At a mere 18 miles long, New Hampshire's sea coast is the shortest in the nation. However, just west of the city of Portsmouth you will find one of the largest estuaries in New England. The Great Bay Estuary covers 5,000 acres, reaches 15 miles inland and is fed by 7 rivers which drain over 930 squire miles of land. An additional 23,000 acres are managed by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. The Great Bay area was formed after the last ice age as the retreating ice sheet left behind a large river valley and then the rising level of the ocean rushed in to complete the process. The bay adds an additional 144 miles to New Hampshire's coast line. This area was settled over 400 years ago, in the early 1600's, and was one of the first major commercial waterways in the country. Even today, the area stills play a vital role in the states economy. In 1989 Great Bay was added to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
When planning a trip on Great Bay, make sure you plan it with the tides. Many areas along its shores will drain during low tide, turning what was once navigable waters into large mud flats. Ill planning could leave you stranded; you are not be able to walk in these mud flats. Many areas of the bay contain very strong currents during the tide change, most notable being in the Piscataqua River. The majority of Great Bay's shoreline is inaccessible by road because of private property boundaries, however there are still many places to launch from; below is a list of a few of those places.
Adams Point-Durham; ramp is tide dependent
Cedar Point- Durham
Chapman's Landing- Stratham
Durham Town Landing
Exeter Town Landing
Little Harbor/back Channel- New Castle
Hilton State Park- Dover; there are very strong currents here and the ramp is tide dependent
Jackson Landing- Durham
New Market Town Landing
Pierce Island- Portsmouth; parking fees
Odiorne Point State Park- Rye; $5. 00 fee
Sandy Point- Stratham; a large area in this part of the bay will become mud flats during low tide
For more information on New Hampshire's Great Bay and the surrounding area visit the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve's web site at: greatbay.org/