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State Submerged Resources > New Hampshire

New Hampshire

New Hampshire is known as the “Mother of Rivers” because five of New England's major rivers originate there. This includes the Connecticut River that runs the length of the state’s western boundary with Vermont, and the Piscataqua River that empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Portsmouth. The other major rivers are the Androscoggin, the Merrimack, and the Saco. There are in fact over 40,000 miles of rivers and streams and 1,300 natural lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in New Hampshire. The state’s coastline along the Atlantic and four Isles of Shoals measures 23 miles and its tidal shoreline is 131 miles. About 4% of the state (382 square miles) is covered by water.

What is New Hampshire’s maritime heritage?

People have lived in the area known now as New Hampshire for about 12,000 years. The earliest Native American groups fished and hunted, moving seasonally along the rivers and lake shores. Europeans fished and settled the coastal areas beginning in the early 1600s. Over the next 100 years, the town of Portsmouth became a successful port specializing in the fishing, lumber, mercantile, and shipbuilding businesses. In 1800, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was established on Seavey’s Island, making it the oldest continuously operated United States Navy shipyard.

What sites are underwater?

Some of the oldest sites underwater in New Hampshire are dugout canoes like the ones found in Lake Ossipee and Rust Pond. Several prehistoric canoes have been recovered and are at the Libby Museum in Wolfeboro, the Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord, the New Hampshire Antiquarian Society in Hopkinton, and the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources in Concord.

The Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor were of vital importance to the American colonies for intracolonial shipping. Two commonly used types of vessels were shallops and merchantmen although few early examples have been studied in North America. There are, however, examples of these vessels wrecked off New Castle. A small shallop-type vessel from the late 17th century was discovered by archeologists at Hart’s Cove in New Castle. At nearby Salamander Point, archeologists also found what is believed to be the remains of a merchantman dating to about 1725.

Schooners like the Lizzie Carr and the Camilla May Page were used for the domestic coastal trade through the early 20th century. The lumber schooner Lizzie Carr wrecked near Rye in a storm in 1905 and became buried in the beach. Uncovered by a storm in 1998, archeologists and volunteers excavated the site and removed a section of the hull for conservation and display at the New Hampshire Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Park. The Camilla May Page was carrying coal when it ran aground in a gale in 1928 near the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. Its remains are off Jaffrey Point.

Steamboats like the Lady of the Lake and the Stella Marion carried mail, goods, and passengers across New Hampshire's larger lakes during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Lady of the Lake served on Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire, until 1893 when it was taken out of service. In 1895, it sank near Glendale Cove while under tow to be scuttled. The Stella Marion served on Newfound Lake and sank during a fire at its mooring in 1915.

Who takes care of New Hampshire’s underwater archeological sites?

The Division of Historical Resources in the Department of Cultural Resources promotes the use, understanding, and conservation of the state's archeological sites on land and under water. The State Archaeologist coordinates and undertakes research and survey to identify, evaluate, and protect archeological sites, and maintains files on recorded sites. Much of the work is done through the State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program with avocational volunteers and students. Using historic contexts as an organizational tool for grouping historic properties related by theme, place and time, the state has identified five maritime history contexts including one on shipwrecks in state waters dating from 1620-1940.

What permits do I need to study shipwrecks?

You need a permit from the Division of Historical Resources to conduct archeological research at sites on state lands and under state waters. All historic resources (except human remains) on or from state lands and under state waters are the property of the state. This includes resources on the bottom of navigable waters, great ponds, and three miles seaward from the shore in the territorial tidal waters of the state. Any private custody of state-owned historic resources is subject to a preservation agreement with the state.

What laws concern underwater archeology in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire considers its historical, archeological, architectural, engineering, and cultural heritage to be one of its most important environmental assets. The state promotes the use and conservation of its heritage for the education, inspiration, pleasure, and enrichment of its citizens, and accomplishes this through its comprehensive program of historic preservation. The state’s law governing its historic preservation program is codified in Chapter 227-C of Title XIX of the New Hampshire Revised States Annotated.

MJB