Wachusett Dam

The Wachusett Dam in Clinton puts a stopper the Nashua River creating the Wachusett Reservoir. In 1897, the Nashua River was chosen over Lake Winnipesaukee, Sebago Lake, and the Merrimac River as the new water source for Boston to deal with the rise of indoor plumbing.

Six and 1/2 square miles were flooded in the towns of Boylston, West Boylston, Clinton and Sterling when they began filling in water behind the dam. When it was completed in 1905, the Wachusett Reservoir was the largest public water supply reservoir in the world.

The reservoir’s water is conveyed by the Wachusett/Weston Aqueduct to Weston Reservoir and then by pipeline to the Chestnut Hill and Spot Pond Reservoirs.

In my youth, we would stop at the dam after picking apples at a nearby orchard. The steep, downstream river banks were great for rolling down. and rolling. and rolling. There is a great fountain at the bottom of the imposing stone structure, in an idyllic stetting for a picnic.

At least it used to be.

The top of the dam has been mostly closed since 9/11. There is a fence restricting access to the great downhill rolling area. PCBs were discovered in the dam’s caulking in 2007, leading to broad restriction on access.

The setting is impressive enough to get it on the list of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.

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