White Mountains, a mountain chain of New England. According to the recent survey of the state of New Hampshire, the mountains are considered as belonging to the Atlantic system, an older series than the Appalachian, extending from Newfoundland to Alabama, east of the latter. In a wider sense it begins about the head waters of the Aroostook in Maine, its first great summit being Mt. Katahdin. The deep valley of the Chesuncook, Pemadumcook, and Millinoket lakes divides it; but beyond these rise on either side of the deep depression of Moosehead lake Spencer mountain and Bald mountain; thence its course is S. W. Dead river, one of the largest affluents of the Kennebec, forces a passage through it, and near the S. bank of that river it rises again in the important summit of Mt. Bigelow. It continues its S. W. course to the Androscoggin, sending a spur northward, along the E. bank of the Magalloway river, and along the shore of Lake Umbagog. After the passage through it of the Androscoggin, it spreads out S. of that river into a broad plateau, 1,600 to 1,800 ft. in height, 30 m. long from N. to S., and about 45 m. broad, extending nearly across New Hampshire, and bounded S. by the Merrimack river and Squam, Winnipiseogee, and Ossipee lakes.
This plateau, from which rise more than 200 peaks, and which is traversed by several deep narrow valleys, forms the region known to tourists as the "White Mountains." The peaks cluster in two groups, the eastern or White mountain group proper and the Franoonia group, separated from each other by a table land from 10 to 15 m. wide. The principal summits of the eastern group are, beginning at the Notch and passing around to Gorham, Mts. Webster, Jackson, Clinton, Pleasant, Franklin, Monroe, Washington, Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Mt. Washington is the highest, and is indeed the highest mountain summit in New England, being 6,293 ft. above the sea, according to the most recent measurement, 8 ft. higher than earlier estimates. The height of some of the other peaks is as follows: Pleasant, 4,764 ft.; Franklin, 4,904; Monroe, 5,384; Jefferson, 5,714; Adams, 5,794; Madison, 5,365. The principal summits of the Franconia group are Mts. Lafayette (5,259 ft.), Liberty, Cherry mountain, and Moosilauke (4,811). Near the southern border of the plateau rise Whiteface mountain, Chocorua peak (3,540 ft.), Red hill, and Mt. Ossipee; and in the east Mt. Pequawket, 3,251 ft.
North of the plateau, and near the upper waters of the Connecticut river, are several considerable summits, of which the twin mountains known as the Stratford peaks are the most considerable. The plateau is traversed and its surface deeply furrowed by several streams: the Androscoggin and its tributaries, which form the N. E. valley; the Saco and its branches, which form two deep depressions in the eastern group, and finally form a part of the S. E. boundary of the plateau; the Pemigewasset, the principal affluent of the Merrimack, which divides the Franconia group from N. to S.; and the Lower Ammonoosuck and Israel's rivers, tributaries of the Connecticut, which form valleys in the N. W. part of the plateau. - The geological formation of the White mountains is almost entirely of the ancient metamorphic rocks. In many of the peaks the upper portion is composed of huge masses of naked granite or gneiss; and the coarse gravelly soil which has been formed by the debris in the lower portion only supports those trees and shrubs which will grow in the hardest and poorest ground.
The most noteworthy of many waterfalls among the mountains are: the Artist's fall in North Conway; the Silver cascade, on the side of Mt. Webster; Ripley's falls, on a tributary of the Saco, below the Willey house, the lower one, Sylvan Glade cataract, falling 156 ft. at an angle of 45°, in a stream from 50 to 75 ft. wide; the falls of the Ammonoosuck, which in a course of 30 m. descends over 5,000 ft.; the Berlin falls, on the Androscoggin, descending over 200 ft. in the course of a mile; and the Crystal cascade and Glen Ellis fall, near the Glen house, on a tributary of the Androscoggin. There are five "notches," or passages through the mountains: the White mountain notch, 1,914 ft. high, 2 m. long, and at its narrowest point only 22 ft. wide, through which the Saco river passes; the Franconia notch, 2,014 ft., which permits the passage of the Pemigewasset; the Pinkham notch, 2,018 ft., through which a branch of the Saco and one of the Androscoggin find their way; and the Grafton and Dixville notches, through which flow the Androscoggin and one of its tributaries. " The Flume " at Franconia notch is the most noted of the narrow waterways excavated through the rock, though there are others hardly inferior to it.
Among the other objects of interest in the Franconia group is the "Old Man of the Mountain," on Profile mountain, opposite Mt. Lafayette; it is a well defined profile of the human face, 80 ft. long, formed by three projecting rocks. At the base of the mountain lies a beautiful lakelet a quarter of a mile long and an eighth wide, called "Profile lake," or the "Old Man's Washbowl." Five miles S. of the Franconia notch is the "Basin," a circular bowl-like cavity 45 ft. in diameter and 28 ft. in depth, produced by the whirling of large stones in a natural hollow in the rock by the current. It is filled with clear sparkling water, which flows down the mountains in a succession of beautiful clear cascades. The "Pool," in the same vicinity, is a natural well in the solid rock 60 ft. in diameter and 190 ft. deep, of which 40 ft. is water. A carriage road has been constructed to the summit of Mt. Washington, on the E. side, and a railroad on the W. side, the latter completed in 1869. A rough stone building, 40 by 22 ft. and 8 ft. high, with walls 4 ft. thick, was erected under the lee of the highest rocks on Mt. Washington in 1852, and a second structure, known as the "Tip-top house," not long after. In 1872 the new Summit house, 170 by 30 ft., 2½ stories high, was erected.
There are now several additional buildings, including one occupied as a meteorological station by the United States signal service. The White mountain plateau is approached by travellers from four directions, viz.: from the east by the Grand Trunk railroad to Gorham, also direct to the Fabyan house by the Portland and Ogdensburg railroad from Portland, Me.; from the south by Lake Winnipiseogee and the valley of the Pemigewasset; from the southwest by way of the Connecticut river and the Boston, Concord, and Montreal railroad to the Fabyan house; and from the north by the Grand Trunk railroad to Northumberland. - The White mountains were first visited by white men in 1642. John Josslyn, a naturalist, visited them between 1663 and 1671, and gave an account of his journey in his "New England's Parities discovered" (1672). No settlements were made in the region till about 1771. The first scientific exploration was made in 1784 by the Rev. Manasseh Cutler, D. D., of Ipswich, and six others. In 1797, and again in 1803, President Dwight passed through the White mountain notch, and he gives a full description of it in his "Travels." In July, 1804, Dr. Cutler again visited the mountains, and made observations to ascertain the height of Mt.
Washington, and with some friends collected the alpine plants of the region. In 1816 Dr. J. Bigelow, Dr. Francis Boott, Mr. F. C. Gray, and Chief Justice Shaw made a thorough natural history survey of the mountains, which was published by Dr. Bigelow under the title of " Account of the White Mountains of New Hampshire." The flora of the mountains was also thoroughly explored by Mr. W. Oakes, of Ipswich, who published " Scenery of the White Mountains" (4to, with 16 plates, 1828). The most complete work illustrative of the scenery, botany, and history of the region is " The White Hills, their Legends, Landscapes, and Poetry," by the Rev. T. Starr King (4to, Boston, 1859). Since 1868 the mountains have been very thoroughly explored by the New Hampshire geological survey, under Prof. Charles H. Hitchcock, state geologist, whose reports describe fully their geology, mineralogy, botany, zoology, scenery, topography, and exploration (vol. i., 4to, Concord, 1875). This organization established a meteorological station on the summit of Mt. Washington in the winter of 1870-'71.