Like most of us I love photographing waterfalls. The courses of water make wonderful compositional elements and the ability to transform the tumbling chaotic water into velvety ribbons is a magical product of long exposures. There are a number of lovely falls in my corner of New Hampshire. The Monadnock region holds the Beaver Brook Falls in Keene, Chesterfield Gorge along Route 9, Forty Foot Falls in Surry and the little known Hubbard Falls hidden in an isolated corner of Chesterfield. I frequently explore these locations, but one of my favorite areas for flowing water photography is off to the east in Hillsborough County, around the towns Wilton, Milford, Mt. Vernon and Lyndeborough.
Hillsborough County occupies the south central portion of New Hampshire along the Massachusetts border. The county includes New Hampshire’s two largest cities, Nashua and Manchester, but much of the county to the west is quite rural and possesses some of the prettiest waterfalls in the southern tier of the state. Over the years, I’ve been enticed by the beautiful photographs that I have seen of the waterfalls in this area, especially those taken by fellow members of the New England Photography Guild. Recently I have made the effort to find the best of these sites. My mother lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and I often use the excuse of a visit to wander off my travels on Route 101 in search of flowing water. I have several favorites.
I am sure I don’t have the depth of experience that locals have photographing these sites, but I thought my fresh enthusiasm might entice others to give these spots a try. All are easily accessible. In this article, I will include simple addresses and GPS coordinates, but detailed directions are available all over the web. Some falls are on private property and, as is always true, care must be taken to avoid disruptions and damage that might lead to restrictions on future access.
My four favorite falls in the area are Purgatory Falls, Tucker Brook Falls, Senter Falls and Garwin Falls. I can give only brief descriptions of each location, but hopefully it will be sufficient to excite your interest. They are all worth repeated trips. For more pictures of the falls, check out my regular Blog.
Waterfall photography is exciting and challenging. There is always the temptation to look for unusual, and sometimes precarious, angles, but the footing is often very slippery and care should be taken to avoid personal injury and more importantly to avoid catastrophic damage to your equipment. Waterfall photography requires special care, equipment and techniques. Kari Post’s “The Essential Guide to Photographing Waterfalls” is an excellent eBook which discusses all of these issues, and is illustrated with her spectacular photography.
1) Purgatory Falls (Milford & Mt. Vernon)
Purgatory Falls is actually a series of waterfalls along Purgatory Brook as it travels 3 miles through the Purgatory Brook Conservation Area between the Upper Falls along the Mt. Vernon/Lyndeborough border, to the Lower Falls in Milford. The lower falls are the easiest to access with a short (one mile) trail starting at a parking lot on Purgatory Road. (N 42.85877, W 71.69449). The falls empty into a secluded grotto pool, which can cause difficult, contrasty light on sunny days, but there are plenty of interesting angles around the pool, downstream and from above. Be careful of the footing as you explore above the falls.
The short trail to the Upper Falls comes off the end Purgatory Falls Road (sometimes called just Purgatory Rd) in Mt Vernon (N42.8897, W71.7108). The trail follows Purgatory Brook until it shoots off a cliff dropping 25 feet into gorge with a rock strewn pool below. A short scramble down to the pool will provide some of the best views of the falls. The trail from here follows the brook all the way to the Lower Falls and there is a Middle Falls along the way which I look forward to exploring in the future.
2) Tucker Brook Falls (Milford)
Tucker Brook Falls is a lovely gentle cascade located in the Tucker Brook Town Forest in Milford. The forest has a number of entrances, but the falls are best accessed from Savage Road. The parking area is next to power lines which cross the road (N42.829116, W71.708791). The trail initially parallels the road to a junction and Kiosk which has a helpful map of the area. Follow the Falls Loop Trail along Tucker Brook to the falls. Depending on the flow, views from both sides of the brook can be accessed by crossing below the falls or, during high water, across a bridge which is up-stream.
3) Senter Falls (Lyndeborough)
Senter Falls is actually a dramatic series of cascades and falls formed as Cold Brook descends through a steep gorge in Alan & The Edgar Rice Natural Area in Lyndeborough. The Trail head and a small parking area are on Lyndeborough Rd (N42.934293, W71.740685). The trail initially crosses over a small stream and then continues, over relatively flat ground, to Cold Brook. Two Brooks trail then turns left and ascends alongside the falls, providing many dramatic photographic opportunities. Again the path is steep and the rocks surrounding the falls are invariably wet and slippery. Take special care. Senter Falls is a somewhat further off the main roads, but it is well worth the effort.
4) Garwin Falls (Wilton)
Garwin Falls is found below the outlet of the Old Wilton Reservoir and can be the most impressive of the falls in the region. With good flow the water drops 40 feet in a number of beautiful curtains. Another cascade to the left of the main falls can be equally dramatic. Garwin Falls is reached from a short trail which begins just south of where Isaac Frye Highway crosses the brook that feeds the reservoir (N42.8467283, W 71.771447). A short way down the trail, a spur heads off to the left reaching a quiet glade along the brook above the reservoir. The falls can be photographed from a number of levels along its drop and downstream, although waders may be helpful to get out into the stream to get an unobstructed view of the main falls.
Waterfall photography is always dependant on flow of water, the quality of light, and change of seasons, but these 4 falls provide everything you could want in New England flowing water. I plan to continue to explore this region since I am sure I have missed some favorite local sites. I would love to hear about other great areas for flowing water in Hillsborough County.
For more images of these falls check out my companion article in my personal photography blog.
~ Jeff Newcomer
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