Bow Lake, New Hampshire, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - New England - New Hampshire - Lakes Region -

Also known as:  Bow Lake

New Hampshire’s Bow Lake is located about 30 miles south of better-known Lake Winnipesaukee in the state’s Lakes Region. Bow Lake has its own special set of charms that endears it to residents and visitors alike. A part of colonial New Hampshire history, the lake gradually came into being when a series of water-powered mills were built at the outlet to small Bow Pond in the 1700s. Although the date the current dam was built isn’t clear, the newer dam nearly doubled the size of the lake, leaving several islands dotting the surface. Bow Lake originally was used as a water supply reservoir but now mostly serves recreational purposes. Its wooded shores and many small bays and coves impart a natural wilderness atmosphere to the lake’s seven miles of shoreline. The original Bow Pond Stream is now renamed the Isinglass River, a tributary to the Cocheco River.

Many areas of Bow Lake are shallow, making the launching of boats tricky for those unaccustomed to the lake’s underwater topography. Rocks just below the surface in some areas can’t be seen when the wind is up and the water choppy, so local advice should be sought by those unfamiliar with the lake. A public boat launch is located in Nay Lake Village at the southeast end of the lake. Several inhabited islands offer sheltered moorings and excellent fishing along the drop-offs. The parking area for the boat ramp is small and quickly becomes full on good fishing weekends. The longer, open reach of the 1,150-acre lake invites water skiers, wake-boarders and sailors, while the irregular shoreline attracts kayakers and canoeists. The Bow lake Camp Owners Association educates visiting boaters as to the threat of invasive species and the need to take preventative measures against such interlopers. The Bow Lake Yacht Club holds regular Sunday sailboat races on the lake for its members and assists with sailing education efforts. Water levels are drawn down in winter about four feet to prevent ice damage.

Fishing is a favored sport at Bow Lake. Best known for smallmouth bass, the lake also holds yellow perch, chain pickerel, pumpkinseed, American eel, American smelt, rainbow trout, lake trout, white perch and brown trout. Careful management of fish stocks allows New Hampshire Fish and Game to determine a fish planting schedule nearly guaranteed to produce excellent fishing. Ice fishing is popular in winter once the lake has frozen well enough to be safe. One of the islands on the western edge of the lake is a known nesting location for both loons and bald eagles. Local residents are very protective of their resident loons and eagles, and community newsletters often carry an update on how nesting and chick-rearing is progressing with repeated warnings that they must not be disturbed.

Bow Lake lies mostly within the town lines of Strafford, with some facilities near the dam. A public beach is maintained there, with lifeguards and basic picnic amenities. Admission is free for local residents; visitors pay a nominal fee. Few services are available locally at Bow Lake Village with the exception of the Bow Lake Grange Hall and its caretakers, the Bow Lake Community Club. Grange Hall was built in 1829 as a steam-powered mill. Today, it serves as a community center and site of regular events, fund-raisers and entertainment. The Lakeside Players, a local theater group, performs there regularly.

The larger City of Rochester is about ten miles to the east and offers all types of services, shopping and supplies. Along with a nice selection of dining options and lodgings, Rochester also boasts the Rochester Opera House with the only surviving ‘moving floor’ known to exist in working order. Built in 1908, the building has been lovingly restored to its original glory, including Art Deco murals and stenciling. An online video shows how the floor, using the original mechanisms, moves from a horizontal position for dances and events to a slanted amphitheater, still with the original wrought-iron seating. The Opera House still does duty as a performance venue for local stage productions and community events.

No camping or commercial lodgings exist on Bow Lake’s shoreline, although several historic inns are still greeting visitors nearby, some within walking distance. Campgrounds, guest cottages and small motels can be found close by, and a number of private owners directly on Bow Lake rent their properties on a short-term basis. For those who like hiking and nature observation, Northwood Meadows State Park is only five miles to the south. The 675-acre state park is a wealth of trails through woods and extensive wetlands, perfect for nature hikes and cross-country skiing. Two areas of local ‘town woods’ near Bow lake offer small plots of public lands for picnicking and exploration. Winter visitors often enjoy the convenience of Gunstock Mountain ski facilities near Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s easy to see why real estate at Bow Lake is in high demand. No visit to New Hampshire is truly complete without a day at Bow Lake and its environs. You’ll fall in love with the solitude, great water sports and excellent fishing.

Things to do at Bow Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Bow Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Chain Pickerel
  • Eel
  • Lake Trout
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Smelt
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Perch
  • Yellow Perch

Bow Lake Photo Gallery

Bow Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: New Hampshire Water Resource Board

Surface Area: 1,150 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 515 feet

Average Depth: 10 feet

Maximum Depth: 65 feet

Water Volume: 11,500 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 14 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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