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One of the best-kept secrets of New Hampshire's Lakes region is Baxter Lake. This 302-acre lake offers excellent swimming, boating and fishing to those residents and their guests lucky enough to find it. Located on the town line between Rochester and Farmington, Baxter Lake has homes and cottages along the west side of the lake only. This offers an unobstructed and natural view of the eastern side to all of the homes along the western shore. It also means that wildlife, birds and waterfowl find Baxter Lake just as attractive as do its human inhabitants. Between the beauty and serene atmosphere and its proximity to local towns and services, Baxter Lake is one of New Hampshire's hidden gems.
Baxter Lake is known for excellent swimming, a perfect breeze for sailing, and a good expanse of water for boating and water skiing. Although there is no public park on Baxter Lake, a state-maintained public boat launch can handle smaller boats. The one campground along the lakeshore also maintains a marina with boat slips for rent, making access for sailboats and larger watercraft convenient. Many lakefront homes and cottages have their own small beach area, but other homes in the development have access to the water and swimming beaches via several private homeowner-only parks. The housing development along the western shore also has its own recreation hall, encouraging a sense of community among the residents.
Baxter Lake is known for excellent fishing. Champion-class largemouth bass are caught here regularly. The lake also holds smallmouth bass, chain pickerel and bullheads. The relatively shallow depths allow plenty of spawning and feeding areas for the big lunkers. In winter, ice fishing and ice skating are popular activities. Snowmobiling trails are located nearby. Baxter Lake is truly a lake for all seasons, and some of the residents likely purchase homes here with winter sports in mind. Downhill ski slopes are located less than an hour away.
This area of New Hampshire is known for outdoor activities. A number of hiking and mountain biking trails cross the area and lend themselves to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Nearby Rochester offers every needed service, and the lake is only an hour or less from popular Atlantic Ocean beaches or the White Mountains. Streams in the area are excellent for canoeing and kayaking. Plenty of local activities and cultural venues easily fill a rainy day. The Baxter Lake area is only a short distance from a large number of amusements, with something to please every member of the family.
Nearby Rochester offers the Rochester Opera House, which provides performances and several summer children's theater camps. Besides the usual bowling, movie theaters and farmer markets, big Lake Winnipesaukee is only half an hour to the north where families can take a cruise tour of the big lake, or enjoy zip lines and high ropes at an activity park along the shore. Another facility in Somersworth, 15 miles away, is open to enjoy go-carts, laser tag, driving range, mini-golf and an arcade. Those with a yen for big water will find a very popular ocean beach only 45 minutes from Baxter Lake. Hampton Beach offers swimming, beautiful clean water, sand sculpting competitions, fireworks every Wednesday, nightly concerts in summer, Monday night movies on the beach, an annual children's festival and annual volleyball tournaments, pageants and festivals.
Only 30 miles from Baxter Lake, the old city of Portsmouth holds a variety of historical treasures plus the activity that always delights children: a water park! Adults will enjoy dinner cruises and fishing charters on the Atlantic from Portsmouth, along with excellent sandy beaches. Strawberry Banke Museum has preserved several buildings in one of Portsmouth's oldest oceanfront neighborhoods. Here visitors can see how Portsmouth residents have lived through four centuries of habitation. Visitors can observe boat building of period boats in the boat shed and stroll through a colonial garden; housekeeping implements will make most grateful for the age of electricity. Fashions of the colonial period are featured along with ever-changing exhibits reflecting colonial life. Just a short hop over the state line into Maine, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for shore birds, salt marsh birds, waterfowl, migratory birds of all kinds and the mammals that inhabit the estuaries, marshes and bordering forests. A one-mile hiking trail is available for visitors from the Wells NWR headquarters. Other areas not included in designated walking trails are off-limits to visitors.
Baxter Lake is likely a natural lake enhanced by a water control dam at an early date. Streams and the outlets of ponds in this area of New England were dammed to power saw mills and grain mills early in colonial settlement. Few records remain from that early period. The current dam blocks the outflow to Rickers Brook at the southwest corner of the lake. Rickers Brook meanders through field and forest until it joins Howard Brook. The combined flow becomes part of the drinking water supply for the Town of Rochester. Baxter Lake therefore is a valuable part of the Rochester water supply. Homeowners along the lake appreciate their clean water and environment and work to protect it.
A number of private owners rent their seasonal cottages or homes by the week or the season, often with a fishing boat. Rights to use the development's parks and beaches usually are included in the rental. The campground also rents seasonal RV sites along with weekly tent and RV campsites. Other lodgings in the area include bed-and-breakfasts in the surrounding area, motels and hotels in the towns and the occasional quaint inn. Real estate is available on the lake from time to time, both lakefront and within the housing development. Baxter lake is a secret no more. Bring the rods and the bait and come on down. A delightful lake experience awaits you.
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