Quiet Places to Paddle - revised 2005
NH Paddling with the Family
By Bruce Wrigley
Big River - DeLorme 36 K-7 (Added June 2005)
The privacy and beauty of this little, not “big,” slow current river will surprise you. Going downstream from the put-in, you can meander for some time, exploring bays and channels, or take a nice paddle all the way to the dam at Pittsfield. A pleasant variety of older evergreen and deciduous trees lines the channel. The water surface, banks and bottom display many forms of life. The chirping, shady zones, occasional fisher-folks and stillness provide idyllic peacefulness. At Barnstead Parade, the channel widens to become pond-like.
Turning left to go upstream from the put-in, takes you through a narrower channel whose beauty continually increases. Depending on water depth and your willingness to do mild carries and ignore false endings, it can take you on a ways. In spring you can scoot across the few small logs and shallows that may cause a carry in lower water.
Blackwater River – The Bay - DeLorme 35 I-9 (Added July 2004)
The bay is a still widening of the Blackwater River that has created a marsh and pond. You may find it a delightful place for a family trip. The access road off Bay Road leads to a wide sandy put-in that can serve as beach or picnic area. The Bay is a wide pond at that point, but if you go in either direction, you find interesting marshes, channels, peninsulas, and a varied shoreline. Going north through the meanders will eventually enable you to tour the Blackwater for a bit, but the river stays close to the highway. Going south provides opportunities for exploration. A few houses may be visible, but is mostly undeveloped.
Bog Pond - DeLorme 35-E8 (Added July 2004)
This is a classic narrow channeled marshland, quiet and mostly unvaried. Not an exciting place, it is just a good place to simply be with nature. It is a perfect place for a long paddle in the sun, enjoying the ducks, blackbirds, and water life. You may prefer the second of the two put-ins, since it is more quiet and rustic. In addition, a wooded picnic area adjoins the put-in parking place. From this more southern put-in you can paddle sinuously south for quite a distance. Where the channel seemingly abruptly ends, you can carry across the beaver dam and paddle through a small swamp before the channel disappears. The northern part of the area can be reached either from the first put-in or by passing through a corrugated medal tunnel under the road. As you head north after the tunnel the channel slowly widens and opens and some houses come into view. Near the northern put-in, where there is a dam it widens into a pond. This is a perfect location for one way paddling, leaving a bicycle at one end to return to your car. You could also easily walk the mile between the two.
Brindle Pond - DeLorme 36-J7 (Updated 2004)
An undiscovered, still wild, treasure that is just now on the edge of development attempts. One house is in view at the east end, but it is not obtrusive. Shallow with pretty summertime vegetation it is highly varied. Many beaver lodges, a beaver dam at the west end (where route 28 traffic may slightly distract the senses), and wildlife. Includes wooded shorelines, areas of swamp vegetation which can be canoe or kayak whacked at some times of year. At the east end, a long marshy channel narrows before ending. Having now grown in, the wide turnaround area at the end is not accessible. You will have to back paddle for a short distance. Occasionally and lightly used by low power motorboats. Old hunting blinds may offend some folks, but there is no evidence of recent use. .
Chocorua Lake - DeLorme 41-C8
An enjoyable lake with good scenery, a great view of picturesque Mount Chocorua, a beach and nice paddling, but the sounds from Route 16 will remind you of civilization most of the time you are there – tourist abundance may also. Development is not obvious, except for the road-hugging park.
Copps Marsh Pond - DeLorme 40-K7 (Added in June 2004)
I may be letting out a secret, because this seems lightly accessed. In the midst of the Lake Winnipesaukee motorized hubbub, there is an isolated and undeveloped marshy lily pond. Small appearing at first approach, it is much larger when you are on it, perhaps 150 acres or more. Nooks, bays, side-channels and irregularities will keep you there a while. Islands, several types of ducks, heron, redwing blackbirds, mountains, bird songs, a wall-to-wall carpet of lily pads showing their white and yellow flowers, and a variety of movements and buzzings will warm your soul. Though created by damming, the pond has the feeling of a natural and wild isolated northern pond. Few sounds intrude from the outside world, and only occasional hints of buildings on 109A emerge.
Connecticut Lakes - DeLorme 53 - various sections (Updated in June of 2004)
The first two are huge lakes, if you like that kind of paddling, but not recommended for quiet water aesthetic paddling. The waves can quickly get nasty, even in moderate winds. There is some beautiful shoreline paddling where the big boats don’t travel, but paddling it must be balanced against the distances and weather risks. The third is smaller, and a nice paddle if you are in the area, but not worth a special trip for it. However, you might want to combine it with a visit to East Inlet, which is worth the trip (Scott Bog also, but it has not been tested out for you). The Connecticut River in that area is also a nice paddle, but under the frequent spell of traffic noise.
Deering Wildlife Sanctuary - DeLorme 26-H7
This will lead you into a small maze of dirt roads that make it a little difficult to get to this place, but consider it an addition to the adventure. You will get there and it will be worth it. You will find a small delightful pond, plenty of room for walking about, a swamp that you can kayak in - at least some times of the year - and nice scenery.
Dubes Pond - DeLorme 28-I4(Added in June of 2004)
When you first look at the pond two things will capture you mind, beauty and water skiers. If you are put off by the water skiing you may miss a gem. There is a single defined water skiing channel in the center of the pond. You will soon lose sight of it and will not even hear I after a bit. A marsh to the right will quickly draw you to it. You may already draw a curious beaver out. Enjoy an exploration there and then head north along the shore. You will soon be among islands and heading into the discovery of marshy channels. Eventually you will see a tree line across a marsh. You are then in the northwest corner of the pond. If you are an adventurous explorer, you will find channels through the marsh to the trees that cover a low ridge. To your delight you will see another pond across that barrier ridge. It is an easy carry to the other pond, which has no other entry. Both ponds are aesthetically and wildlife rich. Although almost within Manchester, you will fell as I you are far from civilization. .
East Inlet - DeLorme 53-C9
It is a long way north, just south of Third Connecticut Lake and feeding Second Connecticut Lake. Yet, if you are in the area, this is a wonderful pond and bog with much wildlife. The stream on the north end will take you farther than you might wish to go. This is a wildlife management pond created by human damming, but it has a natural tone. The access road is a little tricky to follow (watch for the sudden turn at an intersection), but it is well maintained. The area is completely undeveloped.
Everett Lake - DeLorme 27-H12(Added August of 2004)
Everett Lake feels more like a large pond than a lake. For a facility constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers, it is amazingly natural and not sterile. U shaped, the northern tips of the u are the most scenic and natural. If starting at the Eastern U tip, from the unmaintained road, there are two bays to play in before passing a more formal put-in to the south, a looming dam, and a truly nice beach with all facilities. Completing the U, you will skirt a perimeter that takes about an hour and a quarter at a moderate pace. Lilly pads, shoreline flowers, a private natural beach, isolated picnic tables and pleasant scenery will pass by. Nearing what appears to be the western tip of the U, you may assume as I did that the higher power ordained nothing but white lilies for this water. A patch of yellow lilies, though, may draw you toward it, as if a lure. Rounding a bend behind the yellow patch, a sea of vermillion flowers (Pitcher plants, perhaps, but I am not an expert) draws you into a bay with a pronounced channel. The channel takes you a short way up the Piscataquog River, through accents of pinker flowers. After returning to your car, you may want to take advantage of an additional paddling option at the southern end of Ray Road. Park by a small dam, then head up a stream to a small pond that has no other access. Generally a pleasant spot, this lake seems a wonderful family location for a day of sun and paddling. (If you really want to make it a full day, Stumpfield Marsh is a nice small paddle a sort way north of Route 77 via Sugar hill Road)
Garland Pond - DeLorme 40-H3(Added in June 2004) (Updated in July 2004)
This is the second of two huge secrets hidden within the bustling Winnipesaukee/Squam area. Like Copps Pond, it is completely isolated, surrounded by conservation land. Partly marshy and mainly open, this is a long pond surrounded by appealing hillsides with varied vegetation. You will feel and be alone here, rapidly loosing the Route 25 traffic noise as you move north. At the northern extremity you can follow a sinuous smooth river for perhaps a mile. You cannot go the distance here, though, without enjoying the skims or carries over beaver dams as you soak up the true wilderness. You will probably want to stop at or after the fifth dam. With a smaller boat, you can go further, but by dam number eight – if you can find it - you may decide that further effort is not worthwhile.
George Pond - DeLorme 34-C2(Added July 2005)
A small pond that is a treat you could only discover by “accident.” This is an undeveloped and unspoiled marshy pond with a variety of animal and plant pond life. Using the marshy first put-in, I disturbed about fifteen ducks. The pond that the marsh lead to yielded a kingfisher, redwings, pond skimming birds of some sort, turtles and plenty of jumping fish. The serene wildness was a joy. At first seeming small, it increased in size and led to a clear feeder channel that extended to the culvert crossing under bog road. A compulsive paddler could do the perimeter in an hour, or you could piddle-around for two hours if you like. You might choose to combine this with a trip to McDaniel’s Marsh at the far end of Bog Road. On Bog Road you will also see a Forestry sign for a walk-in to Coles Pond – distance unknown.
Grafton Pond - DeLorme 34-C3
Among the best places in New Hampshire, Grafton Pond is an undeveloped delight. Large enough to provide a lot of variety, natural features separates it into small zones, which are calm and peaceful, many feeling enclosed. The scenery is great and includes islands, rocky shores, varied tree types, much wildlife, huge boulders in the water (some of which you can sun on) and peninsula to explore. It is protected, as part of the Grafton Pond Reservation. Bring a picnic and enjoy the picnic area at the boat launch, (sometimes a bit crowded), or sit on the dam and enjoy the sun. Undeveloped and not overused.
Great Bay - DeLorme 30-I1 (Updated in June 2004)
1. From Newmarket, Route 108 south
2. From Newmarket, Route 108 south
3. Put –ins also at Sandy Point and Weeks Point
4. In Newmarket, on the Lamprey River, near the bridge
This is a magnificent tidal estuary. Huge, it offers much for all levels of paddling and boating. For the take-it-light folks, put in at the Adams Point end and head up the tidal part of the Lamprey River to Newmarket. (Adams Points may or may not be the Research Center where we put in. If not, the Research Center is another option.) It can make for a nice day if you have lunch there and then return with the tide. You may want to do it the other way, starting at Newmarket and returning or leaving a car or bicycle at Adams Point. Whatever way you do it, be aware of the tide and plan for it. You will want to be riding with it, not against it. Also, be prepared to cross open bay water. It is often smooth, but gods are sometimes pranksters.
Hubbard Pond - DeLorme 20-H5
This is a terrific place surrounded on three sides by state forest and providing a view of Mount Monadnock. With much variety, a good size, and little development, you can spend a good part of a day exploring the intricacies. The marshy areas support varied wildlife and provide shallows for skimming through varied vegetation. There is open water if you like it, but you can avoid it by sticking to the island-studded edges and marshy areas.
Kimball Pond - DeLorme 27-I14
This is a great undeveloped, midsize, dammed pond with greatly varied features. The main pond can be paddled in an hour and a half, if you cannot contain yourself and enjoy a slower pace. There are two large beaver dams at the far end, however, with the Great Marsh ponds beyond them. Portaging over the one that is to the west provides a wealth of paddling opportunity. It probably fills in too much as summer progresses. Best to do it in spring or fall.
Long Pond (Careful – it is one of many Long Ponds) - DeLorme 42-I7
Rocks, spruce, birch, water flowers, loons, heron, ducks, beaver, islands, marshes, channels (dead end mostly), and moose (locals say) if you play your cards right. That is the flavor, but nothing can describe the peacefulness and quiet, when the loons are still, or tranquility of this pond. Seemingly undiscovered, it maintains its natural beauty with elegance that you may find that is yours to enjoy alone. There are waterside picnic areas, restrooms, and viewing platforms, just right for some folding chairs at the launch site. The paddle around is about an hour, if you are an obsessive paddler, or longer if you want to absorb the quietness, or explore the nooks, islands and bays. I did both. During the quietness, I felt immersed in godness. That godness gave me a lesson in disturbing the wildlife. When I became too persistent in approaching a loon and her loonling, they dove with startled suddenness. The young one did not resurface in the fifteen minutes I waited and scanned the water. I sat in shocked awe and guilt while the loon couple alternated between frantic calling and diving for the young one.
Manning Lake - DeLorme 36-F5 (Updated 2004)
While approaching Manning Lake you may be concerned by the over-development of Crystal Lake as you pass. Manning, however, is protected on roughly three sides by nature conservancy land. It is a scenic spot with, at least sometimes, a fair amount of wildlife - loons included. It is good for a couple of hours of nice paddling in solitude (perhaps more populated during the summer). Returning in 2004, I found that the conservation group had allowed the development of a Boy Scout camp. They have placed large docks in the bay where the loons were most frequently active and cut out a swath from the woods. It is still a good place to paddle, with varied shoreline, clear water, and a mountain view, but its charm has tarnished. This was the first time I did not see loons there, but I cannot say they are gone.
McDaniel’s Marsh - DeLorme 34-E2 and others (Added July 2005)
An apparently natural marsh, the low dam at the put-in has formed a pond with marshy edges. When you arrive, note the location of tall evergreens on an island directly across the pond. When you arrive at that island, after exploring the pond edges, pass on the right to enter the shallower marshland, noticing the huge beaver lodge on the island’s edge. You may then think that you will spend your day pushing through an apparent wall of pickerel weeds and lilies, but if you bear to the left a good channel will open to view. That will windingly take you to the end of the marsh at its source in an evergreen forest. McDaniel’s has all the features and life of a classical marsh, but provides an openness of view often blocked by high grasses in other marshes. During summer bloom, you will pass through varying “fields” of color, which will alone make the trip worthwhile. If you have time, you might want to combine this with a trip to George Pond at the far end of Bog Road or a hike into Cole Pond halfway along Bog Road.
Meeting House Pond Sanctuary - DeLorme 19-E14
This is a small pond, but well worth the trip. Although you can circle it in an hour, it has nice marsh and island features, and is completely undeveloped. There is much wildlife, hiking trails to beaver ponds and other features, and it has a great picnic spot.
Merrymeeting Marsh #1 - DeLorme 37-H9
A long, sinuous, marsh meander, for as much of the day as you want to play. It will take a while to lose the Route 11 traffic noise, but once you have, both the silence and the sounds will intrigue you. There are many side channels to trick you and trap you, so keep a wary eye, drag a long string from the boat launch, or drop breadcrumbs on the water. I have done it several times and still have much exploring to do. By the way, if you want to see just how dark a marsh can get and how hard it is to follow a channel when it does, lose track of the time as I did one afternoon.
Merrymeeting Marsh #2 - DeLorme 37-G9
This delightful paddle starts out in classic stream beauty. Before or after the thickness of summer vegetation, and even during it if you are hardy, you can take a side trip just before Merrymeeting pond to explore a not too obvious route into a beaver dam with a higher pond behind it. Vegetation is varied and summer birds are fun. Being a wildlife management area, all sections of Merrymeeting Marsh have waterfowl in season. I once had a beaver swim along in front, as if guiding me back to the boat launch (or perhaps away from its lodge).
Nubanusit Lake - DeLorme 20-A2 (Updated in 2004)
A big U-shaped lake it can be fun to paddle but is usually windy and rough. Developed with many large houses, most of which have boats – some large, it is a popular fishing destination. It does provide portage access, however, to Spoonwood Lake, (straight across from the boat launch), which is a treat. There are campsites on Spoonwood, managed and reserved through a private club – membership cost is low (see Spoonwood Pond below). Nubanusit boasts one of the few Bald Eagle nesting trees in New Hampshire (follow the shoreline to the right and honor the roped-off area). Although there was concern that the Eagles had left after raccoons ravaged their nest, they are still there in 2004. There are a couple of swimming holes, one with a rope swing, across from the boat ramp. Be aware that Nubanusit is heavily developed.
Pawtuckaway Lake - DeLorme 29-H9 (good place to put in)
This can be a beautiful place to be, but open water can get rough in the wind. If you stay at the northwest end, you can convince yourself that it is totally undeveloped, while absorbing Mother Nature's good stuff. If you want to explore further, go down the west side and enjoy the islands. At the south end, you will find a big campground and facilities, and some nice paddling through bays, some of which are developed. The east shore is heavily developed. Pawtuckaway has many features for off water exploration, including a fire tower that is open to the public, gentle hiking trails, a road to a delightful small wood-pond that you could canoe or kayak, and many roads to walk.
Pillsbury State Park Ponds(Not Pillsbury Pond) - DeLorme 26-D2
A delight for anyone, the ponds at Pillsbury State Park can be a family delight. Even the drive will lift your spirits as you move more deeply into nature and ascend into changing vegetation. Scenic picnic areas and a playground enhance the potential water adventures. This is a lightly developed, dispersed park, with primitive (toilets available, but no showers or other amenities) sites on and off the waterfront and a separated group camping area. Some sites are isolated from the others and some are across water. Portage trails are available between the ponds and at least three ponds are accessible directly by car. In a beautiful unspoiled natural setting, the small ponds offer a variety of experience. It is a great place for picnicking and pop-in paddling, or a longer adventure of exploration. During my first paddle, loons allowed me to watch them feed small fish to their young. The largest beaver I have ever seen paddled alongside, quietly exchanging fifteen minutes of coexistence on the planet with another grandfather.
Piscassic River - DeLorme 29-J12 (Name not on map) (Added in June 2004)
This is included with hesitation, because it is probably not good for a family outing and involves some work. Take fair warning not to head north of Route 87, unless you bring a machete and like that kind of paddling. The trip south will also make you earn the first 200 yards or so, but it is worth the small extra work. Tree falls further along the river may cause an occasional carry. It is not a long straight line distance, but meanders extend the distance. The isolated river meanders through surrounding vegetation that varies as you travel. Pleasant nature in the raw will engulf you. During the spring the current is strong, flowing from Epping northward, causing one strong quickwater spot (which may require a carry during low water) at an old dam near the Epping end. A more mild quickwater section appears a little further along. I like entry from the northern end on route 87, because I prefer to be with the current during the return. The traffic noise also fades more rapidly at that end. .
Pleasant Pond - DeLorme 27-G8
This pond has little development and sits comfortably in open country. It is not a highly interesting place to be, in terms of features, but is a good place to swim, picnic and see the surrounding country. It is a truly pleasant paddle. You could comfortably combine it with a trip to the Deering Wildlife Sanctuary. Locals speak highly of the pond, saying that it has kept its character for many years and that only low-power boats are allowed.
This is not a large area, but it is unspoiled and fun to paddle. After putting in, head north to get the most wilderness, moving away from the road and minor development. After a short marshy paddle from the more northerly put-in, a broad channel will narrow at a beaver dam. During high water, you can paddle over it. The rest of the time you will carry, but it is fun and worth the effort. The channel narrows and becomes lightly sinuous, with marshy side channels, some deceptive. Numerous redwing blackbirds, swallows, dragonflies and other things of the air will greet and accompany you. About halfway up, a false channel will pull you to the right towards some cabins, but it is fun to explore. The main channel is to the left through marsh, with opportunity for playing. Toward the end of the marsh, the roles reverse with a smaller channel pulling you to the left. The slightly longer and more open paddling opportunity is on the right. Both channels end at new beaver dams of green wood, not yet mudded in. You can cross, but you will not yet find much paddling beyond them. The dam at the more southern put-in would be a nice place to picnic.
Shellcamp Pond DeLorme 36-I4 (Updated in June 2004)
This is a pleasant small pond with an irregular shoreline and varied vegetation. You can usually be sure of a smooth and gentle paddle, even on days when wind whips up the nearby big lakes. Development has increased in the last three years, no longer restricted to the south end of the pond, but you will enjoy the paddling.
Spoonwood Pond - DeLorme 20-A2
A quiet, nature-sweet, moderate sized pond with interesting features, accessible only by a short portage across a dam separating it from Nubanusit Lake. It is a good place to spend a day. There are campsites, but they are reserved for members of the Harris Center, a nature group that manages the pond. The nearby Harris Center has hiking trails and other activities. To reach Spoonwood, you cross Nubanusit Lake, which is always windy and sometimes rough, but a nice place to be. Nubanusit boasts one of the few Bald Eagle nesting trees in New Hampshire. Spoonwood Pond itself is not developed, but Nubanusit is.
Umbagog Lake - DeLorme 51-F10 (good put-in place)
Often thought of as too windy and rough, except for passing-through adventure travel, Umbagog has some beautiful tranquil spots. If you put in at the (fairly well hidden and lightly used) boat launch at the wide spot on the Androscoggin River (west of what is called Sweet Meadow on the maps) then paddle east, you will have great treats in store. Those treats are more likely to include Moose than most New Hampshire paddling places. There are marshes to explore on the way and it is a nice section of the river. When you enter Umbagog, you are in an island area that is fun to paddle and has campsites (Reservations needed from the State during active times). Much of the northern sector is good paddling. You can also go farther north to the ranger station for a put-in and come down the Magalloway river, but the scenery becomes repetitive. It is not a fast river in that section. The Magalloway River and some sections of Umbagog have development in some places, but not in the northwest section of the lake.
(Name unknown) Pond - DeLorme 26-J7 (On Falls Road, off Old county Road)
If you visit this little known beaver pond, you will want to send your god (if you have one) a thank-you note. You will be thrilled from the moment you see the nearly century old beaver dam that parallels the road. (Put in is at far end of the dam.) Although the trip around it takes little more than an hour, it is through islands and marshes, with swallows darting above your head. The variety of surrounding terrain and island vegetation will please your soul. It is just a truly nice place to be. Bring a lunch, because there are plenty of places to get out and enjoy - but, especially here, "pack it out." There is only one house to betray the solitude, perhaps built before the pond and surrounding 200 acres were gifted to the NH Conservancy. The house is at the far end.
Wickwas Lake - DeLorme 35-B14
A very pretty lake with much variety, including marshes, short streams, and islands. Nice wooded shoreline, although now partially developed. It is best to find a time when motorboat traffic is likely to be lower, unless you enjoy their company. Pretty and quiet in the spring and fall.
Willard Pond - DeLorme 26-K4
This is a delightful place to be. Usually calm it has many interesting features, great backdrop, and lots of nature in the raw. An Audubon Preserve, it has only one house, near the boat ramp. People swim at the boat ramp and there are plenty of islands and rocks for additional swims in the Pond. To round out a day bring a picnic, and use the hiking trails around the pound or up the mountain. You will return, probably more than a second trip.