Quabbin Reservoir, Massachusetts, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - New England - Massachusetts - Western -

One of the country’s largest man-made public water supplies, Quabbin Reservoir dominates the landscape in Western Massachusetts. Supplying much of the drinking water to the greater Boston area, the reservoir is heavily protected by its surroundings with the aim of providing pure water to Massachusetts residents.

Completed in 1939 with the goal of a natural gravity-fed water supply suitable for a growing population, Quabbin Reservoir forced considerable change to the landscape left by early colonial settlers. Four towns disappeared beneath the waters of the new Quabbin, their ancestral graves removed to higher ground, and many of their buildings either moved or dismantled. In place of the former towns of Enfield, Dana, Prescott and Greenwich, nearly 40% of all Massachusetts residents now have a permanent water supply and a source of outdoor recreation.

Quabbin Reservoir covers more than 24,000 acres of water surrounded by 56,000 acres of protected watershed. The reservoir lies in the Swift River Valley, where three branches of the river were impounded by the Goodnough Dike and the Winsor Dam to produce the large lake. Careful planning to incorporate forested protection for the watershed assures that the water remains clean. And, although a ban on body contact with the water prohibits swimming, a good-sized park offers walking trails, bicycling and water views provided by an observation tower. Fishing is permitted in certain areas of the reservoir between May and October, with provisions for shoreline fishing offered in selected areas.

Quabbin Park, located at the south end of the reservoir, is the only area accessible by vehicle and serves as the access point for all park activities. The wooded setting houses a Visitors Center, the observation tower, miles of walking trails, cycling paths and the Quabbin Park Cemetery-the new resting place of the old settlers. Recent archeological surveys have shown that a large number of sites, both Native American and colonial habitation, need further study within the park, adding to the rich history of the region.

Surrounded by the Quabbin Reservation forests, wildlife is plentiful in the park and surrounding woods. Several islands in the reservoir are off-limits to visitors and serve as nesting areas for bald eagles and loons. Recently, biological proof of the presence of a cougar in the reservation was found, leading wildlife experts to rethink their estimates of the animals’ possible range and populations. Bird watching and sighting deer, rabbit, coyote, raccoon, squirrel and other common forest dwellers is a favored activity among visitors who bring their binoculars and hiking boots. Deer have become overly-plentiful, so a restricted deer hunt is organized each year with permits issued by lottery. With hunters restricted to specific areas, deer populations remain manageable.

Because invasive species could endanger the healthy ecosystem, strict boat inspection measures are required by law for private boats. Many avoid the issue by renting fishing boats from the Quabbin Park staff. Three staffed boat ramps are located around the reservoir. Boat motor requirements keep all boats below a 25 hp maximum. The same concern for possible infestation by invasive species has led to a complete ban on private canoes, kayaks, pontoons, inflatable boats and sailboats; kayaks and canoes can be rented from the Park. Several small ponds within the park permit hand-carried canoes and kayaks, either for fishing or pleasant paddling.

The reservoir holds a variety of healthy game fish including lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, landlocked salmon, chain pickerel, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch and smaller panfish. Either a Massachusetts fishing license or a one-day Quabbin fishing permit is required for fishing. The latter can be obtained at the boat launch sites. Landing anywhere on shore other than the designated launch sites is prohibited. Portable rest room facilities are located at these launch sites.

The surrounding hundreds of forested acres can be explored by car on the main roads or by bicycle. Bicycles must remain on the marked bicycle paths, and mountain biking off-trail is not permitted in most areas. Walking and wildlife viewing is permitted, but strict rules prevent any type of camping or activities that could make any permanent imprint on the delicate environment. Maps of the biking and walking paths are available online and at the Visitors Center. Forestry management personnel maintain the health of the forest and decree which trees must be removed. Maintaining the healthy forest offers a natural filter for any water draining into the lake. A local group called Friends of the Quabbin consists of volunteers dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation regarding both the natural and historical resources contained within the reservoir and reservation. Several of the buildings that sat on the boundary of the reservation have been preserved with house historical records and period furnishings.

Quabbin Reservoir is an interesting example of using best practices to maintain a pristine watershed. There are no private homes or forms of lodgings along the reservoir’s nearly 120-mile shoreline. However, outside of the reservation’s boundaries, a busy Massachusetts semi-suburban countryside offers every type of amenity and service. Most of Quabbin Reservation lies in the town of Petersham. The Petersham Center is a small business district among a widely-spread suburban landscape with restaurants, quaint inns and a bed & breakfast or two. The town of Ware, directly south of the reservoir, offers several large hotels, many small inns, and local guest houses.

The largest nearby city is Worcester, a major city filled with museums, art galleries and shopping venues. Among the cultural attractions at Worcester, the Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester Center for Crafts, Museum of Science & Nature, and Worcester Art Museum stand out. The surrounding area is filled with outdoor adventures such as kayaking at Athol, winter ski hills at Shrewsbury, Tower Hill Botanic Gardens at Boylston, and Old Sturbridge Village. Inns, campgrounds and unique lodging adventures and activities are found throughout this historic landscape. As this area has been settled since early in the 1700s, a great many historic points of interest and local historical societies can occupy many days of American History exploration for the history buff.

A visit to Quabbin Reservoir and Quabbin Reservation should be a priority on any visit to Western Massachusetts. It is here one can discover how progress has changed the landscape and the lives of the inhabitants. Rent a kayak and try for a trout, or simply walk the trails and enjoy the sounds of birds and the natural serenity produced by the quiet landscape. Contemplate the great age of some of the graves in Quabbin Park Cemetery and reflect on the changes to this frontier area over 300 years of settlement. Is that a fife and drum you hear, or simply the murmur of the water at the spillway?

Things to do at Quabbin Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Quabbin Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Chain Pickerel
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Quabbin Reservoir Photo Gallery

Quabbin Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation

Surface Area: 24,704 acres

Shoreline Length: 118 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 522 feet

Average Depth: 51 feet

Maximum Depth: 151 feet

Water Volume: 1,264,380 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1939

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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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