Grafton County - Profile
County Seat: North Haverhill
Grafton County is a rural county and is the second largest county geographically, in the state with 1713.5 square miles or 1.1 million acres. Ninety percent of the landscape is timberland. Grafton County covers nearly one-fifth of the state. Located in the west central portion of New Hampshire it shares 89 miles of the Connecticut River with Vermont and borders Coos County to the north, Carroll County to the east, and Sullivan, Merrimack and Belknap Counties to the south. The population of Grafton County is estimated at 85,514 with a population density of 49.9 persons per square mile. Grafton was one of the five original counties and, until 1803, contained all the area now known as Grafton and Coos counties. Augustus Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Grafton, an enthusiastically pro-American member of the British government, gave the county its name. Grafton contains more inland water than any county not claiming a part of Lake Winnipesaukee. Much of this inland water is in Newfound Lake and the western third of Squam Lake. Over half the White Mountain National Forest is in Grafton County as is Franconia Notch State Park and Cardigan State Park.
There is one city, Lebanon, thirty-eight towns and one unincorporated township in Grafton County. Twenty-one of the towns in Grafton County have less than 1,000 people and one-third of the land is owned by either the state or federal government. One third of America's population is within one days' drive of the White Mountains, making the White Mountain National Forest one of the most heavily used in the country.
Grafton County is home to Dartmouth College and Plymouth State University. Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and four local hospitals combine to have a strong influence on employment. Due to the large recreational nature of the area, the service industries, particularly tourism, are the largest employers. This is followed by manufacturing and health service providers as the second and third major employers. Grafton County consistently has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in New Hampshire.
Due to the abundance of mountains in Grafton County as part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, winter sports are a big attraction. Cannon Mountain, Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley and Tenney Mountain host thousands each weekend who try downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snow-boarding. There is a large network of snow-mobile trails throughout the area. Summer tourists travel to see the Flume Gorge, numerous local attractions, and where the Old Man of the Mountain once stood. The Connecticut River, it's tributaries, Profile, Echo, Squam and Newfound Lakes attract boaters, swimmers, fishermen, and sightseers alike. The waters of the Connecticut River have played an important role in Grafton County's history. They powered its mills, factories, cities and towns; provided transportation for its people and goods; and irrigated much of its rich farmland. After years of overuse and abuse, today the Connecticut River and its tributaries are regaining their status as unique resources which provide habitat for fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife species. The Connecticut River watershed also provides its residents and visitors many recreation and environmental education opportunities.
Frequent sightings year round of moose, deer, turkeys and ruffed grouse draw hunters to the area's forests. Campers find many spots within Grafton County perfect for a get-away weekend. The Kancamagus Highway from Conway to Lincoln offers breath-taking views of the Presidential Range for the three-quarter million vehicles the exit "the Kanc" in Lincoln each year. Since ninety per-cent of the county is timberland, tourist also flock to the area during early fall to view the foliage.
As in the other nine counties, Grafton County has three elected commissioners, who are responsible for administering the 30+ million dollar county budget. Local governments usually consists of a volunteer board of selectmen with a paid administrator. In addition, many towns have volunteer fire departments, conservation commissions, planning and zoning boards. Public safety is ensured with the cooperative efforts of local Police, the County Sheriff, and State Police.