Written by GOseacoast Walks
SCENIC LOCAL WALKS
Somersworth & Dover, NH
In the days of the trolley cars Willand Pond was a popular arcade area with dance halls and early electric lights. Today it is a quiet tree-lined pond squeezed between two commercial shopping highways. Stocked with trout it is surrounded by an easy jogging road and open to small boats without motors.
Name: Willand Pond Trail
Location: Off Route 108 after Dover traffic circle towards Somersworth directly across from Strafford Farms Restaurant
Resources: Boat launch, walking trail, fishing, wheelchair access, parking
Rules: No vehicles with internal combustion engines on pond year round. Fines up to $1,000 for motorized vehicle use.
Dogs" on leash
Hours: Closed 9:30pm – 7am, April 1 to Sept 30
You might miss this little pond 10 miles inland from the seacoast as you whiz up Route 108. We missed it for years until someone mentioned that Willand Pond is good for rowing shells because no motor boats are allowed on this fresh water reservoir. It isn’t really. The 66-acre water body is too small for a fast-moving rower, unless it’s used like a lap pool.
But Willand Pond – maintained by both Dover and Somersworth and the NH Fish and Game Department -- is ideal for a little family canoe ride or kayak practice. There is an excellent cartop boat access ramp. A little web research shows that the pond was last stocked with 1,000 rainbow trout, making it a rare quiet spot for parents with young children learning to fish.
A flat-packed trail wide enough for a car winds around one side of the pond. It makes for the easiest possible trail for hikers and a tremendous facility for joggers. Further in are a couple of well-built platforms raised above the muddy shoreline with wooden benches. On our visit there was an unfortunate amount of trash likely from teen parties with caches of empty bottles tucked behind fallen logs. Dog walkers, running out of local space, are fond of the level spot where the animals can easily walk into the pond.
Be warned that there is, as yet, little signage or interpretation. We mistakenly assumed that the roadway goes all the way around Willand Pond. It doesn’t. As you can see by the map that we adapted from the EPA web site, the road ends, but an old walking trail continues through the pines for quite a distance on the Somersworth side. That trail deteriorates as the trash and litter increases toward the little peninsula area. We cut back up toward the highway after hitting the small residential area, and came up in the back boatyard of Dover Marine. So when the pavement runs out, turn around and go back.
The pond in the Piscataqua watershed was called Humphrey’s Pond in the late 18th century. In the early 20th century Willand Pond housed a popular recreation spot called Central Park at the end of Central Street that runs all the way through Dover. Before that it was called Burgett Park. The old dance hall and bandstand are gone. So is the fleet of rowboats and a little steamboat and the two-story casino, penny arcade, rides and picnic area. All this faded with the demise of the trolley cars that made Willand Pond quickly accessible to anyone in the neighboring factory towns of Dover and Somersworth..
Today the area is a quiet oasis ticked between two crowded highways overtaken by urban sprawl and overdeveloped shopping centers. Except for a few private homes, the pond is almost entirely surrounded by trees and now devoid of buildings. In winter the pond is great for ice skating and the flat wide trail is perfect for cross-country skiing.
Original photos (c) 2005 SeacoastNH.com. Map from EPA web site
OUTISDE LINK: Willand Pond short history
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