Flood Risk Management
Barre Falls Dam is located on the Ware River in the towns of Hubbardston, Barre, Rutland and Oakham, Mass., and is a part of a network of flood risk management projects on tributaries of the Connecticut River.
Authorized by Congress in 1941, the project was completed in 1958 at a cost of $2 million. Barre Falls Dam was built by the Corps of Engineers to reduce flood damage from storms like those that devastated New England in 1936 and 1938. Barre Falls Dam is a "dry bed reservoir" since normally there is no water stored in the river. Visitors usually only see the water in the Ware River passing through the dam. However, if you visit after a large rainfall or a period of rapidly melting snow, you may see a lake stretching upstream of the dam. Its storage capacity of 7.9 billion gallons of water could fill a train of tank cars approximately 60 miles long.
During the record flood of 1987, the dam stored 5.4 billion gallons of water, approximately 72 percent of its maximum capacity. The dam prevented more than $3 million in damages to downstream communities during this one flood event.
The Reservoir Regulation Team (RRT) directs the water regulation activities for 31 flood risk management projects including Barre Falls Dam. RRT and Barre Falls Dam team members coordinate the use of radio and satellite communications and computer programs to continuously monitor river levels and weather conditions that influence water control decisions. Using these tools and first-hand observations, the Corps of Engineers can rapidly respond to the unpredictable New England weather.
During flood events, water releases at Barre Falls Dam are closely coordinated with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.
Barre Falls Dam has been a weather observation site for the National Weather Service for nearly fifty years. The staff takes daily readings of the high, low, and observation air temperatures, records precipitation (rain and snow) quantities and depths, and current weather.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers welcomes you to Barre Falls Dam located in the towns of Hubbardston, Barre, Oakham, and Rutland. Nestled within the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MDCR) 22,000-acre scenic Ware River Watershed, the area offers many recreational opportunities. There is something for everyone to enjoy: canoeing, picnicking, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseshoes, sightseeing, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, 18-hole disc-golf course, volleyball and wildlife observation. The recreational benefits are an "extra dividend" to the main purpose of this flood reduction project. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Picnicking is a very popular activity at Barre Falls Dam. The Corps maintains a small rustic picnic area for your enjoyment. The area contains twelve picnic sites with tables and fireplaces. A covered picnic shelter, with six tables, is available and may be reserved by groups for a modest fee. Wheelchair accessible sites are available.
The Corps of Engineers manage the area, rules, regulations and policies to correspond with the MDCR. The MDCR prohibits camping, swimming, and off-road/all-terrain vehicles within the Ware River Watershed, including lands owned by the Corps of Engineers. Motor vehicles are restricted to established roads. Snowmobiling, horseback riding, and mountain bike riding are restricted to designated trails.
Hunting and fishing are permitted in accordance with Massachusetts laws and regulations. The area offers both large and small game - white tail deer, bear, turkey, rabbit, and stocked pheasant to name a few.
Fishermen will enjoy the challenges of fishing for the stocked and native species of fish that abound in the Ware River and in the many smaller streams and ponds in the area.
As you drive or walk down Coldbrook Road past the cemetery, see if you can identify the trees we have labeled for self-guided tours.
In addition to recreation activities, special interpretive programs on the cultural and natural resources, water resources, water safety and flood risk management are provided by Park Rangers. Group and school tours of Barre Falls Dam are also available. Call or email for more information.
Reservations and Fees
- Picnic Shelter - $45/day. The shelter has six picnic tables (one handicapped) and two large charcoal grills and can be used on a first-come, first-served basis unless a reservation has been made. To reserve the shelter, call us to check the availability and reserve, and follow the instructions on the Application for Shelter Reservation.
- Entrance to Barre Falls Dam Recreation Area - Free
- Canoe Launch - Free
- Day Use (includes restrooms, picnic tables and grill) - Free (Bring your own charcoal)
- Disc Golf Course - Free
- Horseshoe pit - Free (Bring your own horseshoes)
- Volley Ball - Free (Bring your own ball)
Visitors to the 557 acres of Federal public land at Barre Falls Dam will find wetlands, forests, open fields, and river areas. This habitat is home to many species including songbirds, seasonal migrant birds, ravens, waterfowl, moose, whitetail deer, wild turkey, fox, and rabbits. After a short drive, visitors from the local metropolitan areas can lose themselves in the tranquility of nature. Protected from the pressures of urban expansion, the Ware River Watershed is one of southern New England's most beautiful rural areas.
Park rangers present interpretive programs during the summer to inform visitors about our history, flood control operations, recreation, and natural resources when requested by organized groups. Park rangers are always willing to assist visitors, answer questions, and accept comments or suggestions.
During the mid 1930's and early 1940's the Metropolitan District Commission Division of Watershed Management converted most of the open farm lands into red and white pine stands. Natural revegetation occurred on areas not replanted, creating a mixture of hardwood and pine forests. In order to maintain a healthy forest, Corps rangers manage the forest to provide the best habitat for a diversity of tree species and wildlife by providing food and cover. Forest management by the Corps includes thinning, pruning, harvesting timber, replanting, and natural revegetation. These practices improve timber quality, produce forest products, create food and shelter for wildlife habitat, and enhance the recreational use of the resources.
The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife maintains a wildlife management area on 490 acres of land at Barre Falls Dam. They periodically stock trout and pheasant. Their team of biologists are also tagging and tracking wildlife at Barre Falls Dam.
You can help protect the natural resources of Barre Falls Dam by observing the park rules. Please show your pride in America by being good stewards of our public lands.
Explore project lands within Barre Falls Dam, and you will see history come alive.
The Ware River Watershed has a shared history with the Quabbin Reservoir in building the largest manmade water supply in Massachusetts. To enhance and preserve the quality of Quabbin's drinking water, people in this area lost homes and property when the reservoir was made.
The remains of a massive stone-lined dam, associated mill foundations, and tailraces - good examples of a water-powered system - are located on the banks of the Ware River just downstream of the outlet channel. You can visit a mid to late 19th century cemetery that is maintained by the Town of Barre. At the southern end of the project are foundation remains from the former Village of Coldbrook Springs. Archeologists have identfied these sites as an old tavern, a fulling mill site, a sawmill, and old houses, farms, and outbuildings.
Old foundations and well sites exist throughout Barre Falls Dam and adjacent lands. These structures give us a glimpse of community life here in the 1800s and early 1900s.
It is our job to preserve these sites for future generations. Please help us preserve the historic culture of the area. Do not walk on or disturb the sites and leave remains as they are. We, the staff at Barre Falls Dam, thank you for your cooperation.