The Lamprey River’s natural beauty and diversity offer people many recreational opportunities. When people use and enjoy the river for recreation, we ask that they “tread lightly”. This principle supports appropriate human use of the river, but at the same time it is a reminder that the river is a largely unspoiled natural resource that warrants protection now and into the future. Please leave no trace of your presence along the river, and take from the river only good memories and photos.
A separate section, Canoeing the Lamprey, provides details about conditions along the river.
Photo by S. Petersen
The Lamprey River has a predominantly undeveloped, natural shoreline. As a federally designated Wild and Scenic River, the Lamprey is classified as a “recreational river”. Recreational activities along the river are defined mostly by the river itself and access to it. People use the river recreationally for canoeing, kayaking, and swimming in the summer. For fishing enthusiasts, the NH Fish and Game Department stocks brook, brown, and rainbow trout in Lee and Durham and maintains shad and herring restoration programs on the Lamprey. In winter, visitors to the river enjoy cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and snowmobiling.
Birders, nature enthusiasts, and artists can always find something interesting to observe. The river's scenic quality and natural appearance are clearly major attractions year round. In certain lower reaches of Newmarket, sections of the Lamprey are impounded and deep enough for power boats. Please note, however, that the maximum headway speed is 6 m.p.h.. The river is too narrow for high speeds and its banks are susceptible to erosion caused by wakes. For more information on the state regulations, refer to State statute 270-D:2 VI.
Except on town-owned land in Durham and Epping, there are no formal, designated public trails along the river. The Epping Conservation Commission has created an interesting, short foot trail along the river at the crossing of Highway 87. A kiosk there has brochures describing the trail and the Lamprey River Tour. In Durham and Newmarket, The Nature Conservancy has created the Sweet Trail that begins on Bay Road in Newmarket and continues to Long Marsh Road in Durham.
The LRAC has worked with the town of Lee to construct a canoe/kayak landing on Highway 152 in Lee. Boats will need to be taken out and portaged around Wadleigh Falls downstream and after a few miles upriver.
In Newmarket, the conservation commission and the LRAC worked cooperatively to build a kiosk at Schanda Conservation Park that shows private and public lands accessible to the public.
Several properties with conservation easements are open to the public. In some cases, snowmobile clubs have negotiated with landowners to create informal hiking, snowmobile, ski and horseback riding trails. Unless an access point is known to be available to the public, visitors should check with landowners before crossing their land. The continued generosity of private landowners is dependent on visitors’ respectful use of the river and the land around it.
New Hampshire Fishing Maps characterizes the Lamprey as "a truly exceptional river offering a vast variety of fishing. It contains every type of stream and river fish you could expect to find in New England. Undeveloped along its entire length, except at Newmarket, it is a pretty river to be on and to fish."
The AMC River Guide/New Hampshire and Vermont (1989) states: "The Lamprey is one of the longest rivers in the Piscataqua watershed, and it is probably the flattest. The section above Raymond offers Class I rapids for spring paddlers. Below town the river can be run for most of the year because there are few rapids. Packers Falls, Class II or III, depending on the water level, is runnable well into the summer by kayaks and canoes."
The AMC guide characterizes the area encompassing the lower portion of Epping and upper reaches of Lee as "a long, smooth stretch" that "twists through old pastures and woods. For a quiet retreat into the woods, the first 4 miles [from Wadleigh Falls east] are superb … quiet paddling past densely forested banks of hemlocks and hardwoods."
LRAC invites you to take a tour of the Wild and Scenic Lamprey River. This section of the Lamprey flows 23 miles from the falls at Mary Blair Park in Epping to McCalllen Dam in Newmarket. It offers a remarkable diversity of habitat, from forests to open fields, from quiet backwaters to rushing rapids, and from wetlands to sandy river banks. There are many ways to enjoy the river: by car, by bicycle, by foot, and by small boat. The map and tour guide will take you to many stops that are significant to this river and indicate how you can access and enjoy the features at each site. In addition, at many sites there will also be a sign or kiosk that describes the special history or natural features of the site.
You can pick up your free copy of the guide and map at town halls and libraries in the watershed towns, request a copy from our office, or print out the guide to the tour and the map below. Once you have the map and guide, you are ready to go and explore. Enjoy!
*Note: You may need to install Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.
Some of the highlights of the Lamprey River Tour include:
Please note that many of the walking trails are located in sensitive areas very close to the river. Remember to “tread lightly”. Stay on the path, and if the path is muddy, especially in spring, please turn back and visit when conditions are less wet.
In cooperation with the Wiswall Historic Interpretive Committee, LRAC is working on improving visitors’ experiences at the park through:·
LRAC constructed a public canoe launch that enables canoeists to reach the river safely and with less riverbank erosion than had been available. Built in 2011, the launch is the river’s first public access site in Lee and provides canoeists with an opportunity to view the remains of the historic Wadleigh Falls Village as well as some spectacular natural scenery. The committee installed a sign in the fall of 2014 to help the public find the access. Future plans include a kiosk to explain the natural and historical significance along this stretch of the river.
Ursula K. LeGuin