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10 Plus: Lovely Lake Winnipesaukee

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - September 2, 2013

Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee as seen from Mount Major.

Each week The Laker staff interviews people from various walks of life for the 10 Questions column. These people are featured because they are tourism ambassadors or just plain interesting folks with a unique story to tell. This week, we decided to use our imaginations and interview the most famous “personage” in the area, Lake Winnipesaukee. Why? Because Winnipesaukee epitomizes the Lakes Region. It is among the top reasons visitors choose New Hampshire for their summer vacations. From boating to swimming and other water sports, Winnipesaukee is beloved by many. Tourists and year-round residents and such famous folks as Mitt Romney and Jimmy Fallon love Winnipesaukee. If Winnipesaukee could talk, this is what the lake might say…

1. How long have you lived in New Hampshire and what brought you here?

“Well, there are many theories about how I came to be here. Just look on the Internet and you will find lots of geological guesstimates. Really and truly, I prefer one source: Edgar H. Wilcomb’s Winnipesaukee Lake Country Gleanings, written in 1923: Basically, enormous volumes of ice and water once passed down the area. That created a great natural dam at what is today Lakeport. The water was pretty high way back then. When that dam broke, a huge amount of water flowed through the area. You have to remember that, thousands of years ago, all of New England was covered in a solid mass of ice, hundreds of feet thick. When it melted, that was a lot of water! Just think of all that ice becoming water. And think of all the valleys and holes that were scraped away by the ice. When the water filled the land and the holes, that formed what I am today, a very big lake!”

2. What about when the dinosaurs roamed the area. Do you have any memory of that time?

“It was well before my time. But not too many years ago, some people started a rumor that there was a modern-day dinosaur, Winnie (short for Winnipesaukee), living in my waters. It created quite a stir, but it wasn’t true. Believe me, if a huge reptile was swimming around in my waters, I would be the first to know about it!”

3. How did you get interested in the tourism industry?

“It’s just a natural thing that people would want to visit me on their vacations. I guess I got interested in tourism about 120 years ago. People started hearing from other people about how pretty I am and how much fun it is to go boating on my waters. A lot of them were headed up north to the Grand Hotels. They started to notice me when they traveled through the area. Pretty soon, some of them started to buy land near my shores and on my islands and they put up camps and houses. That was the start of it, I think. I got interested in tourism at that time.”

4. What do people do on your waters that makes you so popular?

“In the old days, it was just boating in the summer and that was it. I got to pretty much take the rest of the year off. Yes, canoes and bigger boats traveled around on my surface hauling folks and packages and other things from one side of my shores to the other, but that was really no big deal. And, in the winter, I froze over and sometimes kids liked to skate on my ice, but other than that, it was quiet. Then people got interested in speed boats and jet skis and waterskiing, and in the winter, ice fishing. They figured out how to have fun on my waters all year round. That’s why I am now so popular.”

5. What are your statistics?

“I have about 183 miles of shoreline, an area of 71.8 square miles, and I am 9.5 miles wide by 21 miles long with an altitude of 504 feet, and I have about 365 islands. I have a depth of 169 feet near Rattlesnake Island, with most of my water resting between 20 and 100 feet deep.”

6. If you could choose one thing, what is your favorite recreation that people enjoy on your waters?

“It’s hard to say … hmmm … I must say I love children. Anytime kids are enjoying me, it makes me very happy. When children are learning to swim, I feel so proud. I want them to enjoy me, but they need to be safe, and knowing how to swim is important. I can’t help it that I am very deep in places. If kids can swim and are taught to be safe in my water, it’s really great for me because I love to see them having fun. It’s a nice feeling! I would have to say seeing kids swimming is my favorite.”

7. What do you do in your free time to unwind?

“The only time I really am free is in late fall, maybe November before I freeze over for the winter. Not too many people venture out on my waters at that time of year. I take a bit of a nap and kick back and rest up before ice fishing and winter sports season starts.”

8. How do you feel about all the boats on your water in the summer?

“I love it! It’s nice to be so popular. People have boats to get closer to me. That’s how I look at it. And the ones who want a special experience will take a trip on that huge ship that goes all over my waters all summer, the MS Mount Washington. I love that ship! When the sun is shining on my water and I hear the passengers on The Mount laughing and enjoying themselves, it’s great!”

9. Before the tourism days, it is said Native Americans populated the areas around your water. Is that true; and if so, what do you recall about that time?

“You have to remember that I don’t label groups of people the way you do. You talk about tourists and Native Americans and boaters. To me, anyone who enjoys my water is someone I love. If by Native Americans you refer to the wonderful group of people who used to live and fish at what you call The Weirs, I would have to say I remember that they were very respectful and loving to me. Once, I heard a mother telling her children that I gave to them and it was their responsibility to take good care of me. I like that and I always remembered it. Historically, I think they were called the Algonquins. They had a huge village along my shoreline at The Weirs. They used to fish in the area. And they used a spot to heat pitch for making birch bark canoes near today’s Stonedam Island. Those sure were great times for me.”

10. Where do you think the Lakes Region will be in the future, say, 10 years from now? 

“I am thousands of years old and 10 years is just a blink of the eye for me. Goodness, I can’t see much being different in 10 years. Probably there will be more boating and maybe more people coming here to enjoy me. I seem to be a big reason people drive for miles, just to enjoy my water.”

11. And speaking of people enjoying you, maybe you heard that a famous Hollywood personality, Jimmy Fallon, named his recently born daughter Winnie after you? 

“I did hear that. I heard some people saying he has a summer home here. That is pretty flattering. I hope when Winnie grows up people like her as much as they do me!”

12. And just where did you get the name Winnipesaukee? 

“There are lots of stories about that, too. But my name, as far as I know, means Beautiful Water of the High Place. Kind of a pretty description, isn’t it? By the way, the NH Legislature made my name official in 1933.

13. Finally, what are your future plans?

“I just like to flow on and let the seasons happen as they will. If I have any big plan, it’s to stay healthy and clean so people will be able to swim in me, bring their boats and other recreational toys and enjoy me for many, many years to come.” 

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