Alton Bay Seaplane Base – Alton, New Hampshire - Atlas Obscura

Alton Bay Seaplane Base

Alton, New Hampshire

A stretch of New Hampshire lake water is the only ice runway in the lower 48 states that is FAA-approved. 


Thanks to the wide-open spaces of the great U.S. of A. there is plenty of room to create long earthen runways, but there is still one landing strip made purely of ice that opens up during the cold months in New Hampshire. It’s the only one of its kind that is officially recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration.  

The 3,000 feet of groomed water on Lake Winnipesaukee was first opened to airplane traffic in 2009. Known formally as the Alton Bay Seaplane Base, the landing strip acts as an important source of local attraction revenue provided by both the landing pilots and passengers and by spectators who come out to witness the slippery landings. Since the terrain is nothing more than a layer of ice, the runway is only meant for smaller planes, although it can accommodate a number of such craft.  

Pilots are cautioned not to use their brakes when hitting the ice, letting the terrain slow them naturally lest they skid out. The lake landings might seem particularly treacherous, but some pilots say they actually enjoy it. Given that the airstrip can only really exist in the dead of winter, dangerous weather is par for the course when landing on the lake; however, it often gets so bad that the strip has to be closed entirely. 

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