Amid the timeless beauty of its mountains and the quaint allure of its towns, New Hampshire holds a lesser-explored treasure – a tapestry of rivers and lakes that weave stories as rich as its history. The Granite State, celebrated for its rugged landscapes and independent spirit, cradles within its embrace an intricate network of waterways that mirror its enduring resilience and natural splendor.
Like the whispered tales carried by the wind, New Hampshire’s rivers and lakes tell stories of exploration, industry, and the unwavering connection between its people and their environment. In this article, we embark on a journey that traces the winding paths of New Hampshire’s rivers and immerses in the reflective depths of its lakes.
Join us as we unveil the significance of these aqueous chapters, uncovering their role in shaping the state’s identity, culture, and economy, and revealing how the currents of water have sculpted the very essence of the Granite State.
Printable New Hampshire Lakes and Rivers Map
The Merrimack River is a 117-mile-long river in the northeastern United States, rising at the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers in Franklin, New Hampshire, and flowing southward into Massachusetts before emptying into the Gulf of Maine at Newburyport.
The central-southern part of New Hampshire and most of northeast Massachusetts is known as the Merrimack Valley, making the river an important regional focus in both states. The river has also been immortalized in literature, with Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers being a classic early American literary work.
The Contoocook River is a 71-mile-long river in New Hampshire that flows from Contoocook Lake on the Jaffrey/Rindge border to Penacook, where it empties into the Merrimack River. It is one of only a few rivers in New Hampshire that flow in a predominantly northward direction, and four covered bridges span the river, making it popular for fishing and whitewater boating among residents and tourists.
The river’s name comes from the Pennacook tribe of Native Americans and perhaps means “place of the river near pines,” and it gives its name to Contoocook, a census-designated place within the town of Hopkinton.
The Saco River is a river in northeastern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine that drains a rural area of 1,703 square miles of forests and farmlands west and southwest of Portland, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Saco Bay, 136 miles from its source.
It has played an important role in the development of cities like Biddeford and Saco and the towns of Fryeburg and Hiram, providing transportation and water power. The river’s name is attributed to an Eastern Abenaki language word meaning “land where the river comes out,” and Samuel de Champlain sailed a portion of the river in 1605 and referred to it as Chouacoet.
The Ammonoosuc River is a 55-mile-long river in northwestern New Hampshire that rises on the western slope of Mount Washington, in Sargent’s Purchase in the White Mountains of southern Coos County. Its name, Abnaki for “small, narrow fishing place,” reflects the river’s importance to the local Native American tribes.
The river flows westwardly into Grafton County, passing through several towns and collecting the Gale River in Lisbon and the Wild Ammonoosuc River in Bath, before flowing into the Connecticut River in the village of Woodsville.
The Ashuelot River is a tributary of the Connecticut River, approximately 64 miles long, in southwestern New Hampshire that drains a mountainous area of 425 square miles, including much of the Monadnock Region.
It rises out of Butterfield Pond south of Sunapee Mountain in Pillsbury State Park, near Washington in southeastern Sullivan County, and flows southwest through Ashuelot Pond into Cheshire County before turning west at Winchester, flowing past the village of Ashuelot and joining the Connecticut from the east at Hinsdale, in the extreme southwest corner of New Hampshire. It is the longest tributary of the Connecticut River within New Hampshire.
The Pemigewasset River, known locally as “The Pemi,” is a 65.0-mile-long river in the state of New Hampshire that originates at Profile Lake in Franconia Notch State Park, in the town of Franconia.
It flows south through the White Mountains and merges with the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River at Franklin, which then flows through southern New Hampshire, northeastern Massachusetts, and into the Atlantic Ocean. The name “Pemigewasset” comes from the Abenaki word bemijijoasek, meaning “where side (entering) current is.”
The Androscoggin River is a 178-mile-long river in the U.S. states of Maine and New Hampshire that begins in Errol, New Hampshire, where the Magalloway River joins the outlet of Umbagog Lake. Its name comes from the Eastern Abenaki term meaning “river of cliff rock shelters” or “river of rock shelters.”
The river flows generally south, passing through several towns and cities, including Berlin, Lewiston, and Auburn, before joining the Kennebec River at Merrymeeting Bay in Maine and emptying into the Gulf of Maine on the Atlantic Ocean.
The Suncook River is a 35.7-mile-long river in central New Hampshire that begins at the outlet of Crystal Lake in the town of Gilmanton and flows south to the Suncook Lakes (Upper and Lower) in Barnstead.
It passes through several towns, including Pittsfield, Chichester, Epsom, and Pembroke, before forming the town boundary between Allenstown and Pembroke and dropping 70 feet in 0.5 miles, a natural waterpower site that led to the growth of the village of Suncook. The Suncook River is a tributary of the Merrimack River, which flows to the Gulf of Maine.
The river flows northeast through Greenville and Wilton, then broadens below Wilton and passes through Milford and the southern portion of Amherst before entering the town of Merrimack and crossing under the Everett Turnpike and U.S. Route 3 to reach the Merrimack River. It is used for water supplies, a small amount of hydropower, and recreation, and is home to 28 threatened or endangered species sharing the watershed with 35,000 people.
Salmon Falls River
The Salmon Falls River is a 38-mile-long tributary of the Piscataqua River that rises at Great East Lake, Newichawannock Canal, and Horn Pond and flows south-southeast, forming the border between York County, Maine, and Strafford County, New Hampshire.
It joins the Cochecho River near Dover, New Hampshire, to form the Piscataqua River and provides hydroelectric power at several towns in both Maine and New Hampshire. The final three miles of the river, from South Berwick to the Piscataqua, are tidal.
The Piscataqua River is a 12-mile-long tidal river forming the boundary of New Hampshire and Maine, with a drainage basin of approximately 1,495 square miles. It starts at the confluence of the Salmon Falls River and Cochecho River and runs southeastward, with New Hampshire to the south and west and Maine to the north and east, before emptying into the Gulf of Maine east of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
The last 6 miles are known as Portsmouth Harbor and have a tidal current of around 4 knots, with several cities and towns, including Portsmouth, New Castle, Newington, Kittery, and Eliot, developed around the harbor.
Moore Reservoir is a 3,181-acre impoundment on the Connecticut River located in the communities of Littleton and Dalton, New Hampshire, and Waterford and Concord, Vermont. It was created by the completion of the Moore Dam in 1956, which flooded several villages, including Pattenville, New Hampshire, and old Waterford, Vermont.
The dam is now owned and operated by TransCanada Corporation and has a capacity of 192 megawatts, making it the most productive of TransCanada’s thirteen hydroelectric facilities in New England.
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire and is located in the Lakes Region at the foothills of the White Mountains. It covers 69 square miles, with a maximum depth of 180 feet, and contains at least 264 islands, half of which are less than 0.25 acres in size.
The lake is indented by several peninsulas, yielding a total shoreline of approximately 288 miles, and is regulated by the Lakeport Dam in Lakeport, New Hampshire, on the Winnipesaukee River.
Umbagog Lake is a pristine wilderness lake located in Coös County, New Hampshire, and Oxford County, Maine, and is one of the most pristine lakes in the state. It lies in the towns of Errol, New Hampshire, and Upton, Maine, as well as the townships of Cambridge, New Hampshire, and Magalloway Plantation, Maine.
It is properly pronounced with the stress on the second syllable (um-BAY-gog). The name is said to come from the Abenaki word for “shallow water,” and both “Lake Umbagog” and “Umbagog Lake” are commonly used and accepted when referring to the body of water.
Lake Francis is a 2,000-acre reservoir on the Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire, located in Coos County, east of the village of Pittsburg and along the boundary between the towns of Pittsburg and Clarksville.
It is impounded by Murphy Dam, built in 1940 as a flood control project, and is classified as a coldwater fishery, with observed species including rainbow trout, brown trout, landlocked salmon, lake trout, and chain pickerel. The lake has two public boat launch locations, and ice fishing is permitted from January through March. Lake Francis State Park is located on the northeast side of the lake, where the Connecticut River flows.
The Connecticut Lakes are a group of four lakes located in Coos County, northern New Hampshire, situated along the headwaters of the Connecticut River. They are accessed via the northernmost segment of U.S. Route 3, between the village of Pittsburg and the Canada port of entry south of Chartierville, Quebec.
The lakes decrease in size and increase in elevation, sequentially from first to fourth, with the fourth lake being the source of the Connecticut River. Lake Francis, the last of the major lakes along the Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire, lies to the south of the four Connecticut Lakes and is a man-made reservoir.
Squam Lake is a serene lake located in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire, south of the White Mountains, straddling the borders of Grafton, Carroll, and Belknap counties. It is the second-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire, covering 6,791 acres.
Squam Lake is much less commercialized than its neighbor Lake Winnipesaukee, with only a few businesses present on its shores, and the Squam Lakes Association maintains only four boat-launching sites on the entire lake in order to keep it as quiet and private as possible.
Lake Sunapee is the fifth-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire, covering 6.5 square miles with a maximum depth of 105 feet. The lake contains eleven islands and is indented by several peninsulas and lake fingers, yielding a total shoreline of some 70 miles.
There are seven sandy beach areas and six boat ramps to access the lake, and the lake’s outlet is in Sunapee Harbor, the headway for the Sugar River, which flows west through Newport and Claremont to the Connecticut River and then to the Atlantic Ocean.
Newfound Lake is a beautiful lake located in Grafton County, New Hampshire, situated in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire, in the towns of Alexandria, Bridgewater, Bristol, and Hebron. Its area of 4,451 acres places it behind only Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake among lakes located entirely within New Hampshire, and fourth in the state overall, when Umbagog Lake on the Maine border is included.
The lake has 22 miles of shoreline, is about 2.5 miles wide and 6 miles long, and has a maximum depth of 183 feet. Wellington State Park, containing the largest freshwater swimming beach in the New Hampshire state park system, is a 204-acre property located on the lake’s west shore in the town of Bristol.
Ossipee Lake is a popular vacation spot located in Carroll County in eastern New Hampshire, in the communities of Ossipee and Freedom. At 3,257 acres, it is the sixth-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire.
The lake is fed by several rivers and is classified as a cold- and warmwater fishery, with observed species including rainbow trout, lake trout, land-locked salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, white perch, sunfish, and brown bullhead. The land surrounding the lake is home to numerous condo, cabin, and lake house developments, and many of the developments have private beaches.
Lake Wentworth is a beautiful lake located in Carroll County in eastern New Hampshire, in the town of Wolfeboro. At 3,097 acres, it is the seventh-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire. The lake is part of the UNH Extension Lakes Lay Monitoring Program and is considered oligotrophic, with excellent water quality.
The lake is classified as a warmwater fishery, with observed species including rainbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, chain pickerel, horned pout, and white perch. Wentworth State Park offers public access to the lake.
Winnisquam Lake is a beautiful lake located in Belknap County in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire, in the communities of Meredith, Laconia, Sanbornton, Belmont, and Tilton. At 4,214 acres, it is the fourth-largest lake entirely in New Hampshire and is roughly triangular in shape, with the vertexes pointing north, east, and south.
The lake has two basins, a larger northern basin and a smaller southern one, with a bridge carrying Routes 3 and 11 separating them, and the village of Winnisquam is at the bridge. The lake has a maximum depth of 155 feet and is only a few miles from Interstate 93 via Exit 20 for U.S. Route 3 and New Hampshire Route 11.