Little Harbor, New Castle/Rye

Little Harbor, New Castle/Rye

Rye, New Hampshire 03870

Tips for Birding

About this Location

Little Harbor is at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. It is connected to the larger Portsmouth Harbor by a narrow channel that passes under the Bascule Bridge. Little Harbor is home to a marina, a state park, and a wildlife refuge. It also has a rich history dating back to 1623, when it was the site of the first permanent English settlement in New Hampshire.

  • Little Harbor was originally called Pannaway by the Native Americans who lived there. The name means "crooked place" or "bend in the river".
  • The first settlers who arrived at Little Harbor in 1623 were sent by Captain John Mason, who had received a land grant from the Council for New England. They built a fortified fishing and trading post called Mason Hall, which was later destroyed by fire.
  • The stone breakwaters that protect the entrance of Little Harbor were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1887 and 1894. They were designed to accommodate commercial sailing schooners that needed a safe harbor of refuge.
  • Odiorne Point State Park, which covers most of the land around Little Harbor, was established in 1961. It offers hiking trails, picnic areas, a boat launch, and a science center. It also preserves the remains of Fort Dearborn, a World War II coastal defense site.
  • The Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which occupies part of the south shore of Little Harbor, was established in 1992. It provides habitat for migratory birds, endangered species, and other wildlife. It also offers opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

Last updated October 24, 2023