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Bounding along the boundary with Canada in northern New Hampshire

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About a month ago, I spend a long weekend in Pittsburg, New Hampshire. That's the northernmost town in the state and if you look at a map, it's the part of the state that sticks up with Maine to the east and Canada to the west. The border with Canada is a wiggly line and consists of two parts: along the north the line follows the ridge line between the Saint Lawrence watershed to the north and the Connecticut watershed to the south (this section is called the "Highlands"); along the west, the line follows Halls Stream from the very headwaters down to a point just shy of where the stream empties into,the Connecticut River.


Most of the area is logging country and about 5 years ago the state of NH and the Nature Conservancy bought conservation easements on the entire area which provides for sustainable timber production, and more importantly (for me at least) public access for a variety of recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, hiking and in the winter, limited snow machine access. And I guess survey marker searching fits nicely into that scheme.


The lower section of the area is devoted to farming. In fact, a fair amount of today's timber country was farmed when the border was surveyed and reestablished about a century ago.


A fair amount of our time was devoted to the border that follows Halls Stream. The northern end of this, perhaps the upper 8 - 10 miles was never under cultivation and so the land tends to be very boggy and rather difficult to penetrate, since many of the reference markers were set along the stream and are just plain hard to get to.


The border was originally established and marked in the 1840s, in what must have been an incredible effort, since that predated much of the farming and even some of the timber production that occurred later in the 19th century. But by the turn of the 20th century, much of the line was overgrown and many of the monuments were lost or damaged.


A treaty signed in 1908 established what later became the International Boundary Commission (the IBC) and over the next decade, the entire line was remarked and surveyed to geodetic standards. The old cast iron monuments, originally set directly in the ground, were reset in concrete bases and in some cases replaced with granite monuments. A large number of triangulation stations were established at that time and a series of reference monuments were set on the banks of the various streams that the line followed such as the St. Croix, St. John and St. Francis Rivers and Halls Stream. In those cases the line followed the channels as they were in the 1840s, so due to the meandering of parts of these streams, pieces of the border that were in mid stream are now on dry land - to the consternation of local land owners (and of course the border patrol).


I have visited parts of the boundary a number of times over the last several years, so one might consider this trip one of a series.


To get a big picture - survey marker wise - here's a map showing the major triangulation scheme, the border monuments and the reference monuments along the stream:



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


This map has a lot of stuff, it even has each and every turning point of the border both on land and in the stream if you zoom way in. There are 4 types of stations shown:


Red - Boundary Monuments

Green - Reference markers (primarily along Halls Stream)

Gray - Triangulation stations (small IBC disks)

Blue - State line markers thrown in since we checked them out.


If you bring up the live map, and click on a marker, you'll get information for that station and if I found it, you'll see a thumb nail photo and links to NGS and GC.


But some might say that map suffers from information overload. Too darn much stuff!. OK, here's another map showing just the stations we visited on this trip:



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


There, that's better. We found or tried but didn't find a total of 29 markers of various sorts:


Boundary monuments: 8, found all 8, 3 are not NGS

Triangulation stations: 8, found 4

Reference markers: 9, found 8, none are NGS (my partner found the last one),

State line markers: 4, found 3, none are NGS (my partner found the last one)


Not a bad record, 23 out of 29. Of course I have to go back for those 2 I missed since now I know they're there.


A word on triangulation stations - these are small bronze disks with usually NO reference marks and very little local information that's still viable. For example for station NOB, which we could not find, this is all there was: "ON THE EXTREME NORTH EDGE OF THE SUMMIT OF A KNOLL WHICH RISES ABRUPTLY FROM THE LOWLAND EXTENDING TO THE NORTHEAST, NORTH, AND SOUTHEAST OF THE STATION. ... THE REFERENCE MARK IS A SPIKE IN A BIRCH STUMP WHICH BEARS SOUTH 57 DEGREES WEST (MAGNETIC) FROM THE STATION AND IS 10.4 FEET DISTANT." You can forget about finding a birch stump that was there 100 years ago!


Given this, I was very happy to find "BEECHER TABLET" which was a DNF for the IBC in 1971. Check the log for that story. (Log: QH0564)


And a word on the non-NGS stations and their locations (needed for the maps and GPS): aside from the state line monuments (2 on the Vermont side and 2 on the Maine side of NH - the locations were taken off of the USGS maps), they were almost entirely the reference monuments along Halls Stream plus the last two boundary monuments near the head of Halls Stream (#506 and 507). Locations for those two were given on the IBC web site (here: Link to IBC web site}. The coordinates for the Reference Monuments were published in the 1925 IBC report: Reestablishment of the Boundary between the United States and Canada - Source of the St. Croix River to the St. Lawrence River. This is a marvelous collection of data and information on the boundary (directions for ordering a copy are given on their web site). Unfortunately the coordinates given in this volume use the North American Datum of 1900. Since I know of no algorythm for coverting these to a modern datum, I had to scale the numbers using nearby stations for which I had values in both the old and new datums.


The following posts in this thread give an outline of each day's comings and goings. It was a fun trip and you can bet I'll be back there.

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Pittsburg NH / Beecher Falls Vermont area - Friday


The weather was beautiful on Friday morning from the Boston area. Once through the White Mountains, the lad flattens out and Route 3 follows the upper Connecticut River with farms and small farms. Vermont lies just across the river. I ate lunch on the road and arrived at Colebrook just after 12:00 noon. This was 5 miles from Beecher Falls, Vermont. Since I had the time, I decided to start my searches along the lower part of Halls Stream.


Farm country along lower Halls Stream



This is that little place where part of Vermont sicks into New Hampshire and where the last quarter mile or so of Halls Stream, which further up formed the international boundary, passes through Vermont on it's way to the Connecticut River. There were 3 triangulation stations and one boundary reference monument (Ref Mon 512) on or near Halls Stream Road that I would look for. For all but HILL TABLET, I knocked on some doors and in each case I was met by an elderly lady. Each of them couldn't have been nicer. The one whose property LOT was on, wanted me to assure her that it was in Vermont not New Hampshire (it is), since she had some kind of on-going dispute with her neighbor who lived in the next house up the road on the New Hampshire side of the state line.


Here's a map showing the area. The US side shows USGS topo maps and the Canadian side uses Canvec topo maps so it looks a little confusing. You can also see how the boundary takes a right hand turn when it gets to this point and then goes across in a straight line to the west.



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


I was quite lucky for all three IBC triangulation stations. The GPS and metal detector helped considerably. The disks are all the same type, about 2" in diameter and unstamped, but after nearly 100 years the no two of them looked alike.





Click on the station names above the pictures to see my GC logs. Incidently, BEECHER TABLET is the easternmost NGS station in Vermont, and a First-to-Find for me. HILL TABLET was also a First-to-Find.


The other find, right on the banks of the stream near HILL TABLET was Reference Monument 512. In the 1840s, 10 of these were set between the last land monument to the north (Monument 507) and the first land monument in Vermont near the mouth of Halls Stream (Monument 518). These were named Reference Monuments 508 - 517. Of these 10, 4 (513 - 516) were lost to erosion of the stream bank, and one (517) is just a stub at ground level (REF MON 517 - it is very near station LOT - Here's the GC link: REF MON 517. I recovered it a few years back).


They look like the original cast iron boundary monuments, but since they don't mark the boundary (which is in mid stream) they serve as references. This one was in an idyllic spot near a farm field and was nearly overgrown. The spot was beautiful There was once a road through here with an old wooden bridge across the stream between 2 neighboring farms, one in the US and the other in Canada, A simpler time indeed.


REF MON 512 with Halls Stream behind



After this successful afternoon (I was 4 for 4) I drove on up to Pittsburg to Tall Timbers Lodge where I would be staying for the weekend. The next day my hiking friend turned survey mark hunter (my fault :) ), would arrive and the adventures would continue.


Tall Timbers Lodge, Pittsburg, NH



And here's a link to a photo album of the day's adventure: Day 1 album

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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Indian Stream Road - Saturday


Saturday, I met Nate at Dube's Pitt Stop, a local breakfast place. The same band of locals is there every day at 6 AM, 5 guys at one table and 4 women at another. Average age - about 70. If you sit there and listen you get the complete picture of life and times in this small town.


After a hefty breakfast, we decided on a general itinerary for the weekend. Today we would explore up Indian Stream Road, tomorrow we would hit East Inlet Road, near the Maine state line, and Monday we would work our way up Halls Stream Road to the very end. On the way home Tuesday, we'd go after some odds and ends including station HEREFORD, a first order triangulation station in Quebec set in 1909 by the geodetic Survey of Canada (GSC). It was a genuine copper bolt so that would be a welcome change from the IBC disks we've been finding.


Did I say "finding"? Well, not today! Yesterday I found 3 for 3 of these old IBC disks but today we'd go 0 for 2 and the rest of the weekend we would DNF another.


Here's a map linked as before to the live Google Map:



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


We would first search for INDIAN, a major triangulation station and central to the entire New Hampshire border. Check this map (showing just part of the data on the map on the first page of this thread): Link for Triangulation Map




I was hoping my GPS and Metal Detector would make up for the sparseness of the description, as they did yesterday, but it was not to be. Nate and I spent a good 45 minutes scraping and probing every rock in the area indicated by the GPS to no avail. We did however bushwhack to the high point of the peak and signed in on the hikers register. This peak is on some peakbaggers' list for New Hampshire (see, we're not the only obsessive compulsives! :D )


No luck finding INDIAN



NOB was not in the major triangulation scheme, it was just a tertiary station but it was "sort of" on the way we were going so we whacked in from an overgrown logging road. This was equally difficult. The one reference point was an old birch stump (old in 1915), so it was DNF #2 for the day.


Bushwhacking up to the boundary



The last goal was to whack to the boundary vista (a swath about 20 feet wide along the broder which is cleared of trees). and hike up to the point which is the most northerly in New Hampshire except where it meets the Maine line. This was straightforward and along the way we passed boundary Monument v 489, a granite post which replaced the original cast iron post (in 1993). It had a crack at the base, (perhaps it was struck by a snow mobile), so it looked a bit precarious. But it seemed solid enough.


Monument 489 at a wet spot along the boundary vista



We continued up to the northernmost point and actually found the boundary line marker (a small disk set at each turning point along the line).


Line marker 489-5 - the northernmost point of this boundary section



Here are the GC logs:




And here's an album of the days adventures: Today's Album


It was a great day weather-wise (if not so great in finding IBC tri-stations). Rain tomorrow :)

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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East Inlet Road - Sunday


Today was cloudy and at 6:00 AM (before the sun was up) it was thick fog everywhere. We were headed up to the actual northernmost point of NH, the point where Maine and NH meet at the Canadian boundary. We would search for a triangulation station I had missed when I came here a few years ago as well as checking out the conditions of a few friends (boundary monument type friends) along the way.


East Inlet Road leave Route 3 about 5 miles from the border station, but since the state angles northward west of route 3, we had to drive a good 12 miles to get to the end of the road. And the "end of the road" was sooner than our last visit. See:


North end of East Inlet Road near Rhubarb Pond



It looks like the beavers have been busy.


Here's a map of the area linked as before to the live Google Map:



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


About a 1/4 mile walk past the place where the road was washed out, we headed in towards the boundar, essentially heading due north along a faint herd path which led almost directly to Monument 475, which is the norther terminus of the Maine - New Hampshire state line. I had recovered this in 2006 (see my logs: QH0502 GC link). It turns out buried in front of this monument is the 1858 stone which was set by the states in the first survey to extend to the Canadian border and generally thought to have been lost (until I found it). I later reburied it so muggles and other vandals wouldn't steal it.


1858 State Line stone in front of Monument 475 (now reburied)



We hiked on past the true north point of NH and then past Monument 476 to Mount Durban. When last I was there, I didn't bring the datasheet for IBC station BON DURBAN (duh!), so I just made a cursory look for the tri-station. This time I cam equipped with diagrams, 1090 foot steel tape, GPS and metal detector.


Too bad! With all that stuff and about an hour's searching we found nothing (nichts!, nada!). All I found wa s tri-station set by Terres & Forets Quebec:




Maybe someone can find the coordinates of this marker (any one know where to look up Quebec geodetic stations?) and with that I could compute an inverse to Bon Durban. Wouldn't hurt, if I ever decide to go back. Of course it is a 3 hour (minimum) round trip hike, and there's no guarantee I'll find my station.


The rain was pretty light all day. I could swear it stopped when we got to the top of Durban and started again on the way down, and I thought "were we above the rain? But at 3000 and some odd feet elevation, I doubt it.


When we got back to the car, Nate wanted to go in and find the nearby state line marker #122. I had found the spot a few years previous, and had assumed the disk was missing since there was just a pile of rock and a lot of surveyor's tape.


Photo from 2006 of the location of ME-NH Monument 122. I thought the disk was gone.



So we went in (it's only a few hundred yards from the road) and found the site and I showed him what I found, then I headed back to the car. When I got there, I realized he had not followed me so I waited 15 or 20 minutes and he finally showed up and said "I found it". "You found what?" "I found the disk, it was a few inches under the rocks, set in bedrock". Duh! So much for my assumptions and perseverence. Well, I guess I need to revisit this one. (Sorry no picture - Nate has an "analog" camera).


But, still not done, and realizing that tomorrow's agenda of going the length of Hall's Stream Road all the way to the end would be daunting, we decided to try to knock of a few of the Reference Monuments in the mid section. The mid section of Halls Stream Road is loosely defined as that part above the lower gate (where the farms stop, and timber country begins and the road becomes a private logging road) and the upper gate, about 6 miles further up, beyond which our travel would be on foot. So check the next post for that ...


GC logs for the day:





Photo album: Today's Album

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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Halls Stream Road - mid section- Sunday late afternoon


It's probably 30 miles of driving, with at least half on logging roads to get from the end East Inlet Road to the upper gate on Halls Stream Road. We had to move along to beat the arriving darkness (and heavier rain that was coming).


We were after some of the reference monuments, none of which are in the NGS database, and none of which had modern locations published. I had computed the locations using nearby stations so as to change from the 1900 datum (NAD) used during the boundary survey of 1915, to a the modern datum (WSG83), but this was at best a good approximation.


Here's a map of the area showing the stations and our route:



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


Photo album: Today's Album


We were after Ref Mon 510-25, which was the only one on the east side of the road, and the 3 just before the gate, 510-16, 510-17 and 510-18. These were not set as part of the original establishment of the boundary in the 1840s, those original reference Monuments (509, 510, etc.) were cast iron posts. These were set in the 1915 survey which reestablished the boundary and they are numbered relative to the remaining original monuments. Hence there are 510-1, 510-2, etc and 511-1, 511-1 etc.


The documentation said that all of these were the distinctive 8 inch bronze posts such as I had found along the St. Croix River in August of this year. They were fabricated for the survey and judging from those we had found, were very durable.


We located all 4 of our targets but we soon discovered the locations were far off from my GPS coordinates (as I had suspected) and that 2 of the 4 bronze posts had evidently be damaged and were replaced by disks. We also saw signs that surveyors had been looking for these monuments as well - orange surveyor's tape was hanging from trees near each of the last 3.


These things are so special that they are a thrill to find, especially knowing that very few have been seen in nearly a century before we (and the surveyors) got there this year.


Here they are (in the order we found them):


Ref Mon 510-25 (a replacement disk), Ref Mon 510-18 (bronze post)



Ref Mon 510-17 (a replacement disk), Ref Mon 510-16 (bronze post)



Now we really were done, so it was another 10 miles of logging roads and finallythe cheerful site of Buck Rub's Pizza Place, and sometime later we were back at Tall Timbers Lodge.


Photos for this trek: Link to Album

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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Halls Stream Road - upper section- Monday


Today was to be a long one. Our first goal was to reach the boundary just where the land portion (called "The Highlands") ends and the Halls Stream portion begins.


Here's a map of the area showing the stations and our route:



Click on image to bring up live Google Map


The original treaty of 1793 specified that the route of the border would be "... along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude;...". This took about 50 years and several more treaties to sort out and the Webster Ashburton Treaty of 1843 specified in detail where and how the boundary was to be surveyed and marked. There were many disagreements that were resolved, but in this area the important one was that Halls Stream would be the river referred to as the "northwesternmost head of Connecticut River" Look at a map and you'll see there were numerous other possible choices.


Halls Stream Road gradually deteriorates as you walk north




The only way to get there is to walk. Halls Stream Road reaches to within 5 or 6 miles to this junction of boundary sections. At that point here is a locked gate, and beyond that the road steadily deteriorates. When we finally got to within about a half mile, the road had all but disappeared and the land was very boggy. In fact one might say the last half mile or so of Halls Stream is one big bog. After argueing abpout why we didn't have the one map that showed the best way, we headed up to the boundary towards Monument 504. Monument 505 was the official end of the Highlands and had a special large type monument (one of 13 originally set at major points). Through no fault of our own, we immediately got onto a heard path that went just the right direction and in about a half hour we were at the boundary vista.


A herd path found us




The ridge line of the so-called Highlands, was rather low (just over 2000 feet) and indistinct here, especially compared to sections further north when the elevation of the ridge line peaks approaches 4000'.


We decided to first go eastward and find monument 503, then turn back west and work our way to the very end. The vista, or swath as it's usually called was pretty easy going and there were ATV trails along it coming from the Canadian side up to about Monument 504. Beyond that it was progressively more and more overgrown.


Monuments 503 and 504




We reached Monument 505 about 11:20, nearly 4 hours since leaving the car. This monument was about 5 feet high and was originally set directly in the ground. In 1915 (after about 80 years) it was reset in concrete and has been sitting pretty with minor up keep to the base for nearly another 95 years.


Monument 505 - the big one




Monument 505 in 1908. Read the caption - it's touching.




We then moved on down the hill and finally came to Monument 507, the last land monument in New Hampshire. There were bogs on 3 sides and Halls Stream started on it's journey down to the Connecticut River somewhere in there. This particular monument was replaced in 1993 by a granite monument. This is periodically done when the original cast iron post is damaged beyond repair.


Monument 507 with yours Truly




After scouting around a bit, we decide to go back the way we came in rather than try to follow along near the stream.


(continued in next post)


GC logs for today:

QH0577 Monument 503

QH0587 Monument 504

QH0581 Monument 505


Photos for today: Album

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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Halls Stream - upper section - continued (and a little something extra) - Monday


When we did get back we went after 4 more reference monuments: 509, 510, 510-3 and 510-14. I missed out on 510 (Nate found it) but here are photos of the other 3:


Reference Monuments 509, 510-3 and 510-14




Observant readers will note that Reference Monument 510-3 says "Canada" on it's side. Yes, you guessed it, we wandered into Quebec inadvertently in or search through the bog (and didn't even noticed we had crossed the stream) to find this one.


We arrived back at the car around 4:00 PM, almost 8 and a half hours and slightly more than 12 miles from starting out that morning.


So, time to go back to the Pizza Place and the Lodge after a day well done, right? Wrong!


We came up with the brilliant idea to retrace in reverse yesterday's long trip between East Inlet Road and Halls Stream Road and go back almost to the very end of East Inlet Road, follow an old logging road (that looked good on Google Maps) in about a mile and then make a short bushwhack tio MAine-NH Monument 121 - the next one along the boundary from 122.


Here's a map:



So we drove the 30 odd miles (half on logging roads) up to the spot, and quickly took off down the old logging road that "looked good" - but wait - it was not so good. First there was this:


Road washout




So we somehow got across that and then came to this:


Unanticipated Pond in the middle of the road




By the way, it was getting dark as you can see in the last photo. We waded through a bog (we had practice earlier) and finally made our way (as in hand over hand scrambling up rocks and roots) up the hummock on which the mark was located.


But finally we found this:






(What? You say it's not an NGS station! Who gives a fig!)


So then it was down off the hummock, through the bog, around the pond, across the washout (somehow) and we get back to the car JUST as it was getting too dark for this kind of thinD. We made it.


Then we drive back about 20 miles (half on logging roads), and get to Buck Ribs Pizza Place just before the rain started again. Life is indeed good.


Photos for the day:

Halls Stream Reference Monuments Album (last 10 pictures)

ME-NH Monument 121 album


Tomorrow we go home!

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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Hereford (Qubec) - Tuesday (on the way home)


We got an early start as usual because on the way home we had a couple of side trips.


First as we got down near Beecher Falls, we stopped and I showed Nate the last two reference marks on the New Hampshire - Vermont border. I had recovered these a few years back.


NH-VT Reference Mark 90




NH-VT Reference Mark 90



I love the last one. It's on a rock IN the Connecticut River and the disk says the boundary line is 1 foot to the east! That puts it right at the edge of the rock. The law said the low water line on the west bank of the river and that was what they got.


On to Hereford


Then the real goal was station Hereford. Look at the map on the fery first entry of this thread (remember the first entry?). There's a triangulation station to the west of everything else in Quebec and it has a bunch of triangulation lines connecting to it. This was a GSC (Geodetic Survey of Canada) station put in in 1909 (before the boundary survey) and it's a first order station AND it's an NGS station (so there) AND it's a copper bolt!.


here's the map:



Click on map image for live Google Map


It was a major point to connect the boundary survey to the North American datum and to the geodetic networks of the US and Canada. Making this connection, which was specified in the treaty of 1908, firmly establishes the boundary monuments as geodetic stations, not cadestral monuments. The two nations really want to know where the boundary is!


As such Hereford has more in common with the early CGS stations set in the second half of the 19th century.


It was an easy drive up (thanks to Google Maps driving directions). I had spotted what looked like a trail on an aerial view and we got to the "trail head" in about 1/2 hour from the border crossing (remember your passport).


When we got there we discovered that the place had been made into a tourist attraction and there was a road right to the top. Although we much preferred to hike up :), we decided to drive up since we needed to get home.


At the top we discovered: 1) a huge radio tower and 2) a large concrete pavilion near the high point with signage and arrows pointing to points of interest (Mount Washington, Mont Megantic, etc.). I had a bad feeling that our mark may have been a victim of progress.


But no, there on a rock ledge about 10 feet from the pavilion, was this:



That is one beautiful, beautiful copper bolt!


Careful examination will reveal the stamping "GSC" at the top and "1909" at the bottom. In the family of copper bolts, they don't come any better then that. And there were two reference marks (unstamped bolts) as well.


Here's the GC log: QH0620 HEREFORD


And here's the photos: Hereford Album


Now it really was time to head home. What a great long (and I mean loooong) weekend!

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC

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Epic journey - your photos and writing were a lovely way to start my weekend. That's a stunning effort and you're a real craftsman at both the finding and the reporting. I'm pretty awestruck.

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Just had a question, I was looking for a few boundary markers on Hall Stream Road, and I found red posts that said the border was close. Is that what you mean by Turning Points?

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