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Lake Massabesic Watershed

Since 1874, Lake Massabesic has served as the drinking water supply for over 159,000 people in the regional Manchester area. The lake appropriately gets its name from a Native American word meaning “the place of much water” as the lake covers over 2,500 acres in Manchester and Auburn, NH.

Manchester Water Works strives to ensure that the drinking water we provide is safe to drink. As Lake Massabesic is our main public water supply, our primary goal is to protect the quality of the water at the source. A large portion of land in the watershed is also open to the public for a variety of recreational uses.

You can help them in doing their jobs by complying with the Posted Rules.

The lake covers over 2,500 acres in Manchester and Auburn, NH and has a storage capacity of 15 billion gallons. Supplementing the lake supply is a Tower Hill Pond, a man-made impoundment in Auburn and Candia.

Manchester Watershed Maps

For more detailed Watershed information, please click here.

Lake Massabesic is divided at Deer Neck Bridge on the Londonderry Turnpike. Located in Auburn, East Pond, also known as Front Pond, contains over 76% of the water in the lake with the remainder in West Pond. West Pond, also known as Back Pond, is located in Manchester and Auburn.  Water flows from East Pond to West Pond through the connection at Deer Neck Bridge and then flows towards the water treatment plant on Lake Shore Road in Manchester.

The Lake Massabesic Watershed

A watershed is a geographic area where all of the water flows downhill to a single body of water, such as a lake, river, or estuary.  The Lake Massabesic watershed covers over 42 square miles and includes portions of Manchester, Auburn, Candia, Chester, Hooksett, and a small section of Allenstown.

In 2016, Manchester Water Works worked with the NHDES to develop a Lake Massabesic Watershed Management Plan to limit pollution to Lake Massabesic to ensure that it continues to be a safe source of drinking water. 

Watershed Land Uses

Land use in the watershed is primarily undeveloped (67%).  Approximately 9,200 acres of land is protected from future development through conservation easements, deed restrictions or fee ownership.

Residential, industrial, and commercial development are located around the Londonderry Turnpike (Route 28B) corridor in Hooksett and Manchester and in small clusters throughout the watershed.

Route 101 runs through the center of the watershed.

Agricultural lands in the watershed are generally hobby farms and small horse farms.


Trail map

Although Manchester Water Works’ primary land management goal is to protect and preserve the water supply, a significant portion of land in the watershed is open to the public for a variety of recreational uses

About 50 miles of fire roads on Manchester Water Works Land are accessible to the public for running, hiking, and biking use. Detailed trail maps of the fire roads are provided by Manchester Water Works (see link below).

Some areas of the watershed are restricted from public use to protect water quality. All users should pay attention to postings at trailheads and be aware that the area is patrolled by Manchester Water Works Watershed Patrolmen. Please follow all rules and regulations for use of this land and remember that our primary goal is to protect the drinking water supply. 

The trails are well-marked and include a loop to the Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn, NH, a wildlife sanctuary located on a historic farm site. More information about the center can be found on the NH Audubon website:


Pets are permitted on the trails, but pet waste must be removed by owners and pets may not enter the water.

Boating/Sailing On Lake Massabesic

Depth map

Lake Massabesic covers over 2,500 acres in Manchester and Auburn, NH. Boating on the lake is permitted and enjoyed by many. As Lake Massabesic is a public water supply, boat access has the following restrictions:

  • No contact between the boater and the water;
  • No sailboards, paddleboards, jet skis, or most inflatable craft are permitted as they may allow contact between the boater and the water;
  • No boating in restricted area (see link to lake map) near the water supply intake; and
  • Limit boating speed to 35 MPH.

Though not restricted, we discourage the use of all two-cycle engines on the lake as recent water quality testing has correlated the use of these engines with detected levels of MtBE in the lake.

There are three public boat launches (see lake map) on the lake which are owned and operated by Manchester Water Works.

  • Auburn Village, just past the Town Hall;
  • Off Rte. 121 near the Manchester-Auburn town line; and
  • At Deerneck Bridge on the Route 28 bypass (Londonderry Turnpike). This launch is specifically designed for “cartop” craft such as kayaks and canoes.

There is a public mooring located off of Rte. 121, east of the former railroad crossing, in an area known as Severance Beach. Permits are required from Manchester Waters Works and are provided on a first come first served basis. Call 603-624-6482 for more information.

Manchester Water Works participates in the Lake Host Program, a courtesy boat inspection program administered by the New Hampshire Lakes Association https://nhlakes.org/ to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species. 

Fishing/Hunting in Lake Massabesic

Watershed map

Lake Massabesic offers a wide range of fishing and hunting opportunities. All people wishing to hunt or fish in and around the lake must obtain a hunting or fishing license from New Hampshire Fish and Game  (https://wildlife.state.nh.us/licensing/index.html) and must follow the rules and regulations designed to protect the drinking water supply.

Anglers can find both largemouth and smallmouth bass, white perch, yellow perch, pickerel, and horned pout. The lake is periodically stocked with trout by the NH Department of Fish and Game. There are three boat launches on Lake Massabesic, as shown on the watershed map.  The launch at Deerneck Bridge is for cartop boats only (no trailers).

Hunters can enjoy a range of opportunities in the Lake Massabesic Watershed. Deer, small game, and waterfowl are popular species that can be hunted on most lands in the watershed. Hunting is restricted in some areas and all rules and regulations should be followed. Other important information regarding hunting in the watershed includes the following:

  • State licenses are required for hunting on Manchester Water Works property. Licenses can be obtained from NH Fish and Game (https://wildlife.state.nh.us/licensing/index.html).
  • Hunting Permits for Manchester Water Works properties.
    Hunting Permit and Info

  • However, all tree stands MUST be tagged with owners names and stands must be taken down 14 days after hunting season per state law.
  • Target shooting is not permitted on Manchester Water Works property.
  • Trapping takes place in select areas with the intention of keeping down populations of species that may degrade the environment. Most trapping in the watershed takes place in the water to limit the population of beavers.

Horseback riding

Horseback riding is only permitted on gravel fire roads on Manchester Water Works property. Detailed trail maps of the fire roads are provided by Manchester Water Works. Some areas of the watershed are restricted from public use to protect the quality of the lake. All users should pay attention to postings at trailheads and be aware that the area is patrolled by Manchester Water Works Watershed Patrolmen.  Riders must follow all rules and regulations including:

  • Horses must be equipped with a device designed to collect horse waste as it is produced and all waste must be removed from the property.
    • There is a 900-acre exception area around Little Massabesic Lake known to riders as “The Maze.” In this area, horses are permitted without this device as volunteers pick up horse waste twice a week.
    • During designated riding events, horses are permitted to rider without waste devices if waste is removed immediately after the events.
  • Horses cannot enter the water in the watershed and are not permitted in public park areas, boat launches, or on shoreline and beaches within Manchester Water Works property.

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.