Outdoors and Free
Friday, July 9, 2010
Volume 4, Issue 29

A Great Spirit Smiles Down On Lake Winnipesaukee

Quite often we tend to take things for granted, most especially the places where we love to fish or boat. We are particularly lucky in the Granite State to have bodies of water that offer anglers and others seasonal and yearly enjoyment. One example is Lake Winnipesaukee, located in central New Hampshire, in the beautiful and majestic Lakes Region. The second largest natural lake in New England, Winnipesaukee is the sixth largest natural lake to be found wholly within the United States.

This 44,586 acre lake contains 72 square miles of water surface and 274 habitable islands. The lake is 28 miles long, 13 miles wide and has a shoreline of 283 miles. Today, the lake’s landlocked salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, bass, black crappie, yellow and white perch fisheries are well known to anglers from around New England. But, how did Lake Winnipesaukee ever get it’s name? And, what does it mean? These were questions asked me by an acquaintance a few years ago as we trolled in quest of landlocked salmon.

New Hampshire's beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee

History says that white men first discovered the lake in 1652. They were members of a surveying party from Boston, Massachusetts. Along the lake’s shores lived a small tribe of native Americans. A sub-group of the Penacooks, the tribe was later to become known as Winnipesaukee, acquiring their name from the beautiful lake where they made their homes.

According to the story, “The Naming of Winnipesaukee”, included in the 50th edition of the booklet, “Where To In The Lakes Region”, published by the Lakes Region Association of New Hampshire, a great chief named Wonaton lived on the northern shore of the big lake. Wonaton was well known for his courage in war and for the beauty of his daughter, Mineola. Many suitors asked for Mineola’s hand in marriage, but she refused them all.

Adiwando, a young chief from a hostile tribe to the south, heard so much about the beauty of the fair Mineola that he paddled his birch bark canoe across the great expanse of the lake and fearlessly entered the village of his enemies. Luckily, Mineola’s father was away at the time. Admiring his daring courage, the rest of the tribesmen did no harm to the young chief. And, of course, Adiwando and Mineola fell desperately in love. 

Upon his return, Chief Wonaton was angered to find that the chief of the enemy tribe was in his camp as a suitor for his daughter’s hand. He immediately raised his stone tomahawk to attack the young man. But, rushing between them, lovely Mineola pleaded with her father to spare Adiwando’s life, finally succeeding in melting her angry father’s heart.

Immediately following the marriage celebration, the couple left Mineola’s village and began their journey to the village of Adiwando’s tribe. The entire tribe accompanied the two lovers halfway across the big lake in many canoes. The sky was overcast and the waters were very dark. Just as they were about to turn back toward their camp, leaving the couple to continue on their own, the sun came out. The lake waters surrounding Mineola and Adiwando’s canoe sparkled.

“This is a good omen from above,” Chief Wonaton proclaimed, “and hereafter this big water shall be called the Winnipesaukee (which means the smile of the great spirit, or smiling water in a high place, both of which are correct), and we shall be the people of the Winnipesaukee.”

And who knows, perhaps as you troll for Winnipesaukee’s feisty landlocked salmon, dunk a worm for the large yellow perch and white perch, or cast a plug or spinner bait for the lake’s bass, the waters surrounding your canoe or boat may suddenly sparkle and “The Smile of the Great Spirit” will once again prevail.


Bob Harris can be reached via e-mail at: outwriter2@aol.com


Past Columns by Bob Harris  >>>

About Bob Harris  >>>

DISCLAIMER:  The opinions expressed by Mr. Harris are not necessarily those of the Goffstown Residents Association or its members

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