Sunset on the salt marsh at Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket, New Hampshire.
Lubberland Creek Preserve Sunset on the salt marsh at Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket, New Hampshire. © Jerry & Marcy Monkman, www.ecophotography.com

Places We Protect

Lubberland Creek Preserve

New Hampshire

This 400-acre preserve on Great Bay features a unique salt marsh and a rich upland forest community.

It is easy to leave behind the feel of civilization in the Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket. Nickname of Great Bay’s northern shore as early as 1669, “lubberland” is thought to have been a term used by sailors to describe the “land-loving” farmers along the shoreline.

Today, much of the landscape has changed from farms to forest, and the Lubberland Creek Preserve is a remarkable natural area where visitors can see a mosaic of estuarine, grassland, forest, and freshwater wetland habitats, as well as relics of its agricultural past.

The preserve’s trails explore a mix of streams, swampy wetlands, grasslands, and dry forested uplands pocked with vernal pools. Rare Blanding’s turtles and spotted salamanders use the vernal pools while the wetlands support beaver, osprey and great blue herons. The preserve also contains one of the largest salt marshes in the Great Bay Estuary providing visitors with great birding opportunities and expansive views of Great Bay.

While our efforts to protect Lubberland Creek began in the mid-1990s, conservation of this critical habitat would not have been possible without the efforts of a grassroots campaign 20 years earlier.

In the early 1970s, Aristotle Onassis acquired options to buy one third of the land in Durham in order to build what would have been the world’s largest oil refinery. He planned to build an oil terminal offshore on the Isles of Shoals where incoming crude oil would be pumped into a pipeline that would carry the oil to the mainland in Rye and then on to the refinery in Durham. Onassis had the strong support of New Hampshire governor, Meldrim Thompson, and the Manchester Union Leader newspaper. Several longtime landowners in the Crommet Creek Conservation Area refused to sell land to Onassis’ agents, and a local opposition group called Save Our Shores mounted a highly publicized grassroots campaign that eventually led to the defeat of the refinery proposal at both the local and state level in 1974. Standing in the Lubberland Creek Preserve today, it is hard to imagine the scale of industrial development that could have engulfed the preserve and surrounding areas.

Lubberland Creek and the adjoining Crommet Creek watershed comprise the largest remaining intact block of forest and freshwater wetlands (nearly 5,000 acres) adjoining Great Bay. These watersheds have several rare and exemplary natural communities including salt marshes, dry Appalachian Oak-hickory forests, and an extensive system of freshwater marshes and beaver ponds. The Conservancy’s North Atlantic Coast Ecoregional Plan lists the Crommet and Lubberland Creek conservation area as one of 18 core areas to protect in the Great Bay watershed.

Preserve Features:

  • Extensive oak-hickory and hemlock-beech-oak-pine forests providing habitat for songbirds, porcupine, fishers, deer and other wildlife.
  • Bayshore has extensive salt marsh and associated bird habitat.
  • Extensive beaver pools and wetlands basins that sit between Crommet and Lubberland creek drainages.
  • High-quality vernal pool complex supporting reptiles, amphibians and insect species. All using vernal pools on this tract for at least part of their life cycle include wood frogs, spring peepers, salamanders and the rare Blanding's turtle.
  • Extensive waterfowl habitat associated with upland beaver flowages and streams with species, including wood duck, black duck, mallard, common mergansers and ring-neck duck occur north of Durham Point Road.
  • A great blue heron rookery, with one nest occupied by a pair of ospreys.

In addition to its own trail system, Lubberland Creek Preserve is home to a large section of the Sweet Trail, a 4.2-mile trail running from Longmarsh Road in Durham to the shore of Great Bay. On the south side of Bay Road, a .3-mile spur trail leads down to the edge of Great Bay at the mouth of Lubberland Creek. The terrain is gentle and footing is fairly level. On the north side of Bay Road, The Sweet Trail navigates along wetland edges, rocky outcrops, stone walls, old foundations and over Jeff's Hill. The terrain is somewhat moderate, with some uneven footing in places. 

Enjoy the Preserve Responsibly:

• Leave No Trace—please keep the preserve clean by carrying out your trash (and any that you find).

• No camping or open fires allowed.

• Please, for your safety and the protection of this globally rare ecosystem, stay on marked trails.

• Foot traffic only; horses, bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited.

• Pets are not permitted; help us protect wildlife on the preserve and be respectful of other hikers by leaving your pets at home (exception: leashed dogs are allowed on the Sweet Trail only).

• Hunting is allowed on portions of the preserve. Please obey all posted signs and contact NH Fish & Game Dept. for dates and regulations.

• Respect the natural world around you! Do not remove or destroy plants, wildlife, minerals or cultural items.