Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire. The lake has a rich and colorful history. Its name is derived from a local legend of forbidden love between a young woman and a young man from enemy tribes of the Indigenous population. The story ends well. The good karma of the lake continues today and has found itself the subject of modern popular culture. We hope your story ends well, too…perhaps it will when you find your perfect home and connect to the lifestyle of this incredible part of New Hampshire. Here are some fun facts about the lake.
A Good Omen: Winnipesaukee (also Winnipiseogee) is an Abenaki word that has two meanings, one being “The Smile of the Great Spirit”. It is a wonderful local legend. It tells the love story of Mineola, the beautiful daughter of Chief Wonaton, and young Chief Adiwando from an enemy tribe. Chief Wonaton did not approve of the courtship. Mineola’s father made a failed attempt on Adiwando’s life after learning of their love. Mineola pleaded for Adiwando’s life following the attack. Her father eventually relented and the wedding soon followed.
After the wedding the entire tribe paddled to the center of the lake in canoes, to accompany the departing couple, under dark and ominous skies. As the tribe paddled back to shore the clouds parted and the sun shone around the canoe of Mineola and Adiwindo as they paddled to the opposite shore. Chief Wonaton decided this was a good sign for their marriage and called the lake “The Smile of the Great Spirit” to commemorate the marriage of his daughter. Winnipesaukee Forever!
Hundreds of Islands: There are hundreds of islands on Lake Winnipesaukee. Perhaps 270 are big enough to be called islands. The smallest island, Becky’s Garden, is only about 10 feet wide. You might be able to pitch a tent in Becky's Garden, depending on the water level, for a brief visit but you wouldn’t want to live there. Fortunately, there are many island homes on the lake where you would be quite happy to live. You will probably need a boat, as the majority of the summer homes are only accessible by boat. There are six bridged islands (accessible by car): Black Cat Island, Governors Island, Long Island, Oak Island, Plummers (or Christmas) Island, and Worcester Island.
Witches: There are witches in the lake…they haunt boaters and cause great trepidation. They appear in the form of rocks just below the surface of the water. Beware of the witches in Lake Winnipesaukee. “The Witches” is the rocky area west of Governor’s Island and garners well-earned respect from all watercraft, commercial and domestic.
MS Mount Washington: The first MS Mount Washington was a paddle-steamer and launched in 1872 to carry mail, cargo, and passengers around the lake. The vessel was destroyed by fire in 1839 when flames from a railroad station fire spread to the ship. An old side-wheel vessel that had served Lake Champlain was purchased and modified with two steam engines from an ocean yacht and made its maiden voyage on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1940. The ship is still in operation present day and continues to make round trips following the ice-out on the lake until mid-October.
Ice-out: There is an annual contest dating back to 1887 (when records first appeared) to guess when the ice will disappear, and MS Mount Washington can navigate the lake safely and dock at the ports of Weirs Beach, Alton Bay, Wolfeboro, Meredith and Center Harbor. Sometimes there’s a little money on the table to keep things interesting (The Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce held a 50/50 fundraiser in 2021 for $5 a guess).
Film, Literature, and TV: In a 1940s Three Stooges short film, Curly begins to answer a question about where he was born. Unable to spell “Lake Winnipesaukee” he changes his answer to “Lake Erie” explaining he has an uncle there. The lake is mentioned in Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play “Our Town”. The 1991 film “What About Bob?” directed by Frank Oz was set on the lake (though actual filming was done on a Virginia Lake). Some of the scenes from the 1981 film “On Golden Pond” were filmed on the lake. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” featured a series of comedic sketches centering around a fictional camp “Camp Winnipesaukee”.
The team at Maxfield Real Estate is passionate about life in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. We look forward to helping you find your perfect home and connect to the rich and colorful evolving history around Lake Winnipesaukee. Contact us today!