Lake Winnipesaukee is a big body of water (the largest in New Hampshire), but most of its shoreline is privately owned and off-limits to the public. This leaves scant shore access for paddlers and boater, but a notable exception is 112-acre Stonedam Island, in the northern portion of the lake. It’s owned and managed by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, although the southeastern portion of the island remains privately held and home to a summer cottage. Free trail maps and other information on its properties are available on the LRCT website.
The island features a nice wooden pier and float on its northeast tip, just south of Sally’s Gut, but paddlers are requested to use the nearby shore. Another convenient spot for beaching a kayak or canoe can be found on the opposite side of the island.
Steps from the pier is an information kiosk containing trail maps of the island and other information. Close to the dock is a historic cabin from the early 1800s that was transported to the island from Alton, and is now used for educational events. Note that there is no restroom or outhouse on the island.
Lovely walking trails wind through the island’s beach, pine and hemlock forest.
Near the island’s high point is a vernal pool that serves as important habitat for frogs, salamanders and other amphibians. Stonedam is also known for its exceptional birding, especially during the spring and fall migration periods, when everything from hawks to warblers can be spotted.
Paddling to Stonedam requires experience and planning. The closest launching point is Cattle Landing, at the end of Meredith Neck Road. From this spot, it takes an experienced paddler roughly 30 to 45 minutes to reach the island. Pay attention to the weather, however, as the route takes you across open water, and a stiff northern or southerly wind can create some nasty chop. The route is recommended for intermediate to advanced paddlers. Another, albeit longer route starts at Pinnacle Park, also in Meredith.