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Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipeasukee & Vicinity



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Since the orbit and speeds of the earth were stabilized over four billion years ago, an extremely complex series of surface changes has occurred that are still taking place. Between various times and stages of relatively peaceful existence, like our present, cataclysmic events have upset our land: monsterous earthquakes beyond conception, mountain and canyon forming upheavals in never to be recorded numbers, receding oceans and seas giving place to miles of depth of erosives and lava and ashes only to be replaced by other bodies of water, vast areas of volcanic action time and time again, Sahara-like deserts and post-glacial silt and sand barrens with storms beyond comprehension, and recently - several glacial periods; all of these and many more.

The landscape as we see it today is primarily as it was prior to the start of the last glacial period of about 50,000 years ago, plus the eskers, drumlins, boulder trains, cirques, kames, varves and other glacial remains. Few rocks that we can easily study are older than 350 millions of years (from the Cambrian and Ordovician parts of the Paleozoic Era). Some may be of Silurian date, since the oldest; but most have evolved from the igneous, metamorphosed, and sedimentary rocks during and since the Devonian time. Since the end of the Wisconsin Glacial Stage (nearly 14,000 years ago) in our present Cenozoic Era, topographic chn have been few and barely noticeable. .

Here in our region there are no fossils (these are limited to the Littleton area), but many other geologic features are of interest: the meltwater channel which is Valley Street (Lakeport), the boulder trains from Red Hill socialite-nepheline-syenite and Ossipee Mts. Moat-volcanics and Conway-granite (reaching into the Atlantic), the world's most famous ring-dike formation of the Ossipee Mts., Rattlesnake Is. which is geologically part of the Belknap Mts., the huge water-shed boulder in the CoppleCrown Mts., the volcanic-vent on Mt. Belknap, and others. Your favorite library, rock-shop, or the N. H. Development Comm. will gladly help you with locations; but some of the books have misinterpreted the facts.

For the rock collector, mines and minerals in this region are limited to the iron deposit on Gunstock Mt., the sulphide prospects (gold, lead, zinc, etc.) off the Parade Rd., the quartz crystals on Ladd Hill (with a most magnificent view), the garnet sand of Paugus and Saunders Bays, the amethyst, sand of Long Is., Conwaygranite pockets in the Belknaps, the clay and quartz at the foot of Brickyard Mt., fluorescent socialite of Red Hill, crystals of the Ossipees, and very few others.


Surficial and Bedrock Geology studies of New Hampshire indicate that prior to the Ice Age there was no lake here as we know it today. The quartz diorite (the primary rock of the Winnipesaukee basin) was decomposed in place before and during the glacial period, and the power of the ice toward the end of the Pleistocene Epoch gouged out the loosened rock leaving hundreds of hills which are our picturesque islands in a hauntingly enticing water-world.

Geologists point out that the water level of this lake has remained about the same as today. Studies of the hillsides, streams, meltwater channels; intervales, and varved deposits preclude the possibility of any glacial dams or deep waters such as Lake Hitchcock that once filled the present Connecticut R. valley. The conclusion is that the Winnipesaukee River of 1969 is very nearly the same drainage channel that the lake has always had.


After the glacial ice receded, when the silt dust storms died down, following the advance of plant liife onto the barren landscape, soon after the return of animals, the aborigines filtered into our lakes region, perhaps in the footsteps of others dating back close to, 40,000 years ago (at least in the West). Archeological digs in Manchester, Claremont, Laconia, etc. do not indicate ages of life here before 10,000 years ago (the period between ten and twelve thousand years before present is when most of the large mammals disappeared from this continent), and the digs at Lake Assawampsett (Mass.), Reagen Site (Vt.), and Lamoka Lake (NY) may not pre-date this period. The Pemaquid restoration in Maine was more recent.

At the height of the Algonquian Indian life in central New Hampshire, the village of Aquedoctan, of the Winnipesaukee branch of the Southern fringe of the Abnaki Tribes Confederacy, was the largest village in the Northeast; and it covered the shore of what is now Lake Paugus from below Indian Cove up the Weirs Channel and along the Weirs Beach area to the foot of Brickyard Mt. Little is recorded of this great community since its discovery about 1632, and less is passed down by word of mouth. We do know that this was a fishing and assembly hamlet of the Woodland People, utilizing the Winnipesaukee Channel as the prime place to annually install sapling-and-branch "fish-weirs" to trap the shad run, hence the name Weirs. At the foot of Brickyard Mt. the Indians mined good clay for pottery production (one of the few such enterprises in Northern New England). A large hollowed rock, still on the hillside at the Weirs Beach, was used as a corn-mill mortar. Their "council" rock lies in the woods at the top of the hill. The boulder with a concave spot on Stone Dam Is. came into use as the place to heat pitch for the birch-bark canoe manufacture and repair. Maple sugar was produced from the abundant maples, and sweet "sliver" from the virgin pines provided a toothsome snack. It is not likely that many garden plants were grown.

Their language was the Sokoki, and a dictionary and language book was produced in the last century. An example of a Sokoki word is Wiwininebesaki, meaning closely "the lakes region", from which our present name for the lake is taken (being derived from wwinwi for "around", Pieces meaning "lake", and akin's - land or region).

Many thousands of artifacts have been unearthed, as well as an Indian made dugout, and a seven foot skeleton. The most remarkable object of all was the Mystery Stone found along the old Indian trail from Winnipesaukee to Waukewan; a partially polished siliceous sandstone "egg" about 3 3/4" in diameter with ten figures carved around it (one of the most superior examples of stone craftwork in North America). Other relics found are celts, gouges, scrapers, ceremonials, arrowheads, pestles, plummets, axes, drills, pipes, knives, and gorgets. If you are interested in collecting, the local Indian or rock shop can help you select a location (if the landowner gives consent). Collections from the Winnipesaukee area can be seen at the Laconia Gale Memorial Library, Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh (Pa.), the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, and several others.

The Winnipesaukee Indians left Aquedoctan in April of 1696, prior to an expected assault by a volunteer Colonial ranging party. Though they abandoned their ancient tribal village forever, eventually taking up residence in St. Francis (Quebec), scattered families visited Lake Winnipesaukee off and on through at least 1916.


This "Beautiful Water of the High Place" has always been held in very high esteem since primitive man first came to its scenic shores. Known as Winnipisseoke, or Winnipiseogee Pond, and dozens of others very similar, the present Winnipesaukee name was made official by the New Hampshire legislature of 1933.

With 183 miles of shoreline, an area of 71.8 square miles (45,952 acres), dimensions at 91/2 miles wide by 21 miles long, an altitude of 504 feet, and a flotilla of islands often estimated at 365, our Lake ranks very high among the world's inland waters. It is the largest of nearly 1311 ponds and lakes in 9,302 square mile New Hampshire. The depth of 169 feet of water lies beneath your boat South-East of Rattlesnake Island, with most of the Lake resting between 20 and 100 feet deep. The elevation is changed by the annual Spring runoff and by an occasional drought (in 1941 the lake contained approximately 14,600,000,000 less cubic feet of water than normal, and in 1826 it may have been even lower). Before man dammed the falls at Lakeport over a 150 years ago, the level was more than three to five feet below the present. Prior to 1832 the Weirs channel was ' a shallow way, and a short "river", before the advent of down stream damming,. of about a three foot drop over a possible width of 150 feet, until the 1803 bridge was built.

Lake Winnipesaukee was marked in 1899 with the first inland waterway bouts in the United States, over 300 hazards being indicated, with the present number of markers, .light-bouys, and other navigation aids about 600. Navigation charts are available at all marine stores et. al., and Winnipesaukee topographical, maps can be purchased at rock and stationary stores. Public docking facilities are maintained at many points. Lake Winnipesaukee is unusually pure for an inhabited body of water, and every effort should be taken by each property owner, boat operator, municipality, industry, and visitor to keep it so. With the mushrooming of population, industry, and recreation, every citizen must be alert to preserve our Lake as the beautiful heritage it is.

Over 60 streams run into the Lake, from small hillside brooks to the short Hill River system in the North and the narrow Merrymeeting River of the South.. Several dozen small lakes and ponds drain into Winnipesaukee. It may never be known how such a large and wholesome lake can maintain itself from such a confined watershed.

Fishing in the "big" Lake is classified as good by many people, and the State Fish and Game and U. S. Government hatcheries keep a watchful eye on it. Salmon, lake trout, bass, and pickerel comprise the principal take, while the feeder brooks are stocked with brook and rainbow trout (and some browns) from the 2.5 million fingerlings hatched each year. Pickerel and perch are popular to the ice-fishermen while the winter-paving turns the lake-surface into a playground for fishing, ice-boating, skating, and snowmobiling. Official State Fishing & Hunting booklets are available from many sources.

In 1811 a charter was granted for a canal from Alton Bay to the Sea by way of Merrymeeting, Cocheco, and Piscataqua rivers. Though the Little Pequakit Canal Co. came into being in 1819, no work was done on a proposed project that was intended to eventually extend from the Atlantic Ocean through our Lake, to Squam Lake, and the Connecticut River, and on to Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence.



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