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Otis Reservoir

Birding in Massachusetts

Otis Reservoir
Otis, Massachusetts 01253
Otis Reservoir webpage

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Berkshire County

Otis Reservoir (Berkshire Co.)
Coordinates: 42.160173, -73.057675
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About Otis Reservoir
The lake was originally formed across three ponds in 1865, by a dam across the Fall River, a tributary of the Farmington River created by the Farmington River Power Company. It was used for water storage, ensuring a steady supply of waterpower for mills along the Farmington River. In the early part of the twentieth century, the rise of the automobile led to the development of many seasonal cottages along the lakeshore. Building took place along most of the lakeshore and on many inland lots. These cottages were fairly inexpensive, being purchased by middle-class people: bankers, barbers, tradesmen, construction contractors, and others. A trend that accelerated in the 1980s was for wealthy people to purchase cottages and upgrade or replace them with expensive second homes. This trend continues. Many people from Connecticut and New York use these as weekend or vacation homes. In addition, many have converted their cottages into year-round residences.

This huge, 1,200-acre reservoir is a study in contrasts. While it is large, it is also relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 48 feet and an average depth of about 15 feet. The southern third of the Tolland State Forest controls a third of the shoreline (primarily in the southern basin), yet the remainder is heavily developed with seasonal and permanent homes. One is likely to see canoes and cabin cruisers here on the same day. Aquatic vegetation is scarce, limited mostly to pond lilies growing in scattered clusters in the coves.

The Reservoir is drawn down 8 feet each winter. Keep this in mind during spring when it is still very low.

Boat Ramp South and Dismal Bay (3 miles)
Leave the state boat ramp and head south along the shore. This area is void of any structures and can accessed only on trails. There are numerous opportunities to observed wildlife. Keep your eyes sharp. At the far southern part of the reservoir, there is a passage into Dismal Bay. It is extremely shallow and is best explored when water levels are high. You can spend an extra hour exploring around this marsh area.

Continue North along the east side of shore north of Dismal Bay. As the lake turns right you will come across your first summerhouse.

Southeast Bay (2.5 miles)
Enter Southeast Bay by following the wooded shoreline. Again this is a very isolated wooded area. As you reach the far end you will meet an in-coming stream. Now follow the north shore of the bay where numerous homes with small beaches and boat docks are. At the end of this stretch is a point of land, mile 5.5, with homes on Lands End Drive.

East Shore (3.5 miles)
Turn north at the point and begin the long paddle north. Pass to your west a small island and then Clark Island, which is much larger and part of the State Forest. At mile 6.5 you will see to the west the passage to Southwest Bay. The entire shore north is filled with homes, small docks, small beaches, and many boats. At about mile 8.2 you will enter a bay to the northeast. At 8.5 miles a streams comes in whose source is Big (Benton) Pond. This stream is very shallow but in high spring waters it may be possible to paddle. Now paddle west to a small point of land at mile 9.0.

West Shore to Kibbe Point (2.4 miles)
Follow the shore westward into a small bay where West Shore Road follows and next turn southward following a wavy shoreline once again filled with homes. A point of land at 10.2 miles is where Hayre Island is with a solitary house. Travel house and pass a small island to your east (or left) at mile 10.8. At mile 11.0 are Bay Point and a small bay. Finally you will reach Kibbe Point at mile 11.4.

Southwest Bay (3 miles)
Head west from Kibbe Point. Note that the south side of the passage is Tolland State Forest. Follow the shore to the northwest passing many homes and docks. At about mile 12.0 you enter a bay between Gate Island and the mainland. At 12.2 miles is North Gate Island Road. You should be able to pass under the road and continue north to new outlet dam on Tolland Road. At the west end of the dam is the alternate put-in at mile 12.5. It’s a good place of a break and a short walk on the dam.

Head south along the west shore. At mile 12.9 you will come to the private Camp Overflow. Pass between the shore and a small island at mile 13.0. Follow wavy shore as homes give way to woods and Tolland Road. At mile 13.8, an entrance to a marshy shallow bay can be entered in the State Forest. Turn north and at mile 14.1 a swimming beach is a good stop in the State Forest. Reach the Point of land at mile 14.4 and turn south (right) toward the boat ramp.

Head south down between Clark Island and the mainland for 0.6 miles back to the State Forest boat ramp mile 15.0.
From Otis Reservoir webpage