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Watershed Facts

Watershed FactsLake Winnipesaukee usually freezes in January to a depth of 3 to 4 feet.

General Facts

  • It is a 63 mile drive around Lake Winnipesaukee.
  • There are 365 islands in Lake Winnipesaukee; 274 of which are habitable.
  • Becky’s Garden is the smallest island on Lake Winnipesaukee having a 10 foot width on a good day.
  • Loon is the name of three different islands on Lake Winnipesaukee.


  • “Winnipiseogee” is the Native American name for Lake Winnipesaukee, which was the most common named used by the earliest New Hampshire English settlers. The most popular translation of the name is “Smile of the Great Spirit”.
  • The Lady of the Lake was constructed in Lakeport in 1849 and was the first boat built over 100 feet in length that provided mass transport on the lake.
  • The 780 ton MS Mount Washington, was assembled in 1939 from the 230-foot hull of the Lake Champlain Vessel Chateaugay. The Mount stops at Wolfeboro, Alton Bay, Weirs Beach, Meredith, and Center Harbor, from ice-out in spring until October 21st.
  • The islanders on Lake Winnipesaukee don’t have to come to the mainland to pick up their mail. The MS Mount Washington’s sister ship, the Sophie C, delivers mail to all inhabited islands.
  • The official Ice-Out on Lake Winnipesaukee is judged by when the MS Mt. Washington can successfully navigate its route.
  • Wolfeboro is the oldest summer resort town in the U.S.

Water Quality Facts

  • The water quality in Lake Winnipesaukee is considered fairly good, but poorer conditions do occur in localized sites.
  • Lake Winnipesaukee is considered an oligotrophic lake meaning the lake has high water clarity, limited plant growth, and relatively low nutrient inputs.
  • The parameters used to measure a lake’s trophic state are chlorophyll a, water transparency, and total phosphorus.
  • Phosphorus stimulates plant growth and contributes significantly to eutrophication, when the lake turns green due to algae growth. Water transparency measures water clarity, which is affected by algae growth in response to increases of phosphorus input.
  • The water in the lake’s numerous coves and bays does not readily mix with the rest of the lake, causing the water in these areas to be more susceptible to water quality problems.

Animal Facts

  • Otter, beaver, muskrat, mink, fisher, moose, deer, black bear, coyotes, and bobcats all can be seen in the Lakes Region.
  • The Lakes Region has one of the last known colonies of purple martins in the state, which nest in boxes provided by local residents.
  • Male loons return to their traditional nesting territory in the Lakes Region on the day of ice-out and are joined by a female.
  • Rainbow trout were introduced to Lake Winnipesaukee in 1990 and small mouth bass were introduced in 1860.

Lake Winnipesaukee Watershed Stats

Land Area

180,550 acres

Surface Water

55,685 acres

Total Watershed Area

236,225 acres

Surface Water

Lake Winnipesaukee

44,586 acres

Other Lakes, Ponds, Rivers

11,099 acres

Total Surface Water

55,685 acres

Land Area

Forested Land (88.5%)

159,799 acres

Cleared Land (8.3%)

14,993 acres

Wetlands (3.2%)

5,758 acres

Total Land Area

180,550 acres

Lake Winnipesaukee

Surface Area

72 sq. miles

Maximum Depth

180 feet

Average Depth

43 feet


625 billion gallons


504 feet

# of Habitable Islands


Length of Shoreline

240 miles

Lake Length

28 miles

Mean Discharge

534 cu. ft/second

Residence Time

5 years

Evaporation Rate


Trophic State


Watershed Facts

  • A watershed may be defined as the land area contributing water to a body of water or watercourse. The Lake Winnipesaukee Watershed covers 381 square miles.
  • A watershed is defined by topography. All water that falls onto a watershed flows to a common point, the lowest point, which could be a stream, river, lake, or pond. Sixteen (16) towns, eight of which have lake frontage, contain land within the watershed that contribute water to Lake Winnipesaukee.
  • Smaller watersheds draining only a few acres into a pond, may be part of a much larger watershed draining into a nearby river or lake. For example, Lake Waukewan in Meredith and Lake Wentworth in Wolfeboro are both part of the Winnipesaukee Watershed.
  • The Lakes Region consists of over 273 lakes and ponds.

Year-Round Green Tips

Anything you throw into a river, stream, or even a storm drain is going to end up in the lake. Those tiny cigarette butts are litter too. Dispose of garbage properly and, yes you are going to hear it again, “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” and the fourth ‘R’ – Repair!  Start the New Year off making a greater effort to reduce your trash output and increase your recycling. Save yourself time and set up a few containers in your garage to sort recycling. You may want to sort your recycling as you go along or maybe it is easier to keep a smaller container under your sink and throw all recyclables in it until it is full and then sort it in the garage or wherever you choose to place your sorting center. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s stupid not to do it. For more information on what can be recycled and how to recycle anything from cell phones to used greeting cards go to

Don’t be the stink of the neighborhood! Make sure your septic system is not leaking or overflowing by having the system inspected every three to five years and pumped whenever necessary (a recommended 2-3 years for permanent residents and 5-6 years for seasonal residents). If you do not take care of your tank properly, settled solids might wash into and clog your leach field as well as contaminate groundwater. Not only yucky but also very expensive to fix!

Time for spring-cleaning! Buy eco-friendly cleaners such as Seventh Generation/Harmony, Ecos, Earth Rite, Ecover, and Life Tree. Dispose of any hazardous household chemicals properly, not down sewer or storm drains. By reducing the amount of chemicals going into your septic system, your system will stay balanced and avoid the risk of groundwater contamination that may poison your well water and the lake. Storm drains run directly into the lake so it is important not to “pour” oil or any other hazardous chemicals into the drain. In the Lakes Region, Household Hazardous Waste Day is held on the last Saturday in July. For more information on where and when to dispose of your hazardous waste, contact your local town office or the Lakes Region Planning Commission (603-279-8171).

Celebrate Earth Day! Plant trees, shrubs, and flowers on shorefronNH Plantst property (vegetative buffers) as well as on other exposed areas near drainage systems. Vegetative buffers help remove sediments and other nutrients from runoff before entering the lake. Runoff traveling down driveways and camp roads directly into the lake may be diverted through the woods or into a vegetated buffer. For examples of species that work well as vegetative buffers in New Hampshire environments, refer to the UNH Cooperative Extension’s “Landscaping at the Water’s Edge” publication or the “The Best Plants for New Hampshire Gardens or Landscapes”, both available through UNH Cooperative Extension.  Belknap and Carroll County Conservation Districts hold an annual tree & shrub sale in April (ordering deadline is usually in Feb/Mar) which offer a large variety of native plants to choose from. Call BCCD at (603)527-5880 or CCCD at (603)447-2771 for details.

It’s time to build little Johnny that float you told him he could swim to once he was old enough. Construct docks and floats with environmentally friendly materials. Pressure treated and painted wood have chemicals proven to be harmful to living organisms. Cedar, redwood, cypress, recycled wood/plastic, and aluminum are all safe materials to use for dock and float construction.

Quack! Quack! You may be tempted to throw those cute waddling ducks a cracker, but think twice before you do. There is plenty of natural food for the ducks to feed on. Feeding them anything not naturally occurring in the watershed will put unnecessary amounts of nutrients (duck poop) in the lake. The excess nutrients (duck poop) act as excess fertilizer, which can result in algae blooms, not to mention increasing the chances of getting duck itch.

Are your neighbors not talking to you because they are utterly disgusted at the fact your lawn is brown? Well good for you! Grass is supposed to turn brown over those hot dry periods. Don’t worry, your grass isn’t dead; it’s just dormant. The grass is taking a nap and will turn green once again when the conditions are right.

If you are using fertilizer, do not try dumping more and more fertilizer on your lawn to turn it green. Most likely there is more than one reason for your lawn not being healthy. Have your soil tested by the UNH Soils Analytical Laboratory to find out how much fertilizer and what type you really need (for more information contact the UNH Cooperative Extension nearest you). If you don’t test your soil, try adding some lime to the lawn to counteract acidity and allow the nutrients present to be absorbed by the grass. A few other tips for keeping your lawn healthy are:

Aerate the soil with an aerating machine.
Leave grass clippings on your lawn to act as a natural fertilizer and irrigate your lawn.
Keep grass long (at least 2 inches) to promote deeper roots and shade to discourage weeds.
Make sure your lawn mower blade is sharp (if the tips of the grass are jagged after mowing, you need a sharper blade).

Going on vacation to enjoy the last few weeks of the summer sun? Bringing your boat with you? Don’t forget to make sure you are not transporting any nuisance species such as milfoil into our lake or into any other lake. Inspect your boat and trailer, particularly on the rollers of the trailer and on the boat motor. Put any plant material or anything else you find in a trash bag and dispose of properly. It is also recommended to wash your boat with very hot water away from the lake, flush the motor, and let it dry for two days before launching it into another body of water.

Don’t do it in the lake! Using soap or phosphorus containing detergents to bathe, wash boats, or anything else for that matter may cause algae blooms by increasing phosphorus levels in the lake. Wash your car and boat over grass instead of paved driveways or concrete. The grass and soil will help filter out the phosphorus instead of allowing it to run directly into the lake.  And whether in the city or the country, cleaning up after “Benji” is a must so that we don’t end up swimming in his manure.

Wouldn’t it be so easy to just rake the leaves from the yard right into the stream behind our house? No mess, right? Wrong! Vegetative material will add phosphorus and other nutrients directly into the lake as well as create excellent habitat for leeches at your personal swimming area. Keep leaf piles and brush piles at least 250 feet from the shoreline or 50 feet from any other drainage. Never dump leaf or brush piles into the lake or any other drainage area such as a stream, river, or storm drain.

Be like the pilgrims and serve a free-range turkey for Thanksgiving. It’s better for you and it’s better for the turkey. Gobble! Gobble! Be thankful for the lake; join LWWA and support our efforts in protecting the lake and surrounding watershed.

Are you tempted to buy one of those tacky frosty white artificial Christmas trees just like you had growing up? You may think an artificial tree is eco-friendly because you will use it year after year, but studies show that most people get rid of their fake trees after 6 years where they end up in a landfill. Artificial trees are also made with petroleum-based products, nonrenewable resources, which produce pollution during collection and synthesis of the products. Buy a real Christmas tree grown on a tree farm where the trees benefit wildlife habitat, stabilize soil, buffer water supplies, provide oxygen, and spread holiday cheer. For more information on Christmas trees go to

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