Lincoln Woods Trail, White Mountains – There isn’t a grand story about how the Lincoln Woods Trail came to be, and the trail isn’t named for any famous person. However, this trail is the direct result of J.E. Henry’s historic East Branch & Lincoln Railroad (1893-1948), and that is what makes it so unique.
The 2.9 mile-long Lincoln Woods Trails utilizes the railroad bed of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad. It begins along the Kancamagus Highway at the Lincoln Woods trailhead, crosses a picturesque suspension bridge (above), and travels along the west side of the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, and after crossing Franconia Brook, the trail abruptly ends at the Pemigewasset Wilderness boundary.
During the railroad days, there were two logging camps along this section of the railroad, Camp 7 and Camp 8. Remnants of both camps are still visible along the Lincoln Woods Trail. Large blocks of ice were cut from Ice Pond at Camp 7 and used in iceboxes (early refrigerators). The ice blocks were stored at the Camp 7 ice house, and some stored in the ice house at the company store in Lincoln Village. Use of the ice house ended in the 1940s, probably 1946. Remnants of this operation remain around the pond.
An intriguing piece of White Mountains history took place at Camp 8. The East Branch & Lincoln Railroad was a standard gauge railroad, but in 1901 J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow gauge railroad to harvest timber from the Whaleback Mountain (Mt Osseo) area. This roughly 1.25 mile-long railroad began at Camp 8 and traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage. Its only purpose was to harvest timber from the mountain slopes surrounding Whaleback Mountain. In operation only for a couple of years, it was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track.
With the exception of a May 1902 article by Albert W. Cooper and T.S. Woolsey, Jr. in Forestry & Irrigation, little is known about this short-lived railroad. And there are only a few photos of the railroad.
Old bottles, logging tools, and railroad related objects are scattered along the Lincoln Woods Trail. These objects are not junk or litter; they are protected artifacts that help tell the story of our past. The destruction of artifacts and historic sites is a crime, which means digging is out. Metal detecting anywhere along this trail, or in the White Mountain National Forest where there could be artifacts is risky business.
From the late 1940s, after logging railroad operations ended, to 1990, the Lincoln Woods Trail was a segment of the Wilderness Trail; the Wilderness Trail was 8.9 miles long, and it traveled from the Kancamagus Highway to Stillwater Junction in today’s Pemigewasset Wilderness. The Pemigewasset Wilderness was designated an official wilderness area in 1984. And to avoid any confusion on what part of the Wilderness Trail was actually in the designated wilderness around 1989, the USFS renamed this 2.9 mile-long segment of the trail (Kancamagus Highway to the Pemigewasset Wilderness boundary, near Franconia Brook) the Lincoln Woods Trail.
Originally, the Franconia Brook Campsite was along the Lincoln Woods Trail, but in 1997 it was permanently closed due to unacceptable sanitary conditions; it was relocated to the east side of the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, along the Eastside Trail. Old tent platforms (above) remain at the closed campsite.
Tropical Storm Irene (2011) caused massive destruction along the East coast of the United States, and the White Mountain National Forest was officially closed during the storm. Many trails in the White Mountains, were badly damaged. The above photo shows the repair work along the Lincoln Woods Trail in September 2013.
Just before the Lincoln Woods Trail ends at the Pemigewasset Wilderness boundary, it crosses Franconia Brook on a footbridge. This is the site of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad’s trestle No.7. And the abutments (above) from the second trestle No. 7 support today's footbridge.
Two trestles, each serviced different regions of the railroad, were built at this brook crossing. The first trestle was built in the early 1900s, probably 1902, and it serviced the Franconia and Lincoln Brook Branches of the railroad. And the second trestle was built, probably in 1905, just below the first one, and it serviced the Upper East Branch of the railroad (the area around the East and North Fork branches of the Pemigewasset River).
Today, the Lincoln Woods Trail is one of the heaviest used trails in the White Mountains. And all types of outdoor enthusiasts (day hikers, fishermen, peakbaggers, railroad enthusiasts, etc.) use the trail. It’s also a gateway to the 45,000-acre Pemigewasset Wilderness. But more importantly, because of its flatness, people from all walks of life can explore nature; and see first hand remnants of a legendary logging railroad; the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad. The grand story here is the popularity and historical importance of this trail.
To license any of the color photos in this blog article for publications, click on the photo. And you can view more images of this historic trail here.
Happy image making..