By Mary O'Neill
Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group
Most people visiting or living in the Lakes Region are familiar with the big lakes - Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Squam, Newfound - but they are not so familiar with the location and characteristics of some of the smaller lakes. I complied a list and quizzed a long-time resident as to the location of a number of the smaller lakes. Out of a list of 24, he was only able to name the location of 11. More surprising, he had not heard of several even though they were within 20 miles of his residence. Quiz yourself and see how you do in comparison. Where are the following lakes: Crystal, Suncook, Manning, Sunset, Halfmoon, Merrymeeting, Wentworth, Crescent, Kingswood, Mirror, Duncan, Ossipee, Silver, White, Kanasatka, Wicwas, Waukewan, Winona, Hermit, Pemigewasset, Opechee, Webster and Sawyer?
How did you do? Some of the lakes unheard of by my anonymous resident are actually good-sized lakes. Crystal Lake, in Gilmanton, for instance, covers 440 acres and is only 4 miles as the crow flies from Alton Bay. In the same area are the little known lakes of Manning and Sunset. Although smaller in size at 201 and 206 acres, respectively, they are only a 10 to 15 minute drive to the Alton docks. Much of Manning Lake is undeveloped, half of the shoreline being an official Boy Scouts camp for the Daniel Webster Council since 1945.
Less than 5 miles south of Crystal Lake are 160-acre Locke Lake and 362-acre Suncook Lake, both in Barnstead, and 253-acre Halfmoon Lake, which straddles the Alton and Barnstead town line. Halfmoon Lake has a unique history in that one of its beaches, called Hollywood Beach, was owned by Hollywood director Gordon Bennett. Actor Spencer Tracy was known to be a regular visitor there along with other movie stars.
A 15 minute drive from Alton Bay to the west is Merrymeeting Lake, located in New Durham, with 10.8 miles of shoreline and covering 1,111 acres. Merrymeeting Lake is regularly ranked among the cleanest lakes in the country. Local residents work hard to maintain this record. There is only one marina and public boat launch which means the lake stays uncrowded and provides ideal conditions for sailing, kayaking, swimming and smooth water skiing. Currently, you can purchase a home with lake access or waterfront for $180,000 to $450,000.
Further north, Lake Wentworth contributes to Wolfeboro being known as the oldest summer resort in America. Royally-appointed colonial governor John Wentworth had a summer mansion on the shores of the lake before the Revolutionary War. Lake Wentworth is the seventh largest lake in New Hampshire at 3,100 acres. Connected to it via the Smith River is 184-acre Crescent Lake, which is just a half mile north of downtown Wolfeboro. Two miles east of Lake Wentworth is Kingswood Lake in Brookfield. Heading west from Wolfeboro into Tuftonboro is Mirror Lake. The lake itself is only a few hundred feet from the shores of Winnipesuakee's Winter Harbor. Ten miles north of downtown Wolfeboro is Duncan Lake. This picturesque water body has 1.7 miles of shoreline and is 117 acres. Seven miles further north is 3,300 acre Ossipee Lake and another three miles north is Silver Lake. In the same vicinity is 126-acre White Lake. This lake is well known for its state park. Within the park is a National Natural Landmark. National Landmark Properties are registered to illustrate some aspect of America's diversified natural resources. In this case, there is a 72 acre stand of Northern Pitch-Pines. It is believed that colonial settlers used this durable, water-repellent, and decay-resistant wood for mill wheels and fence posts. The White Lake State Park's stand contains trees which are unusually tall for the species.
Heading west to Moultonborough brings you to the unspoiled waters of Lake Kanasatka, spreading out over 375 acres. This lake was once named Red Hill Pond after the hills behind its northern shore. Property for sale on Lake Kanasatka is one example of how you can purchase lakefront real estate for less than something comparable on one of the bigger lakes. For example, a current listing offers a home with 2 bedrooms, 150 feet of shoreline, and more than half an acre for $339,000.
In the area between Winnipesaukee and Newfound there are several stunning lakes. Lake Wicwas in Meredith covers 328 acres and is surrounded by forested conservation land. Wicwas attracts many kayakers and canoers who like to navigate around its many islands. Lake Waukewan in Meredith and New Hampton has 8.1 miles of shoreline and covers 912 acres. This striking lake serves as Meredith's water supply and flows into Winnipesaukee's Meredith Bay at the Inn at Mills Falls in downtown Meredith. Lake Winona in New Hampton and Center Harbor has 3.1 miles of shoreline and covers 154 acres. Also in this area are Hermit Lake (176 acres) and Pemigewasset Lake (241 acres).
If you continue south from Meredith you will come to Lake Opechee. This lake was the site of the 1954 National Waterski Championship. With its placid waters nestled among the hills of Laconia, Opechee's 426 acres remain a popular waterski spot. As with the other smaller lakes, waterfront living is possible at lower price points. For instance, a well-appointed three bedroom/four bath home with 227 feet of shorefront and a private beach located in one of the best neighborhoods is currently listed for $599,000. Other lakefront and lake-access homes on Opechee are available starting in the low $200,000 range.
In the Tilton, Belmont, and Franklin area are Webster Lake (612 acres) and Silver Lake (216 acres). The Winnipesaukee River flows into Silver Lake from Lake Winnisquam. At one time, an important Native American village was located at this juncture and served as a gathering place to capture eel and shad. About eight miles east of Silver Lake is 79-acre Sawyer Lake in Gilmanton. Sawyer Lake is popular for its comfortable and reasonably-priced homes and camps that give homeowners access to five association beaches. Current listings in this area range from about $80,000 to $230,000. Another eight miles west of Sawyer Lake brings you back to Crystal Lake in Gilmanton, where we began our tour of the smaller lakes.
These lakes are just a few of the 273 lakes, ponds, and rivers in the Lakes Region. American scientist Loren Eiseley once said, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." If the cost of a property on one of the bigger lakes is beyond your means, it is still possible to enjoy waterfront living on one of the smaller lakes.
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia, and can be reached at 366-6306. rocherealty.com