• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #30: Odiorne Point, Rye


What's the point, Dad?

There are other, sandier beaches in Rye - Jenness, Wallis Sands - but Odiorne Point has always been my favorite part of New Hampshire's compact Atlantic shoreline. Natural beauty, recreation opportunities, and layers of local history inhabit the state park there in equal measure. The trails offer opportunities to wander under the shade of dense woods or to venture out among the rocky coves in search of tidal pools to explore. The Seacoast Science Center is a modest gem, with a little aquarium and historic exhibits. And it is that history that sets Odiorne apart from its more traditional neighbor beaches to the south.

As multiple markers will remind visitors, Odiorne Point was the site of the earliest European incursions onto New Hampshire soil, where English fishermen established the Pannaway Plantation, appropriating the name for the area used by the local Pennacook and Abnaki tribes. John Odiorne's arrival in 1660 lent a more familiar name to the settlement, which remained an important farming hinterland to the more rapidly growing trading center of Portsmouth. With the onset of World War II and concerns about defense of the vital Portsmouth harbor from German amphibious incursion, the federal government acquired virtually all of Odiorne Point, and Fort Dearborn was contructed. The coastal defense fortification would house 16-inch heavy batteries, whose earth and concrete bunkers remain today alongside other relics of that receding past. In the 1950s the site was the home of the Rye Air Force Station, a radar site supporting Pease AFB up the road.

In 1961 the property was ceded to New Hampshire, and became one of the state's best parks. I've biked the surprisingly hilly trails there, I've run into the ocean there at the conclusion of team relays stretching back to Canada, and I've discovered crabs and barnacles with my kids along the stony shore. It really is one of the best places in New Hampshire.

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