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Wachusett Reservoir

Wachusett Reservoir
View from Route 70
Location Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States
Type Reservoir
Primary inflows Nashua River, Quinapoxet River, Stillwater River, Quabbin Aqueduct
Primary outflows Wachusett Aqueduct, Cosgrove Tunnel, Nashua River
Catchment area 108 sq mi (280 km2)
Basin countries United States
Max. length 7 mi (11 km)
Max. width 1.1 mi (1.8 km)
Surface area 7 sq mi (18 km2)
Average depth 48 ft (15 m)
Max. depth 120 ft (37 m)
Water volume 65,000,000,000 US gal (0.25 km3)
Shore length1 21 mi (34 km)
Surface elevation 384 ft (117 m)[1]
Settlements Clinton, Lancaster, West Boylston, Boylston, Sterling
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The Wachusett Reservoir is the second largest body of water in the state of Massachusetts. It is located in central Massachusetts, northeast of Worcester. It is part of the water supply system for metropolitan Boston maintained by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). It has an aggregate capacity of 65 billion US gallons (250,000,000 m3) and an area of almost 7 square miles (18.2 km²). Water from the Wachusett flows to the covered Norumbega Storage Facility via the Cosgrove Tunnel and the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel. The reservoir has a maximum depth of 120 feet (36.5 m) and a mean depth of 48 feet (14.6 m).

The reservoir is fed by the Nashua, Quinapoxet, and Stillwater rivers, along with the Quabbin Aqueduct, which carries water from the Quabbin Reservoir. It is part of the Nashua River Watershed.


  • History 1
  • Recreation and fishing 2
  • Further reading 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


In 1897, the Nashua River above the town of Clinton was impounded by the Wachusett Dam.[2] 4,380 acres (17.5 km²) were flooded in the towns of Boylston, West Boylston, Clinton, and Sterling. Work was completed in 1905 and the reservoir first filled in May 1908. Its water was originally delivered to the Sudbury Reservoir via the Wachusett Aqueduct, with the Cosgrove Tunnel (completed in 1965) providing redundancy. Interconnections at the Sudbury Reservoir eventually delivered the water to the Weston Reservoir via the Weston Aqueduct; these downstream facilities were relegated to backup roles in the late 20th and early 21st century by the construction of the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and covered storage facilities.

West Boylston's prominent landmark — The Old Stone Church — was left remaining as a reminder of those that lost their homes and jobs to the building of the reservoir. It is one of the most photographed sites in the area.

When it was built, the Wachusett Reservoir was the largest public water supply reservoir in the world and the largest body of water in Massachusetts. It has since been surpassed by the Quabbin Reservoir. (See that article for a history of reservoir building in Massachusetts.)

Recreation and fishing

Because the reservoir is the water supply for Boston, not all areas around it are open to the public. Regulations designed to ensure pure water include the prohibiting of boats, ice fishing, wading, swimming, overnight camping, alcoholic beverages, littering, animals, bikes, and motor vehicles from the reservoir and abutting property.[3] These regulations are controversial to recreation and fishing proponents, who argue the rules are not needed to protect water quality. A network of fire roads provides easy access for hikers and cross-country skiers.

In 1999, the reservoir contained 12 native and 12 introduced species of fish. The limited access, combined with abundant, high-quality habitat, produced state records for brown trout, land-locked salmon, smallmouth bass, and white perch. Approximately 80% of the 37 mile (59.5 km) shoreline is usually open to angling from April 1 through November 30, depending on ice conditions.

Further reading

  • McCarthy Earls, Eamon. Wachusett: How Boston's 19th Century Quest for Water Changed Four Towns and a Way of Life. Franklin, Massachusetts: Via Appia Press (, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9825485-1-6


  1. ^ "Wachusett Reservoir".  
  2. ^ "Wachusett Reservoir". Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Wachusett Reservoir: Fishing Information". Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 

External links

  • Wachusett Reservoir Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
  • Wachusett Reservoir History Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
  • Historic Photos MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections
  • Mass Central Rail Trail Rails To Trails conversion on the Central Mass line, which was rerouted during dam construction.
  • Court order and statement of facts about MWRA facilities
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