Moving to Anderson Pond

Reprint from Eastman Living Summer 2012:

Pondering Anderson Pond By Craig McArt and Renée Gustafson –

Dunbar’s History of Grantham, published in 1791, we learn that “about the year 1791 two men by the name of Anderson were drowned in Anderson Pond – so called after this occurrence.” From this sad account one might reasonably surmise that they fell through the ice. Because of its shallow depth, ice forms early on Anderson Pond. Actually, the 14-acre, spring-fed pond, eutrophic in nature (fertile with abundant nutrients for plant production), is becoming a little shallower as each year goes by. As silt builds up on the bottom, a succession of plant life occurs called a hydrosphere. What we see now are various water lilies and pond weeds. As the water becomes even more shallow, reeds will develop. Years and years from now, the organic matter could build up to form peat and then the hydrosphere would give way to swamp.

Lest we worry, before things progress that far, the pond could be dammed to increase the depth and buy more time, as was done on Eastman Pond. The Anderson Pond Trail begins at a cut-off from the Butternut Trail, a short distance from the kiosk at the end of Anderson Pond Road. From there, it drops down to Anderson Pond, where it forms a mile loop around the pond’s shoreline. Residences overlook the pond in some areas. The level trail, routed close to the pond, is sometimes wet in places, but boardwalks and bridges afford dry passage over the worst spots. While walking the trail, keep an eye out for a low, evergreen shrub called sheep laurel, which produces small, deep pink, saucer-shaped flowers in dense clusters. Pink swamp roses bloom along the shoreline from July to August.

On the west shore, notice a transition point between a forested wetland containing red maple and other hardwoods and an upland populated by conifer species. The major species in this forest type is eastern hemlock, but also look for red spruce and tamarack. Tamarack, the only northern conifer that sheds all its needles, turns this western shore a golden yellow in the fall. A smooth rock juts out from shore at the south end of the pond, where one can obtain a splendid view. Nearby is a small bridge that takes the trail over the outlet stream. The stream flows down to Eastman Lake, tumbling over a falls by the Lake Trail. At one time, it was diverted to flow in the opposite direction, down to the millpond by West Cove, where a mill was located. The remains of the diversion channel can be seen from a spur off the trail west of the bridge. The spur traces a short section of the old road that linked North Grantham with Enfield Center.

The pond is a botanist’s dream that even includes carnivorous plants and exciting mini-gardens growing on logs that protrude from the shore. Sundew plants can be found on the logs at the southeast and northwest areas of the pond. These tiny plants are a relative of the venus flytrap and have round leaves with sticky tentacles that glisten like dew in the sun – hence the name. Insects get stuck on the tentacles and are devoured by the plant. Pitcher-plants can be seen growing in the moist area between the trail and the pond. This plant is very easy to identify because of its purple streaked leaves and burgundy flowers. The leaves are shaped like a pitcher and are used to trap insects, which are digested and serve as nourishment for the plant. Pitcher-plants bloom from late-May to August and the flower heads remain in the winter.

The pond also hosts cranberry plants, swamp candles and the delicate rose pogonia. The rose pogonia is an orchid that grows in colonies that can be found blooming in late June on many of the logs and floating sphagnum gardens. Yellow pond lilies bloom from May to September. Their large, heart-shaped leaves provide cover for fish and landing pads for dragonflies. Hollow, tubular stems conduct carbon and methane gasses up from the bottom of the pond under pressure to be sprayed out through the leaves. A single water lily stem can pass 22 liters of “sewer gas” in one day. Spring brings a plethora of frog song from spring peepers, bullfrogs, green frogs, leopard frogs and American toads. On warmer days, painted and snapping turtles may be seen sunning on the logs or a family of mergansers or mallards might occupy the pond, sometimes joined by the great blue heron strutting the shores on the lookout for fish.

Several species of fish inhabit the pond: perch, large and small mouth bass and even a northern pike or two.

Upsetting to local anglers has been the discovery that some rock bass have joined the group. A non-native species, they favor the same habitat as the small mouth bass, and their competition for food can seriously affect the fish population. Anderson Pond people, as the residents call themselves, enjoy a special, community spirit. They have been known to gather on the pond for “happy hour” raft-ups in the summer and to bang pots and pans around a fire on New Year’s Eve. They know the pond is a very special place, whether for a quiet walk, a peaceful paddle, a communion with nature’s abundance or socializing with their neighbors. Now that their secret is out, hopefully others, as well, will get acquainted with this gem.