With major excavation underway at our building, I’ve started looking for some new quiet places nearby where I can take a quick break and enjoy some peace and quiet. Just five minutes from downtown Peterborough, Edward MacDowell Lake has quickly become my favorite spot.
The MacDowell Dam was built between 1948-1950 for flood protection, and as you drive across the bridge to the upper parking lot, you can see the high water mark on the dam’s gatehouse. The flood storage area is over 800 acres and can store almost 4.2 billion gallons of water (according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, that’s the equivalent of 5.4 inches of water covering 44 square miles). It has saved the surrounding towns over $20 million dollars since its creation.
But you probably won’t visit to marvel at the impressive flood protection, right? You’ll likely be more interested in the 165-acre conservation pool that is beautifully kept for swimming, kayaking, fishing, etc. I like to walk the path along the water’s edge and look for critters and new wildflowers. On a sunny afternoon, you can see some very large Northern Water Snakes soaking in the warmth along the shore. And if you’re used to seeing forest or roadside flowers, you’ll enjoy the variety of wetland plants you can find here.
If you prefer a walk out of the sun, there’s a 2.2 mile loop through the dense woods by the upper parking lot. Cool and damp, it’s a great place to spot mushrooms and little woodland friends. I’d call it “a walk in the woods” rather than a “hike,” which means you can show up any old clothes and sneakers and have no trouble at all.
If you’re looking for a nice spot to sit and eat lunch, the lake has picnic tables and grills set up, as well as benches along the water. There are even two picnic shelters so you can enjoy the quiet on rainy days. And if you’re going for a day of outdoor group fun, there are horseshoe pits and a volleyball net too. Edward MacDowell Lake really does have something for everyone: a true gem for all to enjoy.