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Boat speed limits in NH

Aug 13, 2019

BY: Citizens Count

Speed limits for motorboats on New Hampshire’s inland waters vary from lake to lake. Some lakes and ponds also ban motorboats entirely. Others allow motorboats but prohibit jet skis. 

Lakes with speed limits include: 

  • Spofford Lake – 40 mph daytime limit, 20 mph limit at night 
  • Squam Lakes – 40 mph daytime limit, 20 mph limit at night
  • Winnipesaukee – 45 mph daytime limit, 30 mph limit at night

Many other small lakes and ponds have a 10 mph speed limit. Others only allow motorboats with motors under a certain size. 

There are also strict speed restrictions on particular areas of rivers and lakes, such as within a certain distance of shore, or near dams, islands or outlets. 

See a complete list of boating restrictions on New Hampshire lakes

How boat speed limits are set

Many of New Hampshire’s boat speed limits and boating restrictions are set by state law. These take the form of bills that go through the Legislature just like any other piece of legislation. Others are set as regulations by the state Department of Safety. They would be considered through the department’s rule-making process. 

The last attempt to change a boat speed limit set by state law was in 2011.  That bill would have increased the speed limit to 55 mph on the “broads” area of Lake Winnipesaukee. It was shot down.

Boat speed limits make lakes safer

Many argue that boat speed limits make lakes safer. Excessive speed is still one of the top ten contributing factors in boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Speed limits also protect the rights of smaller boaters - for example, those in canoes and kayaks - who cannot operate safely near fast boats with big wakes. 

Some nearby states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have statewide boat speed limits of 45 mph or lower.  

Boat speed limits aren't necessary

Those who would rather see boat speed limits raised or eliminated argue that they aren't really necessary in New Hampshire. According to the latest boating statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, New Hampshire has the lowest fatality rate for recreational boaters in New England, which suggests Granite State boaters can safely be given a little more leeway.  

The same report shows that, in general, operator inattention, inexperience, and alcohol use all contribute to more accidents than excessive speed. 

What you can do about boat speed limits

Want to see a change with the speed limit for boats in your area? Find your legislator and talk to them about your concerns. 

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