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 follow "leave no trace" principles":
- Plan ahead and be prepared.
- Walk and camp on established, durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Do not harrass wildlife. Be considerate of others and respect private property.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Leave natural and historic resources where they are.
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.
Types of Recreation
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 a river herring restoration program 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.
Explore the Lamprey River Tour Guide and Map
The 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 Macallen Dam in Newmarket. It offers a remarkable diversity of habitats: forests, open fields, quiet backwaters, rushing rapids, wetlands, and sandy river banks. There are many ways to enjoy the river: car, bicycle, foot, and 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 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 might need to install Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.
Some of the highlights of the Lamprey River Tour include:
- Mary Blair Park, Epping (ball field, picnic area, historic mill area)
- Epping Town Hall (canoe launch)
- Route 87 Bridge, Epping (nature trail, canoe launch)
- Wadleigh Falls area, Lee (canoe launch, historic mill area)
- Thompson Forest, Durham (walking trails)
- Wiswall Dam, Durham (short nature trail, picnic area, historic mill area)
- Packer’s Falls, Durham (canoe access, historic mill area)
- Doe Farm, Durham (nature trail)
- Piscassic Park, Newmarket (boat launch, picnic area)
- Schanda Conservation Park, Newmarket (boat launch, picnic area)
- Schoppmeyer Park, Newmarket (boat launch, scenery)
Recreation Alert, 2023
We are sad to announce that the Lamprey River has three issues currently that might pose a risk to human (and animal) health due to elevated fecal bacteria. The Epping Wastewater Treatment Facility is making sporadic releases of partially treated (solids removed, chlorinated and then dechlorinated) sewage. The saltwater/tidal portion of the river in Newmarket has two known leaks of raw sewage. The towns and NHDES are aware of the issues and are working to resolve them. We urge river users to use caution. Avoid swallowing river water. Stay out of the water if you have open wounds or a compromised immune system.
Canoe and Kayak Access
In addition to our large Explore the Lamprey River map and guide, we also have a smaller guide that is perfect for printing at home and will fit in your pocket, Public Paddling Access along the Lamprey River.
Public access sites with parking can be found in Epping at Mary Blair Park, Town Hall, and at the Route 87 bridge crossing. In Lee, the LRAC has worked with the town of Lee to construct a canoe/kayak landing on Highway 152 near Wadleigh Falls. In Durham, boats can be launched from Packers Falls near Bennett Road. In Newmarket, public canoe launches are found at Piscassic Park, Schoppmeyer Park, and Schanda Park. Kayaks are available for rent through the Newmarket Recreation Department (603-659-8581) at all three sites. Schanda Park offers saltwater access out to Great Bay. Remember to check the tide schedule as this will affect the current and water depth. Great Bay is a shallow estuary, so don't get stuck on the mud at low tide!
Please note, the section between the Route 87 bridge in Epping and Wadleigh Falls in Lee has several significant river-wide blockages due to downed trees. Portages up steep slopes covered by poison ivy and onto privately-owned land make this section unsuitable for paddlling by families.
Except on town-owned land in Durham and Epping, there are few formal, designated public trails along the river. The Epping Conservation Commission has created a short foot trail along the river at the crossing of Highway 87. A kiosk there describes the trail and the importance of floodplains. The Thompson Forest in Durham offers a 1.3-mile loop walk through a wildlife managemtn area. 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.
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. 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. Unless an access point is known to be available to the public, visitors should check with landowners before crossing private land. The continued generosity of private landowners is dependent on visitors’ respectful use of the river and the land around it.
Please note that many of the walking trails are located in sensitive areas very close to the river. Remember to practice "leave no trace" principles. Stay on the path, and if the path is muddy, especially in spring, please turn back and visit when conditions are less wet.
What the Experts Say
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."