Nancy Brook Research Natural Area

New Hampshire
Grafton and Carroll
White Mountain
The Nancy Brook Research Natural Area features an outstanding stand of old-growth red spruce (Picea rubens) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and is one of the largest tracts of virgin forest in the Northeast. The area also includes the summits of three mountains: 3926-foot (1197 m) Mt. Nancy, 3725-foot (1135 m) Mt. Bemis, and 3300-foot (1006 m) Duck Pond Mountain. The globally rare species, mountain avens (Geum peckii), grows on the wet rocks of the Nancy Brook Cascade. The state-threatened sedge (Carex wiegandii) occurs in an acidic fen east of Nancy Pond. The rare northern three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) is found in old-growth stands within the RNA.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Pinkham Notch station, elevation 2010 feet (613 m), is located 12 miles (19 km) northeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation is 56.9 inches (144.5 cm), evenly distributed throughout the year.
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
The average annual minimum temperature is 29.1 °F, and the average annual maximum temperature is 49.5 °F. The average July maximum temperature is 73.6 °F, and the average January minimum temperature is 3.7 ºF.
Elevations range from 1900 feet (579 m) to 3906 feet (1197 m).
Geology and Soils:
Bedrock of the area is part of the Littleton formation, chiefly composed of gray gneiss. An area of Mt. Lafayette granite porphyry is also present east of the cascades. Soil materials are typically bouldery to very bouldery, rapidly permeable, sandy loam to loamy sand tills.
Aquatic Features:
Principal aquatic features are the Nancy Brook and its associated cascades, and Nancy Pond. The area also includes two small bogs and associated beaver ponds, a cascade with a 200-foot (60 m) drop, and a high flat saddle with a 4-acre (1.6 ha) pond.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

White Mountain (M212A)
White Mountain (M212Ad)
Landtype Association(s):
Mountain Top and Upper Mountain Slope
ELT 2, Softwood knolls, ridges, and steep side slopes with ledgy, bouldery soils - 443 acres
ELT 6, Predominantly softwoods on steep upper mountain side slopes with deep bouldery colluvium - 222 acres
ELT 6E, Softwood on high mountain slopes and notch floors with deep till - 333 acres
ELT 06, Extremely steep slopes with very bouldery colluvium supporting moderately low softwood forest - 208 acres
ELT 14 - 180 acres
Plant Communities:
Mountain Spruce-Fir Forest, Spruce-Fir Blow-down Forest, Dwarf Spruce-Fir Forest, Northern Hardwood Forest, Rock Slide, Acidic Fen (including a Pondshore variant), Forest Seep, Beaver Flowage, and Stream Shore.
SAF Cover Types (list acres) Kuchler Types (list acres):
5 Balsam fir (108) 96 Northeastern Spruce/Fir Forest
13 Black spruce-tamarack (14)  
33 Red spruce-balsam fir (265)  
35 Paper birch-red spruce-balsam fir (907)  

Complete Plant List

Common Shrub Species
Mountain serviceberry (Amelanchier bartramiana), withe-rod (Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides L.), common mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Northern wood-sorrel (Oxalis montana), bead-lily (Clintonia borealis), fancy wood-fern (Dryopteris spinulosa var. intermedia).
Common Mammal Species
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), moose, snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), beaver (Castor canadensis).
Common Bird Species
Wood duck (Aix sponsa), spruce grouse (Dendragapus canadensis), belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), black-capped chickadee (Parus atricapillus), white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), rusty blackbird (Euphagus carolinus), blackpoll warbler (Dendroica striata), golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa).

Related Reports and Publications

Carbonneau, Lee; Brackley, F. E.; Kacprzynski, Frederick T. 1989. Establishment Record of the Nancy Brook Research Natural Area in the White Mountain National Forest, Carroll and Grafton Counties, New Hampshire. 36 pp.

Carbonneau, L.E. 1986a. Old-growth forests. Forest Notes 163:2-5, 7.

Carbonneau, L.E. 1986b. Old-growth forest stands in New Hampshire: a preliminary investigation. M.S. Thesis, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH. 94 p.

Davis, M. 1990. Old-growth in the East: a preliminary overview. Earth First!, Canton, N.Y.

Foss, C.R., ed. 1994. Atlas of breeding birds in New Hampshire. Dover, NH: Arcadia. 414 p.

Foster, J. 1982. Crawford Notch: Anatomy of a virgin subalpine forest. Appalachia 44:54-68.

Foster, J. and G. Lang. 1982. Decomposition of red spruce and balsam fir boles in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 12: 617-626.

Fowles, H.A. 1982. Crawford Notch: anatomy of a virgin subalpine forest. Appalachia. December: 55-68.

Goodale, Christine L.; J.D. Aber; W.H. McDowell. 2000. The long-term effects of disturance on organic and inorganic nitrogen export in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Ecosystems 3:433-450.

Henderson, D., Creasy, J., and S.A. Wood. 1977. Geology of the Crawford Notch quadrangle, New Hampshire. Concord, NH: Department of Resources and Economic Development.

Hill, J.D. 1989. Mountain paper birch (Betula cordifolia Regel) regeneration in an old-growth spruce-fir forest, White Mountains, New Hampshire. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire. 81 p. M.S. Thesis.

Hulleberg, T.A. and R.T. Eckert. 1993. Genetic variation in old-growth red spruce. In: Conservation in working landscapes: 20th annual natural areas conference; 1993 June 22-26; Orono, ME: 71. Abstract.

Latimer, W.J. and M.H. Layton. 1939. Soil survey of Grafton County, New Hampshire. Series 1935, No. 6. Durham, NH: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service.

Leak, W.B. 1975. Age distribution in virgin red spruce and northern hardwoods. Ecology 56(6): 1451-1454.

Leak, W.B. 1985. Relationships of tree age to diameter in old-growth northern hardwoods and spruce-fir. Research Note NE-329. Radnor, PA: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 4 p.

Oosting, H. J. and W.D. Billings. 1951. A comparison of virgin spruce-fir forests in the northern and southern Appalachian system. Ecology 32 (1): 84-103.

Royte, J.L., D.D. Sperduto, and J.P. Lortie. 1996. Botanical reconnaissance of Nancy Brook Research Natural Area. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-216. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 23 p.

Sabo, S.R. 1980. Niche and habitat relations in subalpine bird communities of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Ecological Monographs 50: 241-259.

Steele, F. L. and T. Richards [1960] Nancy Brook Scenic Area [p. 17] In: Lyon, Charles J. and Reiners, William A. 1971. Natural areas of New Hampshire suitable for ecological research. Revised edition. Department of Biological Sciences, Publication No. 4. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College. 75 p.

Tyrrell, L.E. 1994. [Cover photo]. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 75(1): Cover, p.1.

Last Modified: August 19, 2021