Nubanusit Lake and Spoonwood Pond
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:Kings Highway, Nelson
Hours:No posted hours
Fee: Free

Harris Center for Conservation Education, 603-525-3394,; New Hampshire Fish and Game,

Bathrooms: None
Water/Snacks: None

USGS Peterborough North quad

Explore this crystal clear lake to see a bald eagle nest, ride a thrilling rope swing, and take a small portage to a hidden pond with backcountry campsites

Nubanusit Lake’s geology and topography make for the clearest waters we’ve seen on any lake in New Hampshire. While it can get busy on a hot summer day, it is a big lake and there are secluded corners to which you can retreat. And, if you are willing to do a 100-foot portage, you can paddle Spoonwood Pond, which offers all of the beauty, clear water, and granite slabs of Nubanusit Lake without any motorboats.

From the boat ramp, paddle along the right-hand (northern) shore. Much of the land along here is undeveloped and protected as conservation land managed by the local land trust, the Harris Center for Conservation Education. The lake’s clear waters allow you to see straight through to the sandy bottom, with hardly a trace of vegetation typically found in New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds. This is caused by the depth of the water (96 feet in Nubanusit Lake and 70 feet in Spoonwood Pond) as well as a lack of wetlands and marshes surrounding the lake, creating a habitat with very low biological productivity and clear and clean water. Bring your snorkels and masks for hours of freshwater exploration in these sparkling clear waters. Look for the circular sand nests that sunfish create on the sandy bottom. The lake offers excellent trout fishing as well.

Continue along the shore and look for the bald eagles’ nest, high up in  some pines. Be sure to steer clear and give them plenty of room as human disturbance will inhibit their success here. Eagles stopped nesting in the state in 1949 and didn’t return until 1989. Nubanusit Lake was one of the first places that they returned to and they are still nesting and breeding successfully here.

On the far northwest corner of Nubanusit Lake, look for a small earthen dam and the short portage into Spoonwood Pond (1.2 miles from the put-in). This small pond has no road access and is only reachable by the adventurous souls who paddle and portage there. The quiet, protected waters are perfect for families, and you may see turtles, otters, and foxes. A couple of reservationonly backcountry campsites are nestled on its shores. Only sponsors of the Harris Center for Conservation Education may make reservations. If you plan ahead and wish to contribute to this land trust, this can be a unique backcountry camping experience right in southern New Hampshire.

From Spoonwood Pond, follow the right-hand shore to a thrilling rope swing directly across the lake from the boat ramp (1.0 mile).

Plan B:

The Harris Center for Conservation Education is just down Kings Highway from the boat ramp. The center’s property offers trails to Thumb Mountain and views of several nearby ponds. The Harris Center also has educational programs, camps, and green building tours.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Nearby Peterborough is a charming New England village full of restaurants featuring a range of cuisine, including delis, pizza pubs, Italian, and fine dining. It also has some excellent ice cream stands. The nearest canoe and kayak outfitter at the time of publication were in Concord and Manchester.


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