Colebrook River Lake

Last Updated: 4/2018
      I could not find a fish survey done by either state and its date.  Instead I found information for sport fish on a Connecticut state website.  Both Massachusetts and Connecticut fishing licenses accepted though Connecticut regulations apply.
      Even though most of this lake is in Connecticut, I am still including it as part of Western Massachusetts.
        WIND can be a very big problem because of the openness of the lake and because winds are funneled southward between the mountains.
        The level of the lake can vary substantially.  In the spring it can be very with a relatively short boat ramp.  In the summer and fall it can be so low that paved roads appear in some areas or will be only inches below the surface.
      The deepest areas are in the south and even at low level can be well over 130 feet deep.
        My experience has been that this lake is very large with very few people on the lake.  The West shore line is made up of woods with views of Route 8 most of the way north.  Some experienced paddlers have described this paddle as boring probably because it is so open and the paddle is just a north south paddle.
       Travel north along the shoreline.  Views of Route 8 can be seen almost all the time while traveling on the western shore.  Old roads can be seen during the summer and fall during low waters.  There are even a few fields of tall grass left over from farms many years ago.
        As you approach the north end the lake turns into a river.  At about mile 3.5 it is possible to launch a car top boat, but few people do this.  Depending on how high the river is, you can attempt to paddle up the river.  When it shallows, turn south and begin your journey down the east shore.
        The northeast shore is marked by steep forest.  There is virtually no access to any roads and very few hiking trails.  Burgess Mountain will be the peak furthest north along the shore.  At mile 4.7 a small brook enters followed by views of Babbitt Mountain.
        South of here there are a few dirt roads that I have never explored.  Let me know if you discover anything.
          At mile 6.7 enter into the most interesting cove on this lake.  If you look across the lake you will be just south of the boat ramp.  This cove is marked by interesting rocks that are an excellent place eat a meal and waste away the day.  Two streams enter here and can be explored on foot if you feel adventurous.
      Continue paddling southward. At mile 8.5 the wooded shoreline grows steep again.
       At about mile 9.5 you will be approaching a massive dam.  Even though there are no barriers, there is a 200 yard restriction on the Dam and Intake tower.  Cross over to the west shore.  At the west end of the dam a stream comes in at a small cove.
       Travel north to a second cove at mile 10.6.  Follow the steep shoreline north with views of Route 8.  Arrive back at the boat ramp.
        Skill Level:            Class 1 - Flat water
        Estimated Time:    4 to 5 hour
        Total Distance:       11.7 miles
        USGS Map: Tolland Center, MA (7.5’x15’)
Physical Features
  • Area:               826 acres
  • Max depth:       135 feet
  • Average Depth:  Varies based on flood and release
  • Transparency: 
  • Terrain Type: Wooded, Park
Fish Population
  • Trout, rainbow smelt, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white catfish
Boat Ramp
    The boat ramp is extremely large and very barren in its appearance.  Make sure you read the latest information about the lake and any restrictions. For the latest contact:
Colebrook River Lake, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 58, Riverton, CT 06065-0058
Phone: (860) 379-8234
Army Corps of Engineers
Colebrook River Lake
Colebrook River Lake Launch
Position: 42-01.30 N 73-03.04 W  ​
Boat Launch:
Boat Ramp supports all types of boats.  
The boat ramp is extremely large and very barren in its appearance.  Make sure you read the latest information about the lake and any restrictions. For the latest contact:
Colebrook River Lake, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 58, Riverton, CT 06065-0058
Phone: (860) 379-8234

Nearest Launch Address:
356 Colebrook Road, Winsted, CT 06098
Put-In Directions (26 miles, 34 minutes):
From US Route 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) take Exit 2 Lee 
  1. At the end of the ramp, turn left turn left at stop light on Route 20 East going under the Mass. Pike.
  2. Go through 2 more stoplights heading through South Lee on Route 20.
  3. At mile 7.0, turn right on Route 8 South toward Otis.
  4. At mile 12.7 pass through the center of Otis. Continue on Route 8 South.​
  5. At mile 20.6 cross the Farmington River in New Boston (Route 57 intersection). Continue on Route 8 South.​

  6. At mile 24.6 cross into Connecticut on Route 8 South.
  7. At mile 26.0 turn left into the boat ramp. ​
Large parking area.
The paved and concrete ramp can handle any type of boat.
       The Metropolitan District Commission, a company providing water and other services to the Greater Hartford Connecticut area, with the thought toward providing water resources for the future, in the 1930’s, began buying up available land in the watershed area of the West Branch of the Farmington River. Essentially, this meant the village of Colebrook River would be drowned by the waters behind a dam constructed at a narrow gorge known as “The Hogback”, just east of the Colebrook town line in the town of Hartland.
      By the middle of 1945 The M.D.C. owned 75% of Colebrook River land.  After years of work clearing, destroying buildings, and legislative actions the M.D.C began building.
      By 1955 the M. D. C., barely finished with the construction of the Goodwin Dam at Hogback, began planning for the construction of the Colebrook River Dam. In 1965, the Army Corps of Engineers took over the project, explaining that the valley and the towns below needed adequate flood protection. They cited the damage caused by the 1938 and 1955 floods. They constructed the Colebrook River Dam, dedicated on June 27, 1969. The total cost, including 7 miles of Rt. 8 in Conn. and Mass. was $14,400,000. The maximum amount of water stored behind this dam is16 billion gallons, although the normal amount is 10 billion, the rest being an emergency reserve in case of flooding.
      When the pool (as they call the body of water behind the dam) is at its maximum, (the height of the spillway on the east end of the dam) it stands at 761 feet above sea level. This gives it a water surface area of 1,210 acres, extending 6 miles upstream and into Massachusetts. This is about where present day Route 8 crosses south of New Boston. The depth of the water would then be about 200 feet. The dam that can be seen from Rt. 8 is 1,300 feet long with a maximum height above the streambed of 223 feet. An earthen dike, 1,240 feet long with the access road on top, stretches from Rt. 8 to the opposite hillside. A 243-foot high control tower houses 3 service gates and 3 emergency gates, all hydraulically operated. The controlled reservoir outlet is through a 10-foot diameter tunnel, and is 778 feet long. The drainage area served by this dam is 118 square miles.
    In the 1990s, a power generating plant was added at the dam, its output being added to our electrical grid.