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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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Several islanders have had problems receiving mail at Bear Island. The USPS and many services
such as Amazon and Netflix will use online validation to check if a mailing address uses the
correct format. The validation process returns an address like the one below.

LACONIA, NH 03246-7700

"VIA MAILBOAT" should be added as part of the last name, All capitals, "BEAR IS" not Island or Isl, LACONIA not Meredith, ZIP 03246-7700

Some Island house numbers are in the database and some are not. If not you may have difficulty even if you use this format.

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

  • 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 stop.
  • 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 swatter/rake"
  • 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.

  • Other:
    • 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 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'.  

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
  • 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 burn.
    • "Fire swatter/rakes" used by the fire personnel proved to be much superior tools for beating down the flames and for creating a 'fire break'
    • 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

  • Water
  • 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.
  • Strategy
    • 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 combustible materials.  
    • 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.



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