The Granite State is a place of hills and mountains where mountain streams form ponds and lakes. As late summer begins to meld into autumn the state’s mix of dark green conifers and color-changing deciduous trees creates a melody of color; bright reds, oranges, and yellows splayed against dark green pines and firs.

Double the Pleasure

In the wild, water is a mirror to nature and that is at no time more true than when seen from the seat of a canoe or kayak. Flat water paddling is the ideal environment because all of the drama of color is doubled by reflection in the environment surrounding the paddler.

Of course, anyone standing on the shore can see the reflections, but for the best effect, they become immersed in color from all directions by moving onto the water itself.

For the best experience, choose one with a minimum of motorized traffic, one surrounded by a mix of hardwoods and conifers and with a mountain as a backdrop.

Chocorua Lake comes to mind, where from any point, its waters are backed by that post-card view. The lake and mountainside are ablaze with a mix of maples, birch, fir, and red pine, and the evergreens provide a contrast that makes the reds and yellows seem brighter.

For the peace and quiet that only comes on waters where motor boats are forbidden, paddle onto Willard Pond in Antrim, surrounded by 2,000 acres of protected wilderness. In this near-pristine setting, loons swim undisturbed, and blue herons wait in the trees for dinner.

Herons add to the experience of paddling Lake Warren in Alstead, too, as does the view of the white-spired church and village of East Alstead emerging through the colored leaves above the shore.

The Monadnock region in the southwest part of the state has other paddling waters with views of the mountain itself. Howe reservoir, off Route 101 in Dublin, is one, and Scott Pond in Fitzwilliam, just off Route 119 west of Route 12, is another.

Harrisville Pond includes vignettes of a brick mill village, its library rising directly out of the water. Powdermill Pond, in Greenfield adds a covered bridge to the scenery and gives access to a flat stretch of the Contoocook River that is especially attractive in the fall.

Beyond the Lakes and Ponds are the Rivers

Kayak New Hampshire
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Beyond the ponds and lakes, however, there are also streams and rivers to enjoy. The Ashuelot River, from Keene to Surry and from Keene to Winchester, offers some wonderful paddling when the water is right.

Start at Ashuelot River Park in Keene, above the dam to get to Surry, and below the dam for Winchester. If you are interested in paddling the Contoocook River contact the folks at Contoocook River Canoe(603 753-9804) for rentals and advice or a guide.

The Saco River, in the Conway area, is another popular paddling destination. Saco Bound is a full-service outfitter that can rent equipment, give advice or provide guided tours.

And then, there is the great Connecticut River, a highway for millennia of native Americans and still a paddler’s delight. See the people at North Star Canoe Rentals on Route 12A in Cornish. They not only rent equipment, but they know the best places to put in, and they know the river as only locals natives can.

Lake Umbagog in Errol, however, is perhaps the ultimate fall paddling experience. Stay in one of the State Park sites, or paddle to one of the remote 33 paddle-in campsites and pitch a tent on the shore to wake up with light shimmering across the lake with waffles of steam rising from its surface.