Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - New England - New Hampshire - Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee -

Also known as:  Sunapee Lake

Lake Sunapee has been a popular vacation destination since the heyday of passenger railroads and steamships. The lake’s clear waters and beautiful scenery hold many attractions, and for those who love outdoor activities, there are endless opportunities for enjoyment.

Lake Sunapee’s 4,000-acre expanse stretches over a length of 10 miles, and is the sixth largest lake that is contained within the state of New Hampshire. Its waters are controlled by the Lake Sunapee Dam, which is owned by the Department of Environmental Services. Constructed in 1932, the dam regulates the water level for recreation. Lake waters are drawn down three feet in the fall; melting snow and spring rains re-fill the lake. Lake Sunapee also provides drinking water to lake residents.

One of the lake’s special distinctions is that it contains three of the five lighthouses in New Hampshire: Herrick Cove Lighthouse, Burkehaven Lighthouse, and Loon Island Lighthouse. Two of these lighthouses, Burkehaven Lighthouse and Loon Island Lighthouse, are located at two of the lake’s islands, Burkehaven Island and Loon Island. Lake Sunapee also contains six other islands: Great Island, Star Island, Little Island, Treasure Island, Minute Island, and Emerald Island. Little Island was once an entertainment spot for tourists – it was bought in the late 1800’s (for one dollar!) by a man named N.S. Gardner, who had a bowling alley built on it.

There are many ways to enjoy Lake Sunapee’s wonders. Nature lovers can glide along the water in a kayak, gazing deep down into its clear depths. If you want a guided tour of the lake, take a leisurely ride on the MV Mt. Sunapee II. Or take the MV Mt. Kearsarge, a replica of an antique steamship, and enjoy a delicious meal along with your tour.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find much to love about Lake Sunapee. Anglers can cast their lines and reel in salmon, smallmouth bass, lake trout, or pickerel. Those with a thirst for excitement can experience the thrill of windsurfing, water skiing, or sailing. If you feel like taking a refreshing dip into Lake Sunapee’s waters, Sunapee State Beach is the perfect spot. The State Beach also has a boat launch, and many other conveniences including a bathhouse, store, and canoe and kayak rentals.

And the fun doesn’t end there. The nearby Mount Sunapee holds numerous attractions as well. Take an aerial sky ride to the top and enjoy the breathtaking views. Choose one of the hiking trails to explore. And in the winter, of course, Mount Sunapee is a fantastic play area for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and levels.

There are many more attractions in the Lake Sunapee area – antique shops to browse, art galleries and museums to visit, and trails to walk. The John Hay National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful place to explore the world of nature. Enjoy some of the area’s rich history by taking a tour of “The Fells,” the summer home and gardens of John Hay (who was the former secretary of Abraham Lincoln).

In addition to the regular activities around Lake Sunapee, many interesting and enjoyable events are also held in the area each year, including the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair and an antique boat parade on Lake Sunapee.

Whether you enjoy filling your days with an abundance of activities, or prefer to spend your time soaking in the tranquility of nature, Lake Sunapee can fulfill your desires!

Things to do at Lake Sunapee

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • Museum
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Lake Sunapee

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Lake Trout
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Lake Sunapee Photo Gallery

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Lake Sunapee Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: NH Dept. of Environmental Services

Surface Area: 4,090 acres

Shoreline Length: 30 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,093 feet

Average Depth: 37 feet

Maximum Depth: 104 feet

Lake Area-Population: 5,353

Drainage Area: 45 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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