Southern NH Lake Access / Opinions on "Private Lakes"

Once upon a time, I was a jet ski owner. I owned a Yamaha Waverunner, a 3 person PWC that I only used on the largest of NH lakes. It was fast, and could easily go 50 or 60+ on the water. After a few years, it became more of a chore to use it so I sold it. Now this year I have taken up kayaking with a Sea Eagle Explorer. So, in order to learn more places to go and to explore as many lakes as possible I started a massive Google map of NH lakes and ponds, because naturally, I want to go to as many as possible. So far in the first two months of owning a kayak, I have launched 23 individual times on 15 unique ponds or lakes.

Mostly in southern NH, I’ve come across the phenomenon known as the “private lake.” This weekend I went to three. The first was Arlington Mills Reservoir in Salem. Although the F&G map says there’s no public boat access, gopaddling has an access point at the north end of the lake with parking in front of the cemetery. When I got on the lake, I noticed that the lake was crammed with big lake houses, all with massive power boats docked out back, many of which were comically oversized for a lake so narrow. Most of the property owners had to fortify their lands with seawalls to protect against the wakes of the boats. All in all a strange lake to paddle, being so narrow and full of big boats.

The second was Island Pond in Atkinson. To my knowledge there is only one public access point on the lake, for canoes and kayaks, I assume to limit power boats on the lake, but just like Arlington Mills, it was way overdeveloped with big power boats lined up side by side. The eastern side seemed less developed, but that’s where everyone seemed to really throttle up. The final lake was Cobbett’s Pond in Windham. The only known access is at a town beach marked “residents only.” No one seemed to really enforce this, so I was able to check this one off of my list. Super overdeveloped with big boats circling the lake. A little more spacious than Arlington Mills though in terms of width.

I was wondering what everyone’s thoughts are on “private lakes” or lakes with no known public access. My personal theory is that much of this is due to the proximity to the Mass border. There are two main types of private lakes. Those with just private land around them and no access where they set up associations, ostensibly to “protect the lake” but in reality to gatekeep anyone from coming on the lake while being able to still circle in massive power boats, or the second alternative, lakes with town owned access closed to residents only. I assume many of these small towns were inundated with Mass and CT cars on the weekend and could not handle the flow of out of staters crowding the beach and lake and not really caring for how they treated it.

Has anyone in the area had experience with any of the following lakes or know how to get on them…

  1. Baboosic Lake (Amherst)
  2. Pine River Pond
  3. Wash Pond (Hampstead)
  4. Rocky Pond (Hollis)
  5. Little Island Pond (Pelham or Salem)
  6. Millville Pond (Salem)
  7. Greenville Reservoir (Greenville)
  8. Pearly Lake (Rindge)
  9. Chesham Pond
  10. Childs Bog
  11. Deering Reservoir

What an interesting post. I dont know nh law regarding paddler rights. …but it is the live free or die state. You just dont want to live free and die from an irate property/motor boat owner. I would think the nh gazetteer would have public boat launches marked. Generally i like to go where the motorboats cant go and where i am wanted. Nh is a state i havent paddled in so unfortunately i’m worthless on specifics but i would rely on a gazeteer.

I use this website as one of my resources. It is a listing of many of the lakes and ponds in the state put out by NH Fish & Game. This is not the be all end all list though, and I have used other sites such as this one as well as scouring Google Earth.

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We had this question come up recently for a club trip in RI. There is a large reservoir that was easily accessed at the boat ramp at a state campground. Recently, the state restricted use of the boat ramp to folks camping at the campground, so there is no longer access to this reservoir.

In RI, the state constitution guarantees access to ocean beaches up to mean high water/tide. The exact definition of where that is causes a lot of problems between beach-goers and land owners. The protection is for lateral access once you are on the beach. There is no requirement for public access over private land to get to the beach, or for public parking at access points. This is how costal communities control beach access.

At least in RI, I am not aware of any law providing public access to inland lakes/ponds. RI has a lot of state boat ramps on inland waterways. Other than that you may be out of luck, unless you go rogue :wink:

On my local 200 acre lake (also, long and narrow), there are a a few owner-occupied houses with boats that are too big for the lake, but I am reminded this long holiday weekend that most of the comically oversized boats are brought here by short-term renters (ie Airbnb). How anyone could think it’s a good idea to put a 22’ Bayliner with a 225 hp Merc on this lake is beyond comprehension, but I have three theories:
(1) The property owners made a typo in their rental listing, saying the lake is 2,000 acres rather than 200.
(2) The boat owners think it’s way cool to show off their expensive boats (and their cluelessness) by racing around in circles for hours on end.
(3) They got lost trying to find Lake Superior (after all, it’s only 20 million acres), and ended up here instead.
I’ll wager others on this forum have better theories than mine!

Heavily publicized example (there were other same-themed events with similar outcomes that year) in 2020 illustrating the clapotis outcomes of many large power boats in a smallish water body. No other comment necessary.

It’s most definitely owners not renters. Literally every house has a large power boat. How can you run 20 to 30 foot boats on this…

arlingtonmill_salem.pdf (

Also saw one guy with a jet ski doing like 50 or 60 in the narrowest part of the lake.

If it’s a large enough reservoir, there has to be another way in. As far as coastal areas go, I have no plans on paddling the ocean, and NH has by far the smallest coastline of any New England state.

The main issue is so called “private lakes” where lake house owners have banded together to gate keep access from the lake. To be fair, the ones that I have been on have not been great lakes and ponds. The over development and the number of big power boats makes it a lesser experience. On Island Pond it was a continual parade of pontoon boats on one side of the lake, and it was on a weekday.

I’m so glad my state has many lakes with “electric power only” restrictions, limiting boating access to sail, paddle and small trolling motor power. I lived in Michigan during the first few years I got into flatwater kayaking and it was hard to find a lake that was not plagued with often drunken wannabee speedboaters and what were commonly called “lake lice” (jet skis). At least there was an inland lake not far from me with one large arm that was a nesting site for protected swam species and therefor firmly off limits to any boat but a kayak or canoe.

Made the mistake some years ago of agreeing to meet a friend for the first outing with her new kayak at a long reservoir near where she lived about an hour from me (I should have googled it). I was uneasy when we got to the launch to see that the water level was obviously very low (high water mark was at least 6 feet above the steep sides of the containment. As we progressed, from the inlet where we launched, out into the main channel it was a crazy madhouse of power boats and jet skis flying up and down, so that the shallow margins that were the only place we were safe from being flattened were a churning mass of confused collision of reflected wakes. It was like trying to paddle a scale model of the Himalayas. I was in a competent sea kayak with a skirt (it was still a struggle to keep it on track) but her flatter bottomed shorter rec boat was increasingly being flung around in the rising chaos and waves were washing into her cockpit. No place to pull ashore with the steep banks muddy and slick so we had to fight our way back to the inlet before she sunk.

After we hauled out were able to find a tiny 30 acre pond a few minutes down the road that we had all to ourselves and could paddle in circles admiring water lilies and ducks for a while. So at least she got a chance to enjoy the new boat in a more suitable location.


Peculiar how putting a 2 cycle engine (jet ski, snow machine, atv …) between the legs of otherwise bright and sensible (mostly) twenty-something males can turn so many of them into brainless lunatics.

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That’s assuming bright and sensible twenty-something males are something that actually exists. I’ll admit to being an idiot when I was younger.


Good point.

You’d think so, but no. Not without crossing private property.

Granted l read this very quickly, but it seems like you are making it a goal to paddle lakes of smaller sizes, with overpowered motor boats, some narrow passages for same.

You may not be all that far from the coast where you are.

I don’t get it.

I don’t think his Sea Eagle Explorer is a good potential candidate for coastal paddling.

My main goal is to try as many different lakes and ponds as possible in southern and central NH, with some farther north. I usually go and scope them the first time I go so I can give the report to my wife as to whether she would like to go. It’s just that access on some is problematic to say the least. We live in the Nashua NH area and a number of lakes and ponds seem to have access issues. This is my first year with a kayak and I don’t have any sea kayak aspirations as of yet so no coastal paddling at Hampton, Rye, or New Castle for me.

I’m compiling a master google map that has info on as many lakes as possible. Thanks to a very helpful person in a local Facebook group I have a much larger database to go by and some of the ones I thought inaccessible might just be doable.

It really isn’t. Not that it wouldn’t be stable. It’s just not very seaworthy in terms of tracking or speed.

No the boat is not coastal. It is choosing to deal w the motor boaters. There is a reason that Jim and I stayed away from areas of Lake George in July and August.

I see the idea of compiling a useful list for easily accessible paddles.

the list is here. Accuracy unknown

I’ve been using this chart, the maps on this site, and another map I got from someone’s kayak logs. The fish and game site is accurate for the most part but no where near complete.