Somerset Reservoir     

Last Updated: 3/2018

       In the early 1900s, the New England Power Company began intensive hydroelectric development of the Deerfield River along its entire length in Vermont and Massachusetts. A massive earthen dam was constructed in 1912-13 to create the Somerset Reservoir. Somerset Reservoir is the largest wild body of water in the state of Vermont. For many years it has been a special destination for canoeists, kayakers, and fishermen who seek a quiet, wild place to be on the water. Currently there is no waterskiing or jet skiing allowed on Somerset Reservoir, and a 10 mph speed limit is in place.
       Occasionally glimpsed by travelers on the Molly Stark Byway is a black tube that looks like a giant caterpillar crawling through the woods along the Deerfield River. This wood-staved pipeline conducts water from the Somerset Reservoir to the Searsburg Power Station, a small brick hydroelectric station (built in 1921) on the south bank of the Deerfield River near the Searsburg-Wilmington town line. Frequent travelers along the Molly Stark Byway will notice the seasonal drawdown of Harriman Reservoir in which the water line drops many feet and much of its coastline is revealed. This annual drawdown is now regulated to ensure the ecological health of local fisheries.

           The Somerset Reservoir is surrounded by National Forest land, and there isn't a cottage on it. There are stunning views of both Stratton Mountain, one of the higher points on the AT in Vermont and Mt. Snow Ski resort.
There are remnants of campsites on the six or so islands I noticed and along the NE branch of the lake.  There is Federal Forest No Fee Campground within a couple of miles.

The following was taken from the 1996 publication:
Deerfield River Project
Bear Swamp Pumped Storage Project
Gardners Falls Project
by the Federal Engergy Regulatory Commission

         The Shoreline slopes are steep to moderate, there are several islands during full pool, and 10 streams enter the reservoir. Coarse gravel/cobble/boulder covers much of the shoreline bottom of the reservoir.
          To accommodate seasonal storage, the Somerset resevoir is drawn down about 5 feet over the summer/fall period, and an additional 10 feet is draw off during the winter months.


Skill Level:    Class 1  Flat water. On windy days Class 2 with waves.

Estimated Time:    
At 3 mph 6 hours
At 4 mph 4.5 hours    
Distance for area Basin:
Total Distance: 17.7 miles
Distance can vary based on the height of the reservoir.
USGS Map: Readsboro, VT and Jacksonville, VT (7.5’x15’)

Launch Address:

South End:
Boat Ramp:
1885 Somerset Rd, Shaftsbury, VT 05262
Position: 42-58.43 N 72-56.53 W
When you reach the end of the dam, continue about 0.3 mile to the parking lot and launch area.  No Jet Skis or watersking allowed.  Speed limit 10 mph.
Physical Features:
  • Area:          1,623  acres
  • Max depth:       92 ft
  • Average depth: 24 ft    
  • Terrain Type:     Wooded Wilderness, Swamp
Fish Population
  • Unrecorded - Unknown

South End Boat Ramp
Put In and Take Out: 33.3 miles (about 54 minutes)
  1. From US Route 91 take exit 2 Brattleboro, Vermont
  2. ​Take Route 9 West toward Bennington.
  3. At mile 18.3, at the stop light in Wilmington, continue straight on Route 9 West.
  4. At mile 23.5, turn right onto National Forest 71/Somerset Road.  The road becomes gravel.
  5. At mile 24.5, pass the dam for Searsburg Reservoir on right.  Continue straight.
  6. At mile 29.5, just after the left turn on 325, cross over the Deerfield River on a small concrete bridge.  Continue straight.
  7. At mile 33.1, on the east end of the dam, continue to the parking area and boat launch.