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Squam Lake Maps by Brad Washburn

Brad Washburn's Squam Lake Chart Work Plans from the 1960's

(from the archives at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center)

Brad Washburn on Mt. Morgan

Brad surveying from tower on
Mt. Morgan

Brad Washburn produced five editions of his Squam Lake Chart. The first, in 1936, was simply a tracing of a mosaic of vertical aerial photos taken in 1935 from an airplane flying at 10,000 feet. His 1948, 1954, and 1961 editions included refinements and a modest amount of new information. Later in the 1960's, while keeping up with his many responsibilities as Director of the Boston Museum of Science, he spent a tremendous amount of time surveying Squam Lake and the surrounding area in detail, building an extensive and extremely accurate three-dimensional database. He used this new information for the major upgrade (1968) to the Squam Lake Chart, and eventually for his map of the Squam Range in 1973.
Peter Hodges and Tink Taylor--Hauling gear for taking soundings through the ice--1963

Peter Hodges and Tink Taylor hauling
gear with the Polaris Sno-Traveler.

In addition to huge improvements in accuracy, Brad's 1968 edition of the lake chart featured contour lines on the land surrounding the lake and a 300-foot grid of depth soundings, 99% of which were taken in the winter by drilling holes in the ice. For this Herculean task of drilling over 3,000 holes and taking soundings, Brad was assisted by members of his family and local volunteers including Peter Hodges, Malcolm “Tink” Taylor, Lloyd Perkins, Dave Little, Elbeon Ricker, Leslie Ricker, and Dick Hodges.

More Information - click here for explanation of map details.

Work plan example
Map Example
The 11 original Squam Lake Chart work plans cataloged here were the result of the detailed surveying during the 1960's (by Brad and others) described above. In the work plans' black-and-white medium, water is distinguished from the land areas mainly by the 300-foot grid of depth soundings throughout the lake. Other points of interest and clarification are as follows:

  1. The shoreline is shown as a dark, solid line. The nearby dotted line marks where the lake is three feet deep at the mean low water level of 560 feet above sea level. (Mean high water level is 562.5 feet.) The other solid lines further from shore or around shoals indicate the approximate boundaries of shallows or shoal areas.
  2. The many numbers along the shoreline are the distances to that shoreline from one of the grid points along one of the north-south or east-west grid lines.
  3. Brad drafted 11 work plans to cover Big Squam, Little Squam, and White Oak Pond. He donated these and other materials related to the creation of his two local maps to Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in the 1980's. Of the original 11 work plans, only Map 5 (Dog Cove area) is missing. That area is covered by Map 12, which is in a format closer to the finished Chart, but lacks some of the hand drawn detail of the other ten.
  4. Orientation of the work plans is true north (except for Map 11). Red text has been added to identify points of reference.
  5. The “R” next to a depth sounding designates a rocky bottom.
  6. The work plans are in PDF format; they are hard to see at the small scale when opened, but details show up very well when zoomed in.

It is my hope that lovers of maps, property owners around the lake, students of history, and people interested in the extraordinary life of Brad Washburn will enjoy viewing these original work plans. For me, access to these maps provides a window into his drive and perfectionism. Brad's many other accomplishments are chronicled elsewhere – see this link for a start: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/washburns/

Brad gave many, many talks and slide shows over the years about his experiences in Alaska and the European Alps doing mountaineering, surveying, mapmaking, and photography. He loved to include a quote from Aristotle: “Each one of us adds a little to our understanding of nature, and from all the facts assembled arises a certain grandeur.”

Tom Stepp
Holderness, NH
Summer 2014

Use the links below to open maps:

Drilling through ice for soundings
Peter and Tink drilling the ice for depth sounding.

View more images.