown with exotic plants like Oriental bittersweet. multiflora rose, and Japanese and European barberry — there is a 118-pp invasive plants management plan in place for Odiorne, dated May 2010), and EDALHAB (Engineering Design and Analysis Laboratory HABItat), an underwater habitat used for saturation diving experiments in Lake Winnipesaukee in the late 1960s. A few of the WWII bunkers and gun casements still stand, covered with colourful graffiti (great photos of the bunkers, casements, and graffiti here).

It’s an evocative place to visit, with echoes across the decades and centuries of human habitation, along with a variety of bird life spending time here now: I’ve seen eiders, brants, red-necked grebes, buffleheads, red-breasted mergansers, gulls, cormorants, several kinds of hawks, and many songbirds, including bluebirds and cedar waxwings.


These are some photos from visits in Nov. 2014, March 2016, and Nov. 2016.

Some sea birds … two photos of mergansers; buffleheads; red-necked grebe and common eider; and brants:

A red-tailed hawk and some songbirds … two photos of cedar waxwings, a nuthatch, mockingbird, bluebird, goldfinch:


Shells and stones and other things on the beach:

Some more beach bits:

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Brambles, tangles, invasive plants:

Maybe not technically an invasive, but tansy spreads everywhere, and it’s all over the ground at Odiorne now:

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A couple of photos of the former military bunkers as they are now:

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These two photos were taken from almost the same vantage point, one in March and one in November:



I’ll leave you with a striated ledge on the beach – aren’t rocks pretty?:



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