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.

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Island History

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
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.

Link to St. John's on the Lake Association

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

Summary Recommendations:
  1. Review/discuss the possibility of fire and what action is appropriate
  2. Remove combustible materials where possible.  Also, eliminate fire hazards (especially extension cords and candles per the chief)
  3. Have readily available / purchase:
    1. Water Buckets
    2. Fire extinguishers (Boat, House, Garage, Indian Pumps, Pressurized Water Cans,...
    3. Tools (Fire swatter/rakes, shovel, ...)
    4. Remember 'Personal Safety First'.



Reflections on Fighting the Memorial Day Fire
  • 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 unavailable.
  • 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 effective.)
  • 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 fire boats.



Lake 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.


Smith Indian Pump (metal)     $169.99

Smith Indian Pump (poly)     $177.73

Fire Rakes   $39.99



Shutterfly Bear Island Pictures  -  Viewable by all - To be able to add your pictures email   

BICA By-Laws 

Fire Fighting and Prevention on Bear Island

Bear Island Fire  pictures-  5/25/09

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 10/28/2005

WinnFABS   Winnipesaukee Family Alliance for Boating Safety 

BearCam   Live images looking north from Bear Island

Lakes Region Web Cams   Thumbnails of all the local cams

Weirs Beach Site   Great place for Weirs Beach info, be sure to see the historic section

Snake Eyes    Live Images from Rattlesnake Island

Ice Safety Information  

Pinebanks  The story of 409 Bear Island 

BICA Membership


Picture Postcards

Old Island Maps

Phillip the Bear

Septic System Info

Pete Nelson's Jump

David Cail's Pictures

Bear Island Plot Plans   



Mail Dock




  • Island Addresses

    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.

    LACONIA, NH 0324
  • 6-7702

    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.

    1 PIER AVE
    LACONIA, NH 03246-7702

    1 PIER AVE
    LACONIA, NH 03246-7702