Hidden New Hampshire
9:22 am
Sat June 28, 2014

The Concord Quarries: Legal Or Not, They're An Adventurous Swimmers' Paradise

Summer has finally arrived in the New Hampshire. And with it, college students like me, who look forward to heading outside with friends. Though Hampton Beach and Lake Winnipesaukee are appealing summer hangouts, there is a more hidden place I like to go. It’s a little bit isolated, a little bit dangerous and maybe, a little bit illegal. I’m talking about the Concord Quarries.

A good look at the quarries.
Credit Ben McLeod

The Concord Quarries are a product of the Swenson family mining Rattlesnake Hill, a small rise that overlooks much of greater Concord and abuts the state prison. Since 1883, Swenson Granite has been used to build structures like the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Pentagon.

While the quarries were long recognized for their high quality cut granite, locals now know them for the recreational opportunities they provide, including hiking and biking trails, and, nestled deep in the woods, the quarries. Now filled with spring water, these swimming holes are ideal spots for sunbathing, swimming and, for the more daring, cliff jumping.

I started going to the quarries when I was 14. As a kid, my parents were never too thrilled with the idea of their son throwing his body off of cliffs. For the first few years I could go to the quarries on one condition: parental supervision. Taking your dad to a fabled high school hangout was always a dangerous decision socially, but I did it anyway.

Eventually, my parents decided I was old enough to jump off of the rocks without them. With this newfound freedom, my friends and I would go to the quarries nearly every day. For us, summer became quarry season.

The big question we never thought to ask: is swimming in these quarries legal? That, as it turns out, is a difficult question to answer.

According to maps provided by the city of Concord, the Swensons sold the property containing the quarries to the state and to the city. I spoke to an employee of Swenson Granite, who confirmed that the company no longer has any connection to the land. 

A map showing the whereabouts of the Concord Quarries.
Credit City of Concord/Austin Cowan NHPR

I called Jon Hanson, the Director of Services at the N.H. Department of Corrections, and he told me that  while prison officials are aware of the swimming quarries, they don't patrol the area.

I also reached out to the Concord Police. Lieutenant Timothy O’Malley said he is not aware of any chronic problems at the quarries, and also said he didn’t know who would be in charge of keeping people away from them.

“The quarries are off the beaten path so we’re not up there very often. I’d venture a guess that their use would be prohibited, but I’d have to defer to the state on that,” said O’Malley.

I then called officials at the state, and they deferred to the city on the subject. So, the answer to that question, at least for now, remains a bit of a mystery.

Perhaps, though, it's the mystique of the quarries makes them a even more attractive spot for swimmers. Not only can you defy gravity, but also the law.

So, if you’re adventuresome, don’t mind a hike, and aren’t concerned with the possibility of breaking the law, keep the quarries in mind for a swim. Just don’t tell anyone you heard it from me.

Watch a video Austin made last summer at the Concord Quarries:

Related Program