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Town of Northwood
State: NH
County: Rockingham


Cocheco River Watershed

Sherburne Brook originates in a forested area north of Northwood Center. It flows across the power line right of way and continues north, passing several homes on Bow Lake Road. The brook passes through a culvert under the road, and flows into Bow Lake at its southwestern end.

Bow Lake sits on Northwood’s northern border with Strafford, along Bow Lake Road. A small portion of the lakes shoreline lies within Northwood, but it is densely developed there. Numerous homes and docks are built along Bow Lake Road and Bennett Bridge Road. The lake is known to have seven species of game fish, including rainbow trout. The outlet of Bow Lake is in Strafford, and eventually makes its way to the Cocheco River.

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Water District: none
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(Click the Title of the article to learn more.)
Northwood Master Plan
Publications, Websites, and Tools
2004 update to the Northwood Master Plan.

Seal:town seal, click to enlarge
Population:4065 (U.S. Census Est. 2006)
Area:28.1 square miles


Northwood is a hill town at the headwaters of the Lamprey, Isinglass, and Merrimack River watersheds. The scenic backdrop of the town includes lakes, ponds, forests, hills, and mountains. Elevations range from 310 to 1,184 feet above sea level at the summit of Saddleback Mountain. Northwood is unusual because it does not lie downstream from any other community in any of its watersheds. Because the town is hilly and located at the headwaters of several watersheds, there are many sensitive areas and resources in need of protection. Further, the natural resource limitations, which include steep slopes, erodible soils, and wetlands, impose significant constraints on possible growth and development of the town. In many respects, the natural resource issues more closely resemble those of White Mountain communities rather than those of closer Seacoast and Merrimack Valley communities.

Of the 17,438 acres in Northwood, 9,706 (approximately 56% of the total land area) remained undeveloped and were taxed at the current use rate as of 2004. Included in current use were 8,030 acres of forest; 856 acres farmland; 648 acres wetland; and 173 acres of unproductive land. The community of Northwood is still primarily rural as evidenced by the low amount of commercial and industrial development.

The population of Northwood was estimated at 4,065 for 2006, an increase of 11% from 2000. Census projections predict a slower growth rate of 5% over the next decade.

Northwood has a stable economic base comprised primarily of small-scale and home-based businesses. The three largest employers combined employ about 100 people, while the vast majority of others employ just a few people each.

Several separate entities manage the larger parcels of conservation land in Northwood. The town owns more than 300 acres in the Town Forest. The New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development manages a 660 acre state park and a 130 acre state forest. The Department of Fish and Game maintains several wildlife management areas that contain over 500 acres. UNH manages a 280 acre parcel around Saddleback Mountain, and Coe Brown Academy manages 260 acres of forestry lots.

to learn more see The Northwood Master Plan


First settled in 1763, Northwood was incorporated on February 6, 1773 by Colonial Governor John Wentworth, when a large tract of land called "North Woods" was separated from Nottingham. In 1775, the towns first census showed a total of 313 people in town. By 1860, that number had swelled to 1502.

At one time, there were some 12 sawmills in the town, and lumber was the primary industry of early Northwood.

About 1800, the first New Hampshire Turnpike was built through Northwood, and the town began to prosper. Numerous taverns and inns were built to accommodate sledge and stage passengers.

The shoe industry flourished in Northwood beginning around 1830 and throughout the next century. At one time, Northwood had three large shoe factories. In addition, many local families, who farmed during the spring, summer and fall, spent the long winters turning out shoes and parts for shoes. As the demand increased, more people spent more time filling that demand. By the early years of the 20th century, the industry was dying in Northwood, but lingered on until about 1930 when the last shoe factory was closed.

In the later half of the 1900’s people were coming to Northwood for recreation at its numerous lakes and ponds.

Excerpts from Northwood Historical Society material, compiled by Janet Clark

The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm, Wells, Maine Copyright 2006 All rights reserved. Collaboration with NOAA CSC, Charleston SC