The 24-acre Rinker-Steele Natural Area provides a spectacular glimpse into Hanover’s post-glacial history. Owned by the Town and managed by the Hanover Conservation Commission, the property is permanently protected by a conservation easement held by the Hanover Conservancy.
The Natural Area protects old growth forest, fragile soils on steep slopes, and the water quality of Camp Brook, as well as trail connections to nearby Ferguson Field, Storrs Pond Recreation Area, and Oak Hill. The towering hemlocks and pines offer resting habitat to birds migrating along the Connecticut River. Glens and moist pockets feature maidenhair fern and other delicate understory plants.
After the last ice sheet retreated from the Hanover area, a huge body of water now known as Lake Hitchcock inundated the Connecticut River valley, including this area. When the lake drained about 8,000 years ago, Camp Brook began to carve through the thick blanket of former lake-bottom sediments on its way to the Connecticut. This resulted in the dramatic, steep ravines we see today, that discouraged later landowners from logging their slopes.
The Conservancy (then the Hanover Conservation Council) purchased 17.6 acres from Jack and Betty Rinker in 1973, conveying them to the Town in 1975. With support from nearly 100 donors, including $25,000 from the Conservancy, the Town bought the abutting 6-acre Steele Tract in 2010. The scenic natural area offers its own public trails and connections to others nearby, a place for education and research, and protects views from Route 10 and the river.
While the Town and the Conservancy have been close partners for half a century, the Rinker-Steele Natural Area is the first town property for which a protective easement has been granted to the private non-profit conservation organization. This conservation easement and a detailed management plan guide how the property will be cared for and used. Trail adjustments are in the planning stages, and a new map will be posted when they are complete.
To visit the Rinker-Steele Natural Area, park on the east side of Route 10 at the bottom of Chieftain Hill. (This is the Town’s designated parking spot for this property, despite the “no parking” sign just south on Route 10).
From Storrs Pond, take the trail from Area 5.
Please note that the connecting Storrs Pond and Oak Hill trails are groomed in the winter and require a ski pass! A trail map is available here.