Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge was created in 1963 when New Hampshire Audubon and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department acquired 312 acres of land around Cherry and Little Cherry Ponds from the Brown Paper Company. Much of the credit for this acquisition goes to Tudor Richards, a longtime member and leader of New Hampshire Audubon. Inspired by Horace Wright’s The Birds of the Jefferson Region in the White Mountains, Richards made many birding trips to Cherry and Little Cherry Ponds, beginning in the late 1940s, and developed a deep love for the area. His vision and determination were instrumental in the creation of the refuge, which he called “Pondicherry”, a name found on early maps of the region.
In 2000, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired 670 acres of land adjacent to the Audubon tract and, partnering with New Hampshire Audubon and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, established the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge. Using money from the Federal Duck Stamp Program, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service continued to acquire additional tracts of land, so that the refuge now covers nearly 6500 acres.
An interesting sidebar to the refuge history outlined above is the railroad history found at Pondicherry. The Pondicherry Rail Trail follows the former bed of the Maine Central Railroad, which for many years ran south to north through the area, while the Presidential Rail Trail follows the former bed of the Boston & Maine Railroad, which ran roughly west to east through the area. Waumbek Junction marks the spot where the two lines met and was the site of a passenger station, freight house, and station agent’s house (see The Story of Waumbek Junction on the WhiteMountainHistory.org website for more information). Although the tracks were removed when the Pondicherry Rail Trail and the Presidential Rail Trail were created, one still walks along a stretch of active railroad track north of Waumbek Junction to reach the Shore and Rampart Paths and the Little Cherry Pond Trail. Very infrequently a train will pass through here—a reminder of a previous chapter in Pondicherry’s history.