Pawtuckaway Lake

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Pawtuckaway Lake
Pawtuckaway Pond
Pawtuckaway Lake.JPG
LocationRockingham County, New Hampshire
Coordinates43°5′20″N 71°8′19″W / 43.08889°N 71.13861°W / 43.08889; -71.13861Coordinates: 43°5′20″N 71°8′19″W / 43.08889°N 71.13861°W / 43.08889; -71.13861
Primary inflowsMountain Brook
Round Pond Brook
Back Creek
Primary outflowsNorth outlet: tributary of Bean River
South outlet: Pawtuckaway River
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length3.5 mi (5.6 km)
Max. width1.1 mi (1.8 km)
Surface area784 acres (3.17 km2)
Average depth9 ft (2.7 m)
Max. depth50 ft (15 m)
Surface elevation250 ft (76 m)
IslandsBig Island; Log Cabin Island; Horse Island; numerous islets

Pawtuckaway Lake (official name Pawtuckaway Pond[1]) is a 784-acre (3.17 km2)[2] reservoir in Rockingham County in southeastern New Hampshire, United States, in the town of Nottingham. The lake is located in the Piscataqua River drainage basin.

The original, natural pond was enlarged in the 18th and 19th centuries by the construction of dams and dikes. In the lake's present configuration has two dams and three dikes. The dam on the southern end of the lake, Dolloff Dam, feeds the Pawtuckaway River, which flows southeast to the Lamprey River in the western part of the town of Epping. The dam at the north end of the lake, Drown's Dam, releases water to the Bean River, leading to the North River and ultimately the Lamprey River in the northern part of Epping.

The edge of the lake on Horse Island, from a campsite at Pawtuckaway State Park

Approximately half of the lake's shoreline consists of private homes, a mixture of seasonal and year-round residents. Most of the western side of Pawtuckaway Lake is occupied by Pawtuckaway State Park, a popular camping, swimming, boating, hiking, bouldering, and orienteering destination. Canoe orienteering events are held on the lake.


The original pond was called Pawtuckaway Pond, and the name stayed after the pond was enlarged such that it encompassed nearby Dolloff Pond. According to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, this is still its official name, and anything that uses federal data also uses that name. However, it is usually referred to as Pawtuckaway Lake by residents and organizations, even by Pawtuckaway State Park.[3]


A map of the lake, with Pawtuckaway State Park shown in green

The area was originally composed of many brooks which collected in low spots and formed small ponds, such as what was then known as Pawtuckaway Pond. Some of the brooks that ran through the area eventually ran into the Pawtuckaway River. Both the North River and the Pawtuckaway River then ran into the Lamprey River.

The construction of two colonial sawmills marked the beginning of enlarging the small ponds. On the north end, in 1729 a sawmill enlarged Pawtuckaway Pond. On the south end, in 1732 another sawmill enlarged Dolloff Pond.[4]

In 1836, in order to supply water power to the factories in nearby Newmarket, downstream from the lake, land was acquired and two dams and several dikes were constructed that changed the features and character of the two ponds, causing their waters to merge together except when the water levels were drawn down.[5] The two dams provided a consistent source of water power for the Newmarket Manufacturing Company, a textile mill.[4]

Eventually, steam power replaced water power, and gradually less water was drained from the lake to generate power. As water levels rose over time, Dolloff Pond and Pawtuckaway Pond merged into a single body of water. When the Newmarket Manufacturing Company fell on hard times in the early 1920s, it closed its mill in Newmarket. Its interests in the lake eventually passed into the hands of the New Hampshire Electric Company, which outfitted the dams with generators for hydroelectric power. Ultimately, the production of electricity became unprofitable and in 1956 NH Electric deeded the lake, its islands, its adjacent land, two dams, the dikes, and the water rights to the State of New Hampshire. In 1958 Dolloff Pond was officially considered merged into Pawtuckaway Pond, and the level of the pond is now managed for recreational and environmental uses.[4]


The lake contains many shallow parts where rocks can be seen, even in the middle of the lake. It also contains countless small islets, ranging from small rocks protruding from the water to islands large enough to walk around on. These numerous small features make the lake attractive for canoe orienteering. The land mostly surrounded by the lake is Big Island, which is considered to be an island because of the marshland to the west of it. The southern portion of Big Island makes up about half of the campsites in Pawtuckaway State Park. The other sites are located on Horse Island and near Neal's Cove. Horse Island, named so because of its shape, is the second largest island in Pawtuckaway Lake after Big Island. The park has a beach area with a roped-off section for swimming, picnic areas, a launch for power boats, and a separate canoe and kayak launch.

The water level of the lake is managed to maintain separate summer and winter target levels, and to ensure minimum outflows during droughts.


Sunset over part of Pawtuckaway Lake in August

The lake is classified as a warmwater fishery, with observed species including smallmouth and largemouth bass, chain pickerel, white perch, horned pout, and black crappie.[2]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Pawtuckaway Pond
  2. ^ a b "Pawtuckaway Lake, Nottingham" (PDF). NH Fish & Game. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  3. ^ Pawtuckaway State Park
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ Town of Nottingham, NH - Town History Archived 2014-05-22 at the Wayback Machine