Information for the thousands of residents of Lake Winnipesaukee Islands.
The BearCam - A webcam on the northern shore of Bear Island, updating every thirty seconds year round. Dark image after sunset.
Bear Island long ago was home to early settlers who farmed and raised cattle to survive,
and later to guests who arrived by train to enjoy a stay at the former Bear Island Hotel.
Bear Island is the second largest unbridged island of the 262 islands in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. In the summer, it is accessible only by boat, and during winter, it can be reached by crossing the frozen lake.
According to the Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society, the island was named when
several hunters, along with a few members of the Pennacook Indian tribe, were sent to survey the island.
However, they encountered a few bears, which they decided to hunt.
Originally the island was named
"Big Bear Island," though the name was later shortened to "Bear Island" when the town of Meredith annexed the property in 1799.
Today, residents arrive by plane and car, and finally by boat. The unbridged three-mile-long
island is home to 200 residences (plus or minus), and separate summer camps for girls and boys.
The Sophie C. mail boat delivers to the busy mail dock at the north point of the island,
bringing its post as well refreshments, souvenirs, ice cream and many touring passengers.
Not far from Church Cove is the stone church, St. John's on the Lake, which hosts Sunday
services and often a rustic, summertime wedding.
St. John's-on-the-Lake Chapel
Founded in 1927, this summer chapel on the lake provides ecumenical services to support the religious needs of the population of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Regardless of religious affiliation, all are welcome to join services on Sundays at this community center of worship.
The chapel is located on the highest elevation of Bear Island in Meredith, New Hampshire.
It can be reached by a short walk from the church docks located in Deep Cove on the west side of the island, as well as by other marked island paths.
2017 Summer Services
St. John's on the Lake Chapel
Link to St. John's on the Lake Association
Sundays 10-11:00 on Bear Island
June 25 Rev. Jay Hutchinson, Episcopal
July 2 Rev. Hannah Scanlon, Princeton Theological Seminary
July 9 Rev. Mark Chatteron, United Methodist
July 16 Rev. Carol Snow Asher, American Baptist/UCC
July 23 Rev. Robin Soller, Episcopal
July 30 Camp Nokomis, Youth Service
August 6 Father Jack Hurley, Catholic
August 13 Rev. Jeff Stevens, Awakening Spirit
August 20 Rev. Philip Polhemus, United Methodist
All are welcome. Boat parking is available at Deep Cove church docks if you arrive early.
Allow 20 minutes to climb. St. John's is open only between 9:30-11:30 on Sundays.
Fire Fighting and Prevention on Winnipesaukee Islands
This article was created to bring information to Island
residents about fire fighting and prevention. Written primarilly with respect to
Bear Island, the information is applicable to all islands. We were all lucky that the
Memorial Day 2009 fire on the Bear Island was not a disaster. We have
have recommendations from the Meredith Fire Chief about equipment that may help
us in the future.
Lessons Learned - one person's view - by Stan Janiak
- Response time is the most important item.
- Reference the chief's comment that fire doubles every 3 minutes...
- Karen Volk called in the first alarm and warned neighbors very soon
after the fire started. That warning was probably the most
critical item leading to eventual control and extinguishing
- The first people to respond, despite having just average tools, were
also key in slowing the growth/spreading of the fire.
- The arrival of the 'big hoses' was also critical as had the burn gotten
bigger and up into the trees, it would have be extremely difficult to
- Combustible materials were/are abundant
- As the amount of deadfall continues to accumulate on the island, fuel is
building up. (I applaud the BICA effort to that is underway to
help address this issue and clean the BICA property.
Meredith's fire chief also emphasized the importance of removing deadfall
and brush from near island buildings.)
- Fire Fighting Tools
- Shovels, Rakes, Pick Axe are all useful
- "Fire Swatter/Rakes" used by the fire responders were very
effective tools for beating down the flames and creating fire breaks.
- STRONG RECOMMENDATION: Every island home should have a "fire
- Fire Extinguishers
- Boat and house fire extinguishers proved helpful. (I did not
think to grab them. Kudos to my wife and others who identified this
option. These fall under the class of "Anything that
can help is worthwhile". We have since purchased a
larger 'Garage' size extinguisher to have available.) STRONG
RECOMMENDATION for a reasonable sized fire extinguisher.
- Water Buckets. STRONG RECOMMENDATION to have buckets
available to grab water from the lake or fill from a hose (if there is
power). Sometimes the most simple and timely solution is the
best. Buckets should have a handle in case they need to be
transported any distance.
- "Indian Pumps" were very effective and critical for their
ability to target from a distance. These can be refilled
on-site but are heavy (70 lbs was mentioned.)
RECOMMENDED for their ability to target and be easily filled while
recognizing they require significant effort and strength.
- Pressurized Fire Extinguisher. I spoke with another
fire department about recommendations and these 2.5 gallon units were
highly recommended. Much lighter than an Indian Pump,
they can spray 40' without the hand-pump action required by Indian Pumps.
These cost about 1/2 the cost of an Indian Pump and I'm hopeful that the
Meredith Chief will provide a source to purchase as I think they make a
lot of sense.
- Conversation & Discussion. We had never discussed what
to do for a fire other than 'Safety First'. Going forward, I
STRONGLY RECOMMEND that islanders occasionally discuss "What should
we do if...house fire; brush fire; fire in the woods; fire in the boat;
fire next door, etc.
- Whistles or some other audible alarm. The first response to
the Memorial Day fire was neighbor yelling to neighbor.
I don't have a good answer here but think that there could be something
better and more effective.
- Support was critical. While fighting the fire until the fire
department arrived, the effort proved to be exhausting. Three
(3) critical events occurred during that time that were incredibly
positive and helpful. 1) A neighbor arrived with a boat
extinguisher and hit several of the more difficult flames, 2) another
neighbor provided a bottle of drinking water - which was a huge lift to
body and spirit, 3) a first responder fireman arrived with an
Indian Pump, thereby indicating that the 'Calvary had arrived'.
- Review/discuss the possibility of
fire and what action is appropriate
- Remove combustible materials where
possible. Also, eliminate fire hazards (especially extension cords and
candles per the chief)
- Have readily available / purchase:
- Water Buckets
- Fire extinguishers (Boat, House,
Garage, Indian Pumps, Pressurized Water Cans,...
- Tools (Fire swatter/rakes,
- Remember 'Personal Safety
Reflections on Fighting the Memorial Day Fire
- The Fire
- The fire was more intense and unpredictable than I would have imagined.
The chief provided the most tangible comment at the meeting when he
mentioned that 'fire doubles every 3 minutes" depending on local
conditions. With the changing wind and terrain, his comments
were supported by my experience.
- Containment vs. extinguish
- By the time the first people arrived, the opportunity to extinguish
the fire had passed. We recognized that our opportunity,
given the tools available and the location of the fire, was to contain
or slow it down until professional (fire department) help arrived.
- Fuel. It's important to note that the fire occurred on
Memorial Day Monday, before the extended period of rain that we're having
this Summer. There was/is a tremendous amount of deadfall on
the ground and the ground itself was extremely dry. There were
times when I saw fire travel through the ground in addition to burning the
deadfall that lay on top.
- Fire fighting tools
- Long handled spades and garden rakes were the tools of choice.
- A pick-axe also proved worthwhile to break down a stump that started to
- "Fire swatter/rakes" used by the fire personnel proved to be
much superior tools for beating down the flames and for creating a 'fire
- Fire extinguishers were grabbed from boats and houses.
The most common type provides 8-Seconds of suppression.
They helped but were quickly expended.
- At least one 'industrial' size fire extinguisher was on-site and it
proved very effective
- Given that fire was a result of damage to the power lines, no
electricity was available and any opportunity to use garden hoses was also
- We found one mud puddle near the fire and dug / threw mud onto the fire
where we could. (This was one area where the spades proved
- The first water I saw was via "Indian Pumps" carried by the
first responders (Fire Department) and they were able to help keep the
fire from spreading more while the big hoses were setup to pump from the
- I'm not aware that any of the local residents who were first on scene
had any firefighting experience.
- Several of us knew enough to beat down the fire at the edges, throw mud
onto the flames where possible and create a fire break to remove easily
- All the actions were applied depending on the wind direction at the
moment and the ability to get close to the edge flames.
Several times people had to retreat a bit for personal safety, then move
back 'in' as appropriate.
ISLAND CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
The picture below answers the most common questions about the view. The names of the mountains alaong with their heights and distance from the island.
The book is a narrative history of the island and Lake Winnipesaukee from the
days of the first settlers in 1772 to the present. Bear Island, where mail is
still delivered daily by the only floating post office in the United States, was
once home to a small community of farmers who tilled the rocky soil and raised
livestock. During the steamboat era, the Bear Island hotel attracted many guests
who came to the region by rail. This unique island has had its own post office
and store, as well as an active interdenominational church which was built
around a century old tower.
Priced at $10.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling. Proceeds from sales will
benefit the Bear Island Conservation Association. To purchase a copy send $13.00
payable to "Bear Island Conservation Association" to BICA c/o Capron, 278 West
Street, Needham, MA 02494.
LINKS TO FIREFIGHTING EQUIPMENT
Smith Indian Pump (metal)
Smith Indian Pump (poly)
Bear Island Pictures -
Viewable by all - To be able to add your pictures email
Fire Fighting and
Prevention on Bear Island
Island Fire pictures-
Islanders Only -
Information on taxes, evaluations, historic sites, trail maps etc.
Email you name and house number to and I will
send back a password.
Bear Island Trail Map
- Island Residents Only
Email you name and house number to
and I will
send back a password.
BICA Members Pursuant to a recent vote of the membership, all
BICA members are requested to supply an email address for future BICA
communications. Please forward to
Town Letter about Mail Dock
Winnipesaukee Family Alliance for Boating Safety
Live images looking north from Bear Island
Web Cams Thumbnails of all the local cams
Weirs Beach Site Great place for Weirs
Beach info, be sure to see the historic section
Live Images from
Ice Safety Information
Pinebanks The story of 409 Bear Island
Old Island Maps
Phillip the Bear
Septic System Info
Pete Nelson's Jump
David Cail's Pictures
Bear Island Plot Plans
The United States Post Office maintains a database of every address in the
US. None of the homes on islands in Meredith are in this database. If you
receive mail from the Sophie C. Mailboat your email address should be as
listed in the sample below.
5 BEAR ISLAND
VIA US MAILBOAT
LACONIA, NH 0324
This however, is not a legitimate USPS address and many companies,
like Netflix and Amazon, that check their
address will not mail to you. Having your mail forwarded can also be difficult.
Until the Post Office fixes this problem the following address can be used to
"fake" the system. 1 Pier Ave is the address of the Mailboat.
JOHN DOE 5 BEAR IS
1 PIER AVE
LACONIA, NH 03246-7702
5 BEAR IS VIA US MAILBOAT
1 PIER AVE
LACONIA, NH 03246-7702