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Barkhamsted Reservoir

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Barkhamsted Reservoir: Discovering a Connecticut Gem

Nestled in the picturesque Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, the Barkhamsted Reservoir stands as both a testament to engineering prowess and a bittersweet reminder of the sacrifices made for progress. Spanning eight miles through the heart of Barkhamsted, this reservoir, created by the imposing Saville Dam, serves as a vital water source for the city of Hartford and a captivating destination for locals and visitors alike.

The story of Barkhamsted Reservoir begins in 1927 when the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) started acquiring land for what would become a significant engineering feat. Initially referred to as Bill’s Brook Dam, it underwent a transformation and was later named Saville Dam in 1940, honoring Caleb Mills Saville, the chief engineer.

The forest and reservoir form a breathtaking backdrop to the main attraction, Saville Dam. The dark gray stone turret, featuring large wooden doors, adds a touch of magic to the landscape.

Construction commenced in 1936, amid the Great Depression, as lumber and buildings were stripped from the northern lands. The foundations for the dam were laid, and the East Branch of the Farmington River was diverted, making way for what would become the 36.8 billion gallon Barkhamsted Reservoir.

The Barkhamsted Reservoir project was not without its human toll. As the MDC acquired landholdings from local residents, the Stewart family of Hartland Hollow being the first, it faced resistance. The looming specter of the Great Depression ultimately compelled many to relinquish their homes, with the last holdouts leaving by the summer of 1936.

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S.J. Groves, a land-stripping company, played a pivotal role in clearing the valley. The remnants of Barkhamsted Hollow, intentionally flooded to facilitate reservoir construction, were reduced to empty cellar holes, marking the erasure of a once-thriving community. Despite the success of the reservoir, providing relief to the overburdened Nepaug Reservoir, it came at the cost of displacing 1,000 residents.

Standing tall at 135 feet and stretching 1,950 feet in length, Saville Dam is not just an engineering marvel but also a captivating sight. Named one of the most photographed destinations in the Litchfield Hills, it boasts stone turrets rising from the Barkhamsted Reservoir. Connecticut Route 318, known as Saville Dam Road, crosses over the dam, providing a unique perspective of this monumental structure.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Waterway 1600

Despite the highways around it being busy, the area surrounding the dam itself offers a stone walkway and a wide shoulder, inviting visitors to stroll and marvel at the natural beauty that envelopes the reservoir.

Beyond the dam, Barkhamsted Reservoir unfolds as a haven for nature enthusiasts. The reservoir provides year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation. The remnants of Barkhamsted Hollow lie submerged beneath the reservoir, adding an intriguing historical layer to the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Under Bridge 1600

The Farmington River, winding its way through the landscape, offers excellent kayaking and canoeing opportunities, beckoning adventurers to explore its waters down to New Hartford and beyond. The area, with its diverse ecosystems and scenic landscapes, stands as a testament to the resilience of nature amid human interventions.

The heart of Barkhamsted is Pleasant Valley, home to the Barkhamsted Elementary School, the General Store, the Drive-In, the Post Office, and the Town Hall. Riverton, the other village in Barkhamsted, is rich in history and boasts a National Historic Register-listed main street. The annual Riverton Fair, held in early October, is a celebration of community spirit, complemented by the beauty of the Still River and the Farmington River converging in this charming village.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Tower Close Up 1600

Often likened to a castle, Saville Dam’s unique design captures the imagination. Although not a true castle, the masonry work, including stone turrets, serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. The dam conceals the inner workings of the Barkhamsted Reservoir’s pump, adding an element of mystique to its already captivating presence.

The dam, completed in 1940 after a challenging construction process, stands as a testament to human ingenuity, overcoming the obstacles presented by the convergence of two river valleys. The nearby hills provide a stunning backdrop, making Saville Dam one of the most-photographed places in Connecticut.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Tower Birds Eye View 1600

As we stand on the shores of Barkhamsted Reservoir, we witness the intersection of history, engineering, and nature. The dam, with its imposing structure and stone turrets, tells a tale of human resilience and sacrifice. The submerged remnants of Barkhamsted Hollow add a layer of poignancy to the natural beauty that now graces the region.

Barkhamsted Reservoir emerges as not just a water source and recreational area but a vibrant ecosystem brimming with diverse plant and animal life. The juxtaposition of lush forests, meandering waterways, and expansive wetlands creates a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife observers alike, offering a tapestry of biodiversity waiting to be explored.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Tower 1600

As you venture into the forests surrounding Barkhamsted Reservoir, a rich array of woodland plants reveals itself. Beneath the forest canopy, you may encounter delicate ferns, carpeting the forest floor, alongside mosses that thrive in the shaded and moist environment. Wildflowers, painting the understory with bursts of color, add to the enchantment of these wooded realms.

Beneath the reservoir’s surface lies a hidden world of aquatic plants, contributing vital oxygen and serving as a habitat for various aquatic organisms. Submerged grasses, swaying gently in the currents, mingle with algae, creating a submerged landscape that supports the intricate web of life beneath the water’s surface.

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The presence of wetlands around the reservoir introduces a distinct habitat for wetland vegetation. Cattails, with their distinctive brown spikes, and bulrushes, standing tall in the marshy conditions, create pockets of biodiversity within these vital ecosystems.

The woodlands surrounding Barkhamsted Reservoir boast a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, each contributing to the area’s unique character. Towering oaks, majestic maples, resilient pines, and graceful hemlocks create a dynamic forest mosaic that supports a myriad of life, from nesting birds to foraging mammals.

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Along the reservoir’s shoreline, a diverse community of plants adapted to the water’s edge thrives. Hardy grasses sway with the breeze, sedges create a soft fringe along the water’s edge, and shrubs play a crucial role in stabilizing the shoreline, preventing erosion, and providing refuge for small creatures.

The open waters of the reservoir beckon a variety of waterfowl throughout the seasons. Mallards, with their vibrant plumage, share the space with wood ducks and mergansers, while the distinctive honks of Canada geese echo across the tranquil waters. Shallows and wetland areas provide a sanctuary for herons and egrets. Great blue herons, with their statuesque presence, and snowy egrets, donned in white plumes, gracefully navigate the shallows, engaging in the delicate dance of foraging. Within the woodlands that embrace the reservoir, a symphony of songbirds fills the air.

Warblers, with their vibrant hues, thrushes with melodic tunes, and sparrows contributing their cheerful chirps create a harmonious backdrop to the natural scenery. Raptor silhouettes grace the sky above Barkhamsted Reservoir. Red-tailed hawks, soaring on thermal currents, and ospreys, diving with precision to snatch fish from the water, are skilled hunters utilizing the open spaces for their predatory endeavors. In recent years, conservation efforts have borne fruit, leading to the return of bald eagles to Connecticut. The expansive habitat provided by the reservoir makes it a potentially suitable home for these majestic birds, adding a regal presence to the avian community.

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Moving silently through the wooded areas, white-tailed deer are likely inhabitants of the forests surrounding Barkhamsted Reservoir. These graceful creatures, often seen grazing in meadows, contribute to the natural balance of the ecosystem. Clever and adaptable, red foxes may be encountered both in wooded and open areas around the reservoir. Their rust-colored fur blends with the landscape as they navigate their territories with agility. Basking on logs or gracefully swimming in the reservoir’s waters, Eastern painted turtles are a common and charming sight, particularly during the warmer months. These turtles, with their distinctive colorful markings, add to the reservoir’s aquatic charm.

The reservoir’s popularity for fishing is attributed to its diverse fish species. Anglers may encounter bass, trout, perch, and other freshwater fish, contributing to the area’s allure for fishing enthusiasts seeking a variety of angling experiences. Wetland areas and streams that feed into the reservoir may host industrious beavers. Signs such as dams, lodges, and gnawed tree trunks offer a glimpse into the busy lives of these ecosystem engineers, shaping the landscape to suit their needs.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Dam 1600

Efforts to maintain the ecological balance at Barkhamsted Reservoir include a range of conservation initiatives. Dedicated conservationists and environmental organizations work tirelessly to protect habitats, manage invasive species, and ensure the sustainability of the diverse flora and fauna that call this area home.

Through habitat restoration projects, monitoring programs, and public awareness campaigns, these efforts aim to preserve the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Conservationists collaborate with the local community to foster a sense of stewardship, emphasizing the importance of coexisting with nature to ensure the long-term health of Barkhamsted Reservoir’s unique environment.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Bridge Macro 1600

As you embark on explorations along the trails, shoreline, and woodlands surrounding Barkhamsted Reservoir, keep an attentive eye and ear for the signs of life that make this region a thriving and dynamic ecosystem. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher, a passionate plant enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of nature, Barkhamsted Reservoir unfolds as a living tapestry of life waiting to be discovered. It is not just a reservoir; it’s a sanctuary where flora and fauna converge, creating a harmonious symphony of life within the heart of Connecticut’s scenic landscape.

Barkhamsted Reservoir is not merely a water source; it’s a living testament to the intricate dance between progress and preservation. The scars of displacement are softened by the lush forests and flowing rivers, inviting us to appreciate both the engineering marvels of Saville Dam and the enduring spirit of the Connecticut landscape.

What’s Nearby Barkhamsted Reservoir

Embarking on a journey from Barkhamsted Reservoir unveils a treasure trove of nearby natural wonders, each offering a unique charm. Enders State Forest, situated in Granby, beckons with its enchanting trails, revealing captivating waterfalls and serene woodlands. For those captivated by the allure of waterfalls, Blackledge Falls in Wolcott invites exploration, its cascading waters amidst a tranquil setting. Venture further to Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, where Chapman Falls presents a breathtaking spectacle, surrounded by lush greenery.

Lastly, in Norwich, Yantic Falls, with its cascading waters and scenic surroundings, offers a delightful retreat. Each of these destinations, within a short drive from Barkhamsted Reservoir, adds layers of natural beauty and exploration to a day filled with discovery.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Parking Information

Discovering the natural beauty of Barkhamsted Reservoir is made convenient with multiple parking options catering to various interests. As you approach, find easily accessible and well-marked parking lots strategically placed near key points of interest, including trailheads and scenic overlooks. Notably, a small parking lot is available near the iconic Saville Dam, offering a hassle-free entry point for those specifically interested in exploring this architectural marvel.

Barkhamsted Reservoir Photos

Check out Carefree Creative’s photos of Barkhamsted Reservoir

Barkhamsted Reservoir Address & Directions

Barkhamsted Reservoir, Connecticut

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