Why You Can’t Swim in Lake Massabesic, NH

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A woman sits on rocks near the edge of a lake, looking at the water.

One of our favorite ways to cool off after an outdoor adventure is going for a relaxing and refreshing swim in a lake. However, seeing a body of water doesn’t mean you can safely or legally swim in it. You could even get into serious trouble if you cannonball your way into the wrong lake. Lake Massabesic is one example of a lake that prohibits certain aquatic activities, including swimming.

So why can’t you swim in Lake Massabesic? Let’s dive in and see!

Where Is Lake Massabesic, NH?

Lake Massabesic is a more than 2,500-acre lake in southern New Hampshire. It is within Manchester and Auburn, New Hampshire. It’s approximately 20 miles southeast of New Hampshire’s capital city of Concord and 35 miles from the Atlantic coast.

Water from the lake feeds into Cohas Brook, which leads to the Merrimack River. The lake’s Native American name, Massabesic, means “place of much water” or “near the great brook.” However, despite its name indicating plenty of water, there are stiff restrictions for body contact activities in the lake.

What Is Lake Massabesic Known For?

There are over 112,000 people in the regional Manchester area of New Hampshire, which means they will need a water source. Lake Massabesic has been providing this area with water since 1874.

Enjoy a quick tour around the Massebesic Lake area with a fellow traveler.

The 2,500-acre lake has a storage capacity of 15 billion gallons. Because the lake is the local water source, Manchester Water Works does everything to protect the water and keep it safe to drink.

Can You Swim in Lake Massabesic? 

Unfortunately, while you may see Lake Massabesic and want to go for a swim, you can’t. If you do, you’d be violating RSA 485:26. However, it’s not just Lake Massabesic you have to worry about, but also any pond, reservoir, or stream tributary connecting to the lake.

As we said earlier, Manchester Water Works works very hard to keep the water supply clean for residents. You should be aware of many other rules if you’re planning to enjoy recreational activities on or near the lake.

Traveler’s Tip: Don’t fret — there are plenty of refreshing swimming holes in the northeast! Here’s how to visit the unique Bolton Potholes in Vermont.

What Area Does Lake Massabesic Provide Drinking Water For?

The lake provides more than 112,000 people with drinking water in the Manchester area. Manchester Water Works worked with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to devise a plan to help them limit potential pollution to Lake Massabesic.

This plan allows them to ensure that the lake stays clean and is a safe drinking water source for future generations.

Lush green trees surround a boat launch at Massabesic Lake on a sunny day in New Hampshire.

Can You Kayak on Lake Massabesic?

While restrictions prevent some aquatic activities, kayaking is not one of them. There are three public boat launches around the lake owned and maintained by Manchester Water Works.

These boat launches are in Auburn Village, along Route 121, and at Deerneck Bridge. The Deerneck Bridge is specifically for kayaks and canoes.

Can You Have Motor Boats on Lake Massabesic?

You can use a motor boat on Lake Massabesic. However, you’ll want to limit your speed to 35 miles per hour and make yourself aware of any restricted areas.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the lake’s map to avoid any places near the water supply intake. Sailboards, paddleboards, jet skis, and most inflatable watercraft are not allowed on the lake. These activities increase the chances of contact between the boater and the water.

Can You Walk Around Lake Massabesic?

No trail allows you to walk around the entirety of Lake Massabesic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hike near the lake. The Lake Massabesic Trail is a 3.7-mile looping trail that is flat, easy, and takes about an hour and 15 minutes to complete.

This trail is popular for walkers, birding, hiking, and horseback riding. If the weather is nice, there’s very little chance you’ll have the path to yourself unless you arrive early in the morning. 

A hiking trail near the edge of a lake in the forest.

You might also consider hiking around Tower Hill Pond, a part of the Lake Massabesic watershed. It is a 3.8-mile looping trail that circles Tower Hill Pond and takes about an hour and 15 minutes to complete. 

You can bring pets on both hikes, but keep them on a leash. If you want to do these hikes, April through October is the ideal time. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and watch out for rocks and tree roots sticking out of the ground.

What Else Is There to Do Near Lake Massabesic?

While Lake Massabesic can be a source of a tremendous amount of entertainment, it’s not the only thing to do in the area. Here are a handful of other things you might consider doing if you’re visiting Lake Massabesic and the surrounding area.

NH Audubon Massabesic Center

The NH Audubon Massabesic Center is a 5,000-square-foot educational center that sits on a historic farm. Admission is free, and the center is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm. However, the sanctuary trails are open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

The park borders 130 acres of fields and dense forests, wetlands, ponds, streams, and marshes. After visiting the Massabesic Center, you can head out to explore the more than five miles of trails leading to some incredibly scenic views of Lake Massabesic and undeveloped land owned by Manchester Water Works.

A blue sky day with fluffy clouds reflecting in the clear shallows of Massabesic Lake, NH.

Tower Hill Pond Trail

As we mentioned earlier, Tower Hill Pond Trail is a great activity to do in the area. It’s a 3.8-mile looping trail in Auburn, New Hampshire. With only 144 feet of elevation gain, it’s about as flat as a trail can get.

Hikers on these trails enjoy spotting wildlife, mountain biking, and hiking. Some trail users have spotted deer, porcupines, turkeys, and beavers. 

Users of this trail love that it’s broad, and there’s plenty of space for multiple people to use the path at once. The park does a great job of spray painting trip hazards along the route to help keep everybody safe. Make sure you bring your bug spray; it can get a bit buggy from time to time.

Weston Observatory

Weston Observatory, built in 1896, is a granite tower that stands 66 feet tall. It was given to the city by James A. Weston, who served as the governor of New Hampshire for two terms.

The tower was initially open to the public but used by the military during World War II. The city did not maintain the structure for some reason, and it eventually needed restoration.

If you visit the observatory today, you’ll find an iron fence surrounding the area. While you’ll likely be unable to go inside the structure, seeing it and learning a bit of history can still be an exciting experience.

Aviation Museum of New Hampshire

The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire hopes to preserve the history of aviation in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society is a nonprofit that operates the museum. In 2021, the museum was recognized as the “Best Place to Take Kids” in Southern New Hampshire.

The museum is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Admission is $10 for visitors over 13 years of age, $5 for seniors (65+), $5 for children (6 to 12 years old), and children 5 years old and under are free. However, the museum has a maximum $30 family max price.

If you or anyone in your group enjoys aviation, this is a must-see attraction near Manchester.

Is Lake Massabesic Worth Visiting? 

Just because you can’t swim in Lake Massabesic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit it. The lake is a small piece of the puzzle that makes up the beautiful New Hampshire landscapes.

You don’t have to splash in the water to have a good time. If you’re planning to visit New Hampshire, don’t forget to include Lake Massabesic in your travel plans.

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