City of Manchester, NH Official Website

Lake Massabesic Watershed

Welcome to the Lake Massabesic watershed, one of the most beautiful areas in southern New Hampshire. This land is special because it collects and stores water from rainfall or melting snow that provides drinking water for 159,000 people in the regional Manchester area. Deer, raccoon, fox, loons, hawks, and many other species of wildlife are part of this watershed. Game fish include large and small mouth bass, white and yellow perch, and the lake is periodically stocked with trout by the N.H. Department of Fish and Game.

Watershed management includes an active forestry program and, under the direction of a professional forester, the Manchester Water Works annually performs a selective harvest on about 300 acres of forest. The purpose of this program is to develop the best tree cover for the forest environment and promote controlled water retention and runoff.

Control of recreation is another component of sound watershed management. Our watershed officers, the men and women with green uniforms and gold badges, regulate watershed activities. They also provide the public with educational information about the watershed, as well as assistance should trouble or emergencies arise. You can help them in doing their jobs by complying with the Posted Rules.

The quality of water is directly related to the quality of the watershed. The Manchester Water Works and you are stewards of Lake Massabesic and its watershed land. Each of us should be responsible for protecting the water supply and preserving this valuable resource for future generations.

Lake Massabesic, a name derived from the Indians, meaning "the place of much water," has a surface area of about 2,500 acres and a gross storage capacity of nearly 15 billion gallons.

Two large ponds joined at Deer Neck Bridge on Route #28 Bypass comprise the entire lake. The so-called front pond, located on the eastern side of the bridge is within the town of Auburn while the back pond located on the western side of the bridge is divided north and south by the Auburn-Manchester town lines. Together they encompass about 28 miles of shoreline and, when filled to the crest of the main outlet dam, the lake surface elevation is 250.43 feet above mean sea level.

Supplementing the lake supply is an upland man-made impoundment known as Tower Hill Pond, which is located in the towns of Auburn and Candia.

The land area or watershed which drains into Lake Massabesic is approximately 42 square miles in area and includes the 12.5 square miles which drains into Tower Hill Pond. In order to protect water quality, the Department owns and controls slightly more than 8,800 acres of land. As added protection, the Water Works also employs a staff of watershed patrol officers who monitor all activity on the watershed and enforce the regulations pertaining to Lake Massabesic.

Biking Manchester Water Works' Land

There are several fire roads on Manchester Water Works' land that are accessible to the public for hiking and biking use. The Watershed Map is a useful tool, it illustrates the gravel fire road and land owned by Manchester Water Works as well as areas that are restricted to the public.

Bikers should pay attention to all postings and be aware that the area is patrolled by our Watershed Patrolmen. Rules are posted at various locations on the watershed. Please remember this land is a watershed that supplies drinking water.

Boating/Sailing On Lake Massabesic

Boating on Lake Massabesic is enjoyed by many. However, due to its use as a drinking water supply, use is restricted in posted area, boating speed is limited to 35 MPH, and is available to boats where there is no contact between the boater and the water. This excludes the use of sailboards, jet skis, and most inflatable type of craft.  Sit-on-top style kayaks may be used on Lake Massabesic, however, the sit-on-top kayak must have plugs installed in all scupper holes of the craft.  If you have a question about the use of your boat on Massabesic, give us a call to assure that you will not be in violation of state rules. The lake is patrolled by Watershed Patrolmen and falls under the jurisdiction of NH Department of Safety - Marine Patrol and the N.H. Department of Fish and Game who also regularly patrol its waters.

There are three public launches located on the lake which are owned and operated by Manchester Water Works. The launches are in Auburn Village just past the Town Hall; a second is located off Rte. 121 near the Manchester-Auburn town line and a third at Deerneck bridge on Rte 28 by-pass. These sites can be located on the watershed map and depth contour map.

The Deerneck launch has been specifically designed and designated for "cartop" craft such as canoes and kayaks. Due to the use of the oxygenate MtBE in reformulated gasolines, we discourage the use of all two cycle engines on the lake. Recent evidence, including water quality testing, directly correlates the use of these engines with detected levels of MtBE in our untreated water supply.

A portion of the lake in Manchester is exclusively off limits to all boating activities, due to its sensitivity to the water intake stations at the Manchester Water Treatment Plant. This is shown on the watershed map and clearly posted by buoy markers and signs.

If you are interested in mooring on Lake Massabesic, be advised that there is a public mooring field off of Rte. 121 east of the former rail road crossing, also known as Severance beach. Permits are required from Manchester Water Works and are provided on a first come first served basis. Call us at 603-624-6482 if you are interested.

We hope that your boating experience on Lake Massabesic will be enjoyable and that you will help Manchester Water Works to ensure that this wonderful natural resource is available for future generations by following the boating rules established for the lake.  To protect our watershed, rules are posted at several locations on the watershed.

Fishing in Lake Massabesic

Lake Massabesic as well as the ponds that make up the watershed area, offer many and varied fishing opportunities. Anglers can find both largemouth and smallmouth bass, white perch, yellow perch, pickerel and horned pout. the lake is also periodically stocked with trout by the N.H. Department of Fish and Game.

There are three boat launches on the front pond. The launch at Deerneck Bridge is for cartop boats only (No Trailers). The watershed map illustrates where they are located as well as the area's of the lake and watershed that are restricted to the public.  To protect our watershed, rules are posted at several locations on the watershed. 

Dam Monitoring Program

As part of our water supply network Manchester Water Works (MWW) owns and operates 10 dams which fall under the regulatory review of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Water Division (DES). The dams range from a simple detention pond at the site of our 8.8 million-gallon tank in Derryfield Park, Manchester, to the Massabesic Lake Dam which is located off Island Pond Road, Manchester.

DES categorizes dams by the degree of damage that a potential failure could cause. The designations are AA, A, B and C, with AA signifying non-hazardous structures while C identifies a potentially high hazard dam. A summary of Manchester Water Works' dams by WRD class is listed below:

All dams are routinely inspected by experienced MWW staff on a weekly basis with an intradepartmental report filed. Monthly, a more extensive review is conducted and preventive maintenance is performed as needed. Typical areas of concern include unusual seepage, erosion of embankments and around structures, animal burrows in earthen dams, spalling and cracking of concrete surfaces, vegetation growth and security issues. Also, all MWW dams are inspected by DES personnel at regular intervals which range from 2 to 6 years depending upon the hazard classification.

Finally, MWW has in place Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for the class B and C structures.MWW's EAPs are reviewed, tested, updated and reissued to plan holders on an annual basis as required by DES rules.

Key elements of the plan include:

  • Notification flow chart to be used in the event of an emergency
  • Monitoring assignment for MWW staff
  • Warning procedures
  • Evacuation procedures (for the defined inundation area)
  • Formal list of plan holders

For more information on MWW's dam monitoring program call 603-624-6482 ext. 208.

Map of Lake Massabesic Dams

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