Quiet water suggestions for New Hampshir

Hi all - we are planning a week getaway to New Hampshire early next summer and are looking for suggestions for quiet water kayak day trips. We also plan on putting feet to the ground for hiking in the White Mountains. We have never played in New Hampshire and are open to all suggestions for bodies of water and maybe a good place to call homebase for the week (cabins, cottages). We are all ears! Thanks - Kim and Kellie


– Last Updated: Aug-23-12 9:05 AM EST –

I'd suggest the Squam Lake area.

Nice lake, many good hikes nearby, reasonable distance to the Whites.

The SLA has island campsites you can reserve. Makes for a fun overnight.

River options might include these folks if you want a shuttle:

NH paddling recommendation
On the east side of Errol, access is best off of Route 26, half in New Hampshire and half in Maine, is Lake Umbagog. Shsssh, don’t tell anybody, but this is the best kept secret in the North Country and if you tire of the loons and the peace and quiet, you are right near the Connecticut lakes too. From the North Cascades in Washington, to the Boundary Waters, to the Everglades (all fabulous IMHO), I doubt there is a nicer area to paddle in North America than Umbagog.

Umbagog is indeed a lovely spot.
But - lets not get too carried away. There is the Allagash and the St. John and the Machias in Maine on the northeast list as well. And so many others.

True enough
Umbagog Lake is pretty, but shallow — on a windy day the waves can get big quickly. But it is still a nice spot. We had a good experience a couple of summers ago at this rental, which is located on the lakeshore within the preserve area. The dirt road is somewhat dicey (for a Mini, anyway), but if your ride can handle it, the place is nice and well equipped for at least four. Here’s hoping they finished the carpentry and bought some comfortable mattresses…


The best place to kayak in NH is
Maine. Seriously. The so-called Lakes Region of NH is very built up. There is no wilderness paddling there and lakes are overrun with motorboats. There is more or less no kayaking in the White Mountains. You have to go pretty far north to find wilderness paddling.

Some ideas:

  1. Homebase at Newfound Lake. Kayak there, also Grafton Pond. Easy drive to the mountains.

  2. Homebase North Conway and kayak the Maine lakes and ponds east of there.

  3. Skip New Hampshire and go to Rangeley, Maine. Kayak the lakes in that area.

    New Hampshire is okay, but Maine is nicer—so many more beautiful places and true wilderness lakes, more to see and do, bigger.

Maine is good too
Waterbird has obviously not been to Umbagog, or the rest of the area for that matter, which is pretty remote after all. Those who know the North Country will confirm that it is not built up at all. Access, good beds, things like that is what you would expect in a wilderness area. Plan for rustic. The weather can be volatile too, with nice summer days turning to violent storms in minutes. That is true in Maine, Vermont, Quebec, New Brunswick, etc. too. This whole region is just simply fantastic for paddling, fishing, hiking, birding and so on.

Squam Lake is nice.

Umbagog Lake(NH-ME), Richardson Lake(ME), and Lake Mooslookmaguntic(ME) are nice. All have campsites available. None are truly wilderness (but what is?)

Aziscohos is reputed to be nice as well.

The Magalloway from below the rapids down into Umbagog is a quiet water gem. If the wind is daunting on Umbagog the Magalloway is lovely.

The Androscogin between Umbagog and the Errol Dam is nice and quiet (mostly). Some years back I saw a large otter family as well as a nut in a Cigarette Boat all in the same paddle.

The Saco from North Conway down can be nice when it’s not overrun with drunken dorks.

The Pemi below Woodstock is sweet if you don’t mind a bit of current. Class I with one Class II in Thornton then Quick to quiet water all the way to Ayers Island Dam in Bristol, NH

“Wilderness paddling”

– Last Updated: Aug-25-12 12:00 AM EST –

Bill, I see you're from Florida. The Lakes Region is in central New Hampshire. Umbagog isn't in the Lakes Region. The central Lakes Region is in fact very built up.

Umbagog is beautiful, certainly. My only disappointment with Umbagog is that it's all state and federal controlled. When I think of wilderness paddling I think of being free to wander and camp at will, as is still possible in some places in Maine and the Adirondacks, but no longer in New Hampshire. (The OP said nothing about camping, though.)

I spend quite a bit of time in the area you speak of and especially northeast of there in Maine. It's all beautiful.

most of the wild lands and waters in the Adks you are free to camp and wander on are state-controlled – that’s how they are being kept “forever wild”. the public is not welcome on many of the private inholdings.

"State controlled" means something different in each state. In my opinion, Maine and New York do a decent job of making free wilderness camping available to the public. New Hampshire goes out of its way to make access to public places difficult and to prohibit camping. For example, there are no-trespassing signs on publicly owned islands on Newfound Lake. That’s pretty odd—citizens own those islands but can’t land a kayak on them to eat a sandwich?

As huge as Umbagog is, you can’t camp at will on it or around it. To me that feels over-regulated.

Maybe the different attitudes in each state has to do with the amount of public land available—with New Hampshire being far smaller than Maine and New York—but I think it’s more than that. I think it has to do with not realizing that “state owned” means “publicly owned.”

I’m nostalgic for a time long ago when you could camp freely throughout the Northeast.

Tommy when was your last Saco run
alcohol is now forbidden on the popular Fryeburg to Brownfield stretch. Yes Fryeburg has a marine police boat now.

That said I still would not paddle it on summer weekends. Its a zoo. I live nearby it and favor the spring and the fall.

My personal fav is Lobster Lake or Chesuncook. The latter now has car access to Chesuncook Inn. Lobster is still pretty remote. Chesuncook is too because its a large potentially dangerous lake.

Other options are the Lily Bay area of Moosehead Lake…

I have Aziscohos on my fall list. Because its about two hours away I have ignored it…

In the grand scheme of things Umbagog is remote. Its not cottaged save for the extreme southeast arm though there are a couple of old cottages grandfathered in. Looks like repairs are not allowed. One collapsed.

Saw this online: maybe helpful

Hey Tommy
Things go full circle.

Live in Florida, but…
My wife is a Colebrook girl and we still own the family home there. For many years her parents had the lease on Doubleday Island and we spent time there as a result. I absolutely love the whole North Country area and Umbagog most of all.


Androscoggin below Errol is pooled,

– Last Updated: Sep-06-12 5:56 PM EST –

and there is a NH state park right next to the river. One can paddle up the Modgilliwock (sp?) quite a ways. The rapids down to Pontook are infrequent and not difficult, and can be run in touring or rec kayaks. Below is a blogg I posted on a UK site. You may need to copy and paste the entire link to get yourself there. Inside are enough details to get you there and back.


Don't miss this if you like river history.