Canoe Camping at Squam Lake

By Mike Boisvert.

We decided to go for a one-night canoe/camping trip at Squam Lake in central NH. Squam Lakes Association runs a few campsites on remote islands on Squam Lake and we chose one at Heron Cove about 3.0 miles from the boat launch area.

The campsite was very enticing to us, as it was the only campsite where we would have an island to ourselves. We wanted the seclusion of a backcountry campground, but didn’t necessary want to "work" (e.g.—hike) to get there (at least not this time).

If you were to travel from Boston it would take you approximately 2 hours to get to the Squam Lakes Association boat launch. Of course, it only took us 30 minutes to get there from my house in Campton, NH, where we all spent Friday night. The best campsites get reserved quickly so I actually made a reservation back in the beginning of January through the Squam Lakes Association. They also offer canoe rentals which we all took advantage of. All the campsites come with a bundle of firewood as part of the cost and they have extra bundles you can purchase at the campsite itself. Heron Cove has three tent platforms and for one night it cost us $50. Split between 6 people it was only $8. The primary boat launch is at the Squam Lakes Association. It’s your typical boat launch, with plenty of parking.

Once we got underway, we immediately saw how beautiful this place is. Mountains surround the lake, and the water is relatively calm for such a large body of water. A major factor here was the lack of motorboats, which was great for us in the canoe. The water is incredibly clear, such that you can see 6-7 feet down.

Once we shoved off, it took us approximately 1 hour to paddle to Heron Cove (going at a comfortable pace). We could have taken longer just to sit in the middle of the lake and take-in the incredible scenery, but we wanted to go ahead and set-up camp.

Our campsite is tucked-away in Heron Cove. We had our own dock for our canoes. It definitely offers privacy. Our site was set on a bluff overlooking the cove. We had no problems unloading.

The site was left in great condition by previous campers. There was not any trash left behind. Besides three tent platforms, we had a fire ring, our own outhouse and plenty of trees surrounding the site. Since the site is set on up high on the island, you get a wonderful view of the cove and surrounding mountains.

On the shore next to us is the Chamberlain/Reynolds Memorial Forest with sandy beaches for swimming and access to hiking trails. We didn’t get a chance to explore these since our focus was to explore other parts of the lake, but there’s definitely plenty to do here.

After setting up camp, we set out in our canoes to explore Squam Lake. Before long, there was talk of taking a swim. We found the swimming area around Bowman Island to be crowded so we paddled on. Soon we reached Duck Islands. Not only was it great for blueberry picking but also great for swimming. We then climbed back in our canoes amd headed for the Yard Islands.

We paddled to the islands ahead, and eventually found ourselves in what felt like a tropical setting with the water in the cove a light green. Many of us hopped out to take a nice swim. After a little over a half-hour, we looked at our watches and realized that we needed to get back to our campsite.

We were a good ways away from our campsite, and the wind was starting to pick up.

Once we returned back to our campsite we began to cook dinner. Sharing stories around the campfire and looking up at the sky for shooting stars from the Perseid Meteor Showers followed this. Around the campfire we heard the haunting calls of loons.

The next morning after breakfast we then paddled to Bowman Island for some swimming/sunbathing followed by a visit to Church Island with its outdoor chapel.

We paddled back to Squam lakes Association Headquarters and got there around 4:30pm. Some of us headed back to my house for some ice cream on the deck. All in all it was very good, and conversation was great.

It was a fitting conclusion to an excellent weekend.

In summary, I’d definitely recommend the Heron Cove campsite and Squam lake for canoe/kayak camping, as you get a secluded campsite that’s not too terribly difficult to access, plenty of lake terrain to explore, lots of loons to observe/hear, and incredible scenery. We will definitely be returning.

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