New England Travel Treasures: the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown
and New Salem, Mass.
Article, photo by Eric Hurwitz --
created for VisitingNewEngland.com on 6/2/2022 @newenglandinfo
Belchertown sounds like the name of a
theme park for beer lovers and New Salem brings up images of a modern
condo development for witches, but the reality is that these two
western Massachusetts towns offer some of the most incredible scenery
in New England.
Beautiful countryside first appears, but travel a few hundred yards off
the main roads and you'll find the catalyst behind all this New England
splendor: the Quabbin Reservoir. As one of the largest man-made bodies
of water and public drinking water supply resources in the United
States, the 24,539 acre Quabbin Reservoir features 181 miles of
with some truly spectacular views. Designated areas allow for some
wonderful hiking opportunities, as well as fishing, bicycling and
picnicking (sorry, no fire or grills).
Man-made almost always takes a back seat to Mother Nature, but the
Quabbin Reservoir might be an exception to the rule. Earlier in the 20
century, the decision to flood the entire area to build a public
drinking supply reservoir meant relocating people, structures and
vegetation,. The controversial move led to an incredible natural
habitat with sparse human presence. Wildlife present includes wild
turkey, white tailed deer, fox, bobcat, loons, bear, moose and birds,
including the occasional bald eagle. Quabbin Park, off Route 9 in
Belchertown (near the Ware line), stands as the best place to access
the scenic wonders of the Quabbin.
The Reservoir looks huge here, but is actually just a small part of the
entire body of water. The park's Quabbin Visitors Center offers
services and restrooms and 20 miles of hiking trails crossing the
Winsor Dam, Goodnough Dike, and the reservoir spillway. You can visit
the Visitor Center from 8:30p.m. - 4;30 p.m. daily or call 413-323-7221.
Fishing is also a wonderful Quabbin activity with the following fish
present: lake trout, brown trout rainbow trout landlocked salmon, chain
pickerel, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass, The Massachusetts
Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) requires that "All
private boats launched on the reservoir must now an intact Quabbin Boat
Seal that certifies the craft has gone through a DCR approved
decontamination process." Seals must be intact when the boats are
inspected by Boat Launch Area attendants prior to launching. For a
schedule of boat inspections/cleanings, call the Quabbin Visitor Center
at (413) 323-7221."
New Salem is also located on the Quabbin Reservoir, but also offers
some of the most heartwarming historic New England scenery to be found
in Massachusetts. There's not much to do in New Salem, but one visit to
the town center off Route 202 results in a scene that feels totally
devoid of stress and full of New England charm. The churches, community
meeting house, old homes and a village green will bring you right into
the heart of unspoiled New England. Take a refreshing walk here: This
is the New England we knew before commercial and industrial development
took a strong hold. The Quabbin Area also has a convenient location
with proximity to the scenic Mohawk Trail on Route 2 that leads to the
Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
A few towns away is West
Brookfield, another charming small New England community, that is
best known as the home of the historic Salem
Cross Inn restaurant. Additionally, vibrant college towns like
Amherst and Northampton -- with vibrant downtown districts -- are close
The Quabbin area, however, can certainly stand on its own as a primary
New England travel destination. The chance to commune with nature --
but yet so close to civilization -- is so rare these days, and
ultimately a travel revelation embraced.
For more information on the Quabbin, log onto the Quabbin
Reservoir web page.
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