Lake Cochituate, Massachusetts, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - New England - Massachusetts - Greater Boston -

Also known as:  Cochituate Reservoir

Lake Cochituate in the Greater Boston region of Massachusetts is a popular recreational lake just a short distance from the city. The lake, less than 20 miles from Boston Harbor, is made up of three connected ponds that for nearly 100 years provided water to the city. Now retired to recreational lake status, the old reservoir has settled into a life of leisure, providing recreational activities to a large number of residents and visitors. In addition to fishing and boating, the 600+-acre lake provides numerous walking and hiking trails, a large day-use state park, water sports, and swimming and sun bathing to those who visit its shores. Located in a heavily populated area, Lake Cochituate is an ideal day or weekend destination among city dwellers. The Massachusetts Turnpike even crosses the lake between its North and Middle Ponds.

A favored lake for boating, the public launch sites at Cochituate State Park receive a steady stream of powerboat and sailboat launches on warm summer days. The Middle Pond, as it is called, is popular for sailing, windsurfing and swimming. Water skiing is limited to the South Pond only, which can be reached by means of a tunnel that will accept smaller boats. Jet skis are not permitted on any of the lakes. Canoes and kayaks are seen most days skirting the shorelines, much of which is still wooded and natural. Access to the North Pond is achieved by going underneath the turnpike channel. This passage is far larger than the one to South Pond, often called ‘the keyhole’ due to the tight fit it offers larger power boats. South Pond access actually uses an original tunnel under the old Saxonville Branch Railroad. The passage was once much higher, but the dam that controls water levels has been rebuilt twice to increase storage capacities, leaving barely enough room for many boats.

Fishing is considered excellent at Lake Cochituate. The lake contains white perch, largemouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel, black crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill, yellow bullhead, white sucker, golden shiner, American eel and several other species of panfish and baitfish, along with stocked rainbow trout, broodstock salmon, northern pike and tiger muskies. The lake is considered one of the best in the state for trophy-size pike and muskie, with ice fishing extending the season for those anglers seeking these large game fish. Each basin of the lake is considered to have its own specialty fish, and wise local fishermen know where to go to catch their favored prey. There is a fish consumption warning in effect, particularly for bass and eels, due to PCB contamination. Some dredging is now going on to remove these contaminants from the bottom sediments. Indeed, because of pollutants introduced into the lake from a US Army facility on South Pond and several former factories in an old industrial park near the shore, several groups are actively working to ensure cleanup and prevent further damage to the lake’s environment. The corporate headquarters of Boston Scientific is still situated on Middle Pond.

Although some of the lakeshore is privately owned, the majority is public land. Several parks grace the shores, the largest being Cochituate State Park. Besides picnic areas, playgrounds, boat launch and sand beach, a concession offers hourly and daily rentals of canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and rowboats, plus a ‘Kids Canoe & Kayak Summer Camp’. On the shore of South Pond, the Town of Natick leases a section of the state park, called Pegan Cove Park, which is managed by the Natick Conservation Commission and the Natick Recreation and Parks Commission. Although swimming and boating are not permitted from Pegan Cove Park, the area is popular for hiking, walking leashed pets, biking, fishing, and picnicking; cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating are favorite winter sports. The hiking trails connect with those in Cochituate State Park and also those in the Cochituate Brook Reservation located between the Middle and South Ponds. The planned Cochituate Rail Trail (CRT) is a proposed multi-use trail which will extend from the Village of Saxonville in Framingham to Natick. An active group of conservation organizations works together to assure that the lake and its environs continue to improve.

The name Cochituate means “the torrent”, or “the place of rushing water”. That name was reserved for a band of Native Americans who lived along the the much-smaller Long Pond, but the name apparently originated with the rapids at the outflow to Cochituate Brook. The first dams in the area were built around 1720, joining the two basins of Middle Pond when water levels rose. The original four lakes, plus three additional ponds eventually were connected in 1863 behind the enlarged dam to provide water to the City of Boston via a 14-mile aqueduct. The reservoir system was a model of ingenuity: the successive ponds helped to filter sediments as the water flowed through them. A ‘gatehouse’ at the outlet incorporated a sink-filter to further remove sediments before feeding the water into the aqueduct system. The connecting water tunnels were sealed in 1951 when Boston stopped using the reservoir as a water supply. The North and South Ponds have a maximum depth of 69 feet, while the two basins of Middle Pond are 60 feet on the larger and 30 feet on the smaller basin. The ponds have a combined shoreline of over 12 miles.

There is no camping on Lake Cochituate. Occasionally, lodgings may be found in the form of private rentals on the few miles of private shoreline. Real estate is sometimes found for sale, but most is in the form of existing properties in this prime location. The nearby towns of Natick, Framingham and Wayland all offer hotels, motels, guest cottages, small inns and bed-and-breakfasts, so it is possible to stay near Lake Cochituate for a lengthy vacation. If you find yourself with recreational desires in the Boston Metro area, Lake Cochituate is the perfect destination.

Things to do at Lake Cochituate

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • State Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Lake Cochituate

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Chain Pickerel
  • Crappie
  • Eel
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • White Perch
  • Yellow Bullhead
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Cochituate Photo Gallery

Lake Cochituate Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Mass. Dept. of Environmental Management

Surface Area: 614 acres

Shoreline Length: 12 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 154 feet

Maximum Depth: 69 feet

Completion Year: 1863

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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