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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #128: Great Bay Discovery Center, Greenland

Come for the horseshoe crab sex!

One of New Hampshire's true treasures is Great Bay, a estuarine ecosystem fed by five river systems (Winnicut, Squamscott, Lamprey, Oyster, and Bellamy) as well as the tidal flows of the mighty Piscataqua. The Bay has long been a jewel of the seacoast, and we're lucky to still have it. A couple of years before I was born, Greek billionaire (and Jackie Kennedy's second husband) Aristotle Onassis wanted to destroy the Bay with oil platforms, and was only stopped by the inspired efforts of the community led by Dudley Dudley and Phyllis Bennett. Their work led to the creation of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and ongoing protection and study of this delicate and unique ecosystem.

Take Depot Road in Stratham off Portsmouth Ave near the park, and follow it until it ends. Take a left and you arrive at the Great Bay Discovery Center, tucked away along the southern shore of the Bay, at the broad mouth of the Squamscott. The building itself has a lot to offer, with interactive displays and exhibits where families can learn about the living things that inhabit the shores and waters of the Bay, but the best part of the complex is outside. There's a small boat launch for kayaks and canoes, and a boardwalk that loops through the salt marsh and mud flats. You can see the native osprey, mating horseshoe crabs, and a host of other denizens of the area. The kids can also clamber on a replica gundalow (the 19th-century flat-bottomed boats that historically plied the tricky waters of the Bay) or explore a replica Native American campsite.

We often struggle, in New Hampshire and elsewhere, to preserve our natural heritage and also make it available to explore and understand for all generations. At Sandy Point, we get it right.

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