Bow Lake

About Strafford

Update: 6/8/2023 Bow Lake still testing positive for Cyanobacteria. Advisory remains in place.
A cyanobacteria WARNING (ADVISORY) has been issued for Bow Lake, Strafford. The bloom was first reported on 31 May 2023, appearing as green clouds of material accumulating along shorelines. Samples collected and reviewed on 1 June had cyanobacteria (Dolichospermum) in concentrations up to 963,000 cells/mL in areas of highest observed accumulations. Advisories are issued when cell counts exceed 70,000 cells/mL. NHDES advises lake users to not wade or swim in the water during an advisory. Please also keep pets and livestock out. The advisory is not based on a toxin evaluation and is intended as a precautionary measure for short term exposure.


NHDES will resample in a week.
Private Swim Lessons Available. Contact:

Bow Lake:
Bow Lake is in Strafford, with a small portion of the lake within the boundaries of Northwood. Once known as Bow Pond, it was dammed in the 1800s for mill power, which increased its size. The mills have long gone, but 1,149 acres of beautiful Bow Lake remain.

The Bow Lake Dam:
At the southeast end of Bow Lake, the Bow Lake Dam marks the beginning of the Isinglass River. The dam is owned and maintained by the State of NH.

Public Swimming:
On each side of the dam is a public swimming area. Please be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty. Swim at your own risk. Children 12 and under must be supervised by an adult.

Carry In/Carry Out Trash:
There are no trash receptacles. Visitors are required to carry out their trash.

There are public portable bathrooms available during the summer months.

Parking: Parking is limited.


Invasive Species: One of the biggest threats to New Hampshire’s lakes is the spread of invasive species. Always clean, drain, and dry your boat, trailer, and gear between uses in different bodies of water.

Boat Registration: NH requires registration of all motorized vessels in addition to sailboats and sailboards 12 feet or longer. (Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, and small sailboats do not need to be registered) Visit the NH Fish & Game Website for more information:

Boat Licensing: Everyone 16 years of age and older who operates a motorboat over 25 horsepower on New Hampshire waters must have a boating education certificate. Visit the NH State Police Website for more information:

Boat Ramp Access:
There is boat ramp access on Water Street (see map below). Parking for boat trailers is limited.

Water Quality & Public Safety:
The NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) works to educate people and protect our water. View water quality and public safety notices here:

Polluted runoff water from the landscape is a major threat to New Hampshire’s lakes. To learn more, visit: NHDES

Water Drawdown:
Bow Lake has a water drawdown of 4 feet every October to prevent ice damage. This is managed by NHDES. See NH Lake Drawdown schedules here:

Loon & Eagle Preservation:
Bow Lake has a breeding pair of eagles that nest on Bennett Island and several pairs of loons that frequent each summer. The Bow Lake Camp Owner’s Association hosts a Loon & Eagle Preservation Program. Visit their website for more information:

Events & Programs:
See Community Links for events & programs held around Bow Lake.

Map provided by NH Fish & Game:

Helpful Links:
NH Fish & Game – Map of Bow Lake
NH Fish & Game – Boating & Fishing in NH
NH DES 2022 Lake Draw Down Schedule
NH DES Water Quality & Information