103 E. Plumtree Road
Sunderland, MA 01375
Phone: 413-548-8002
Home Educational Resources Natural Resources Research Invasive Species Photo Gallery Volunteers & Friends Partnerships Library Links Gift Shop
Pondicherry Division
Pondicherry Division
The area including Cherry and Little Cherry Ponds and the surrounding complex of wetlands and swamps, located in Jefferson and Whitefield New Hampshire, has long been known for its high quality habitat and rich, diverse assemblage of wildlife species, particularly birds. Horace Wright’s 1911 book The Birds of the Jefferson Region in the White Mountains included some of the first documentation of noteworthy birds at Pondicherry. Later in the century Tudor Richards, a state wildlife biologist, spent many years studying the area and touting the ecological importance of Pondicherry, which culminated in acquisition of approximately 200 acres by the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. Audubon’s land encompassed Cherry and Little Cherry ponds, which are Great Ponds owned and managed by the state Game and Fish Department. This property was designated a State Wildlife Refuge in 1964 by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Eight years later the National Park Service recognized Pondicherry as a National Natural Landmark. In 2004, the Pondicherry area was designated the first Important Bird Area in New Hampshire for its rich variety of breeding and migrating birds.

The 1995 Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Final Action Plan and Environmental Impact Statement identified Pondicherry as one of 48 Special Focus Areas in recognition of the wetland complex of bogs, streams, and ponds and its importance as stopover habitat and breeding habitat for waterfowl and other water birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the first tract (670 acres) of the Pondicherry Division from Hancock Timber Resources Group in 2000. This acquisition protected the boreal forest along the John’s River and an intact forest bog community between Cherry and Little Cherry ponds. Since that time the Division has grown to more than 5,100 acres owned by the Service and 166 acres of easement. The Division is expected to approach 6,000 acres when acquisition is complete. back to top

Pondicherry Fact Sheet

The Division sits in a basin surrounded by the Kilkenny Range to the north; Presidential Range to the east; Dartmouth/Pliny Range to the South; and, the Dalton Hills to the west. Within the bounds of the Refuge is a complex mix of habitats including boreal forests, forested bogs, northern hardwoods/conifers, riparian communities, an abundance of early succession from recent timber harvests, and open water. This concentration of diverse, high quality habitats acts as a magnet to wildlife, especially birds. back to top

Over the years volunteers and biologists have documented 234 different bird species on the Refuge with 128 confirmed nesters. Breeding songbirds are especially well represented with 22 warbler species, seven sparrows, and six thrushes, among others. In addition, there are fourteen amphibian species, six reptiles, and a number of mammals including black bear, moose, white-tailed deer, beaver, and northern bog lemmings. back to top

Amphibians and Reptiles of Pondicherry
Birds of Pondicherry
Fishes of Pondicherry
Mammals of Pondicherry back to top

Wildlife-Dependent Recreational Opportunities
Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education, and interpretation are priority public uses on national wildlife refuges as defined by Executive Order 12996 (March 25, 1996) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-57). Visitors have an opportunity to experience each of these at the Pondicherry Division. back to top

Refuge-specific hunting regulations will become effective September 1, 2005. Generally speaking, these mirror New Hampshire Fish and Game Department regulations with minor exceptions. During the open seasons people may hunt moose, white-tailed deer, waterfowl (Note: Cherry and Little Cherry ponds, and the posted area between them are all closed to hunting), and small game. Hunters need to be familiar with Refuge regulations before going out into the field. Motorized and mechanized vehicles are not permitted on the Refuge. back to top

Anglers at the Pondicherry Division must comply with the state fishing regulations. Although Pondicherry is not sought out by most anglers, Cherry Pond and the John’s River do offer recreational fishing opportunities, and people may fish on any of the other streams and ponds on the Refuge. Chain pickerel and sunfish are the principal game fish on the Refuge. back to top

Wildlife Observation and Photography
Most visitors come to the Refuge because it is well known as a place to see moose, bear, a multitude of breeding birds, and spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges. People can hike, ski, or snowshoe anywhere on the Refuge to view and photograph wildlife, flowers, and the scenery. At this time there are two primitive trails on the Refuge. Cherry Pond is linked to Little Cherry Pond by a loop trail that winds through a forested bog community. A series of bog bridges were installed by the Friends of Pondicherry to protect the saturated bog soils. The second trail is a section of the Cohos Regional Trail. It enters the Refuge from the east off Whipple Road, leads to Cherry Pond, then exits near Highway 115 in the southeast corner. back to top

Environmental Education and Interpretation
Pondicherry is an unstaffed division of the Conte Refuge, and as such, programs are not typically offered by Refuge employees. However, there is an active Friends Group that hosts several environmental events during the year, including an annual birding trip on International Migratory Bird Day in May. Other groups are encouraged to use the Refuge for environmental education and interpretation purposes, but need to contact the Refuge Manager ahead of time. back to top

Other Activities
Hiking is allowed throughout Pondicherry. Motorized and mechanized vehicles, bicycles, and horses are not permitted on trails within the refuge boundary. All dogs must be accompanied and under control, and not pose a threat or nuisance to Refuge wildlife or visitors. Contact the refuge manager regarding activities not discussed on this page. back to top

There are no facilities or infrastructure on the Refuge other than trails. Currently, two primitive trails comprised of a loop trail between Cherry and Little Cherry ponds and a section of the Cohos Trail are the only recreational developments on Refuge property. The New Hampshire Bureau of Trails owns and manages a state rail-trail leading north from the Airport Road to Waumbek Junction and from there, east to State Route 115A. These trails lead directly to Cherry Pond and are bounded by the Refuge for much of their distance. A fully accessible trail and boardwalk into Mud Pond will open in the fall of 2011. This trail is accessed from a trailhead parking area off State Route 116 in Jefferson. In addition to these there is a system of old logging and skid roads that lead to remote sections of the Refuge. Access within the Refuge boundary is limited to pedestrian modes of travel, except during the winter when snowmobiles are permitted to cross the Refuge on State Snowmobile Trail Number 5 (Powerline Trail). back to top

Map of Pondicherry

Volunteers and Friends
There are always opportunities for people to lend a hand with wildlife management activities at the Pondicherry Division. Anyone interested in volunteering time should contact the Refuge Manager at 413.548.8002 x113. Some recent and on-going projects include:
  • Invasive Plant Surveys and Removal
  • Posting the Refuge Boundary
  • Trail Maintenance
  • Refuge Clean-up
  • Mapping Roads and Trails using GPS

The Pondicherry Division is fortunate to have the support of a strong and dedicated Friends group. Members visit the Refuge nearly every day of the year interacting with visitors, identifying maintenance needs, monitoring wildlife, conducting educational workshops, etc. If you are interested in participating or would like more information please contact the Refuge Manager at 413.548.8002 x113 or David Govatski. back to top

Hours and Fees
The Refuge is open and free to the public every day of the year from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. back to top

The Pondicherry Division is located in Jefferson and Whitefield, Coos County New Hampshire. The best access is through either of two developed parking areas. In 2004 the Refuge constructed a parking facility on State Route 116 about 1 mile east of the Whitefield/Jefferson town line. Hiking trails have not yet been developed in this area, but there is a network of old logging trails available for hikers. The second access point is a parking lot on Hazen/Airport Road approximately 1.5 miles west of State Route 115 and about a quarter mile east of Mount Washington Regional Airport. It is almost directly across the road from a biomass electrical generation facility. This trailhead is owned and managed by the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails. From the parking lot it is a 1.5 mile hike north on the rail-trail to Cherry Pond. back to top