Flood Risk Management
Tully Lake is located on the East Branch of the Tully River in Royalston, Massachusetts, and is a part of a network of flood damage reduction dams on tributaries of the Connecticut River (including sister dam Birch Hill Dam). Constructed between 1947 and 1949 at a cost of $1.6 million, it was first operated during the New Year's Flood of 1949 before it was completed. It's function is to reduce flood stages in Athol, Orange and other communities along the Millers River, and in conjunction with other Corps dams reduce flood stages along the Connecticut River.
The Reservoir Regulation Team (RRT), located at the Corps' New England District Headquarters in Concord, Mass., is the "nerve center" for all Corps-operated dams in New England. Using radio and satellite communications, RRT constantly monitors river levels and weather conditions and directs the operation of the dams during high flows. Click here for current water levels at Tully Lake.
In April 1987, two storms dropped about 6 inches of rain, raising the water level to over 35 feet at the dam, utilizing 62% of the storage capacity. It is estimated that Tully Lake prevented over $3 million in damages to downstream property from this one storm.
Tully Dam has prevented more than an estimated $25.6 million in cumulative flood damages over the life of the dam.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers invites you to come relax at Tully Lake. There are a variety of outdoor recreation activities for you and your family. Although the dam was built primarily to reduce flood damages on the Millers and Connecticut Rivers, the 1,300-acre reservoir area provides a place for you to get away from it all and connect with nature.
The 7.5-mile Mountain Bike Trail explores Tully River and Long Pond. There are 2 trail heads on Doane Hill Road, one near the campground entrance and one at the Canoe Launch entrance. The trail is relatively difficult and not recommended for beginners.
The trail is mostly a single track with few hills. The challenge is biking through the rocky parts and over narrow bog bridges. The scenery is beautiful, however, so it is worth taking your time!
Tully Lake is a great place for canoes and kayaks to quietly explore shallow coves and fascinating wetlands. Small motor boats (10 horsepower limit) can be launched at the Boat Ramp. Canoes and kayaks can be launched at the Boat Ramp or at the Tully River Canoe Launch.
Life Vests, also called Personal Floatation Devices, are required safety equipment in every boat. State law requires one Life Vest for each person in a boat. From September 15 through May 15, Life Vests must be worn in canoes and kayaks. Children under 12 must wear Life Vests at all times. We encourage everyone to always wear their Life Vest!
Rentals: Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the Tully Lake Campground during the camping season. Visit www.tullylakecampground.org for current pricing and information.
The Tully Lake Campground offers an old-fashioned camping experience, unique to the region. You won't be disturbed by cars and RV's here, since all campsites can only be reached by foot, except designated sites accessible to the disabled. The campground offers a table and grill at each site, clean restrooms with a shower, 2 horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, and canoe and kayak rentals.
The campground is managed by The Trustees of Reservations. The campground can be reached at (978) 249-4957. Off season, please call (978) 248-9455. Visit www.tullylakecampground.org for complete pricing, reservation policy, maps and other information.
Boy Scout Andy Bockus created the Tully Lake Disc Golf course as an Eagle Project. While researching the game of disc golf he toured other local courses to prepare a layout for Tully. Many different course designs were proposed before the decision was finalized. Andy was instrumental in providing the labor, volunteers, and materials for this course to come to life. A special thanks also to Boy Scout Troop 26 from Pepperell, MA. These scouts built the stairs on hole number 3 while working towards completion of a conservation badge. They went above and beyond with the custom stonework. Thanks Troop 26!
- Expanded 2006
Boy Scout Scott Bockus added 9 holes to the Tully Lake Disc Golf course as an Eagle Project. Scott provided labor, volunteers, and 2 donated baskets to double the size of this popular course.
Fishing and hunting are allowed on Tully Lake property in accordance with state laws. To access the current Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Laws, click here.
Picturesque views are enjoyed on the 4-mile Lake Trail encircling the lake and renowned Doane’s Falls. More adventurous hikers can tackle the 22-mile Tully Trail. The trail connects local attractions such as The Ledges, Jacobs Hill, Royalston Falls, Royalston and Warwick State Forests, and the awesome Tully Mountain. Wildlife viewing and scenic views draw people to hike the 7.5-mile Mountain Bike Trail along the Tully River and Long Pond.
The Recreation Area makes a relaxing day-trip by providing picnic tables, grills, horseshoe pits, a small playground, a boat ramp, and toilets. There is also a field area where you can run around or play catch.
Be aware that the picnic area does not have running water for drinking or washing hands, so be sure to bring your own beverages and consider bringing hand wipes.
Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and pet waste must be properly disposed. Disposable pet waste scoops are available next to the bulletin board.
There is no designated swimming area at Tully Lake, but swimming is allowed according to the Title 36.
Enjoy crisp, frosty air while snowshoeing or skiing the marked trails (ungroomed). Discover animal tracks and find out who's making them and where they've been. Feel invigorated and beat the winter blues by getting outdoors this season.
- The Recreation Area is fully open from May to October. The upper gate will remain open for winter visitors.
- The Campground is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and weekends until Columbus Day.
- The Canoe Launch is open from April to November.
- The trails and Disc Golf Course are open year round, as conditions allow.
- Facilities may be closed during flood storage events.
Reservations and Fees
Campground: The Tully Lake Campground is managed by The Trustees of Reservations. For pricing and reservation procedures, visit www.tullylakecampground.org
Picnic Shelter: May be reserved for $40 per day. When it is not reserved, it may be used at no charge on a first-come basis. Located in the Recreation Area, the shelter seats about 44 people including 2 wheelchairs, and is commonly used for family reunions, birthday parties, and other group get-togethers.
Recreation Area: FREE! The Recreation Area offers picnic tables and grills, a small playground for young children, and a horseshoe pit. Bathrooms are provided, but there is no running water.
Boat Ramp: FREE! Located in the Recreation Area, the Boat Ramp is used to launch motor boats, as well as canoes and kayaks. There is a 10 HP limit. Please obey parking signs.
Canoe Launch: FREE! The Tully River Canoe Launch is located on Doane Hill Road near the campground, and is used to launch canoes and kayaks.
Special Events: Range in price from $50 and up. If you are interested in holding a special event, you may apply in writing 60-days in advance. There is a fee for special events, and the amount depends on the event. Contact us for more information.
The 1,262-acre Tully Lake property is managed to sustain a healthy ecosystem for future generations. The thriving biodiversity of the Tully River Valley and the interconnections of our forests, wetlands, waters, and wildlife are valued and managed for the long term.
If you get a moment to wander around, come out and visit us. You can take in the vast beauty of this area by hiking our trails or boating on the lake and river. The area is full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered!
Nearby natural sites have intrigued visitors for many years. Doane’s Falls located on Lawrence Brook is a series of waterfalls that once powered grist and saw mills. Today it is preserved for its natural beauty. Not far away is Spirit Falls. These elusive falls are most interesting in the spring when runoff turns them into a tumbling madness, careening down into Long Pond. The Ledges, Jacobs Hill, and Royalston Falls are other sites local to Tully. These properties, along with Doane’s and Spirit Falls, are managed by the Trustees of Reservations, the nation’s oldest land trust. These natural formations can be explored along marked hiking trails.
The Tully River Valley provides vital habitat to a wide variety of wildlife. Although Tully Dam was constructed by 1949, it wasn't until 1966 that a "summer recreation pool" was created, now known as Tully Lake. Since then, the dam has provided a warm water fishery supporting populations of largemouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, black crappie, hornpout, and bluegills.
Tully Lake is home to a wide variety of wildlife, from tiny insects and song birds, to large mammals such as deer and moose. Although the reservoir can flood 1,140 acres at full capacity, most of the time it simply provides wildlife habitat along with outdoor public recreation.
Fifty-five percent of the reservoir area is wetlands, providing habitat for fish, waterfowl, song birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals such as beaver, mink and otter. The rest of the property provides habitat for upland species such as deer, coyote, fisher, owl, fox, racoon, skunk, porcupine, rabbit, and squirrel.
Tully Lake partners with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to best manage wildlife habitat from a landscape and ecosystem perspective. Examples of this partnership include logging to create patches of young forest to benefit wildlife that depend on young forests for cover, breeding, nesting or raising young.
The forest within Tully Dam's reservoir area is composed primarily of white pine, providing habitat for owls and woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, and white-tailed deer. The majority of white pines regenerated in abandoned 19th century fields. Beneath the fields lies a sandy till left by glaciers over 10,000 years ago, which favors the growth of white pine trees. If you are fond of natural history, more can be explored by hiking our interpretive 1-mile “Story Trail” located at the recreation area.
An 11-acre area of old field white pine forest located south of the lake was harvested to create locally uncommon and much needed young forest wildlife habitat.
To best manage these resources from a landscape and ecosystem perspective, the Corps of Engineers recently completed a natural resource inventory and management plan with technical advice from Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife staff. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is responsible for the conservation (including protection, restoration, and management) of Massachusetts' plants and animals.
The presence of young forests (1-15 years of age) is limited in Massachusetts today; however, many native species require young forest habitat for cover, breeding, nesting or raising young. Recent changes in land use practices have drastically reduced the amount of young forest habitat, causing a decline in the associated young forest dependent species.
The goal of the harvest operation at Tully Lake was to create patches of locally uncommon habitat for species that continue to experience long-term population declines such as the common yellowthroat, gray catbird, song sparrow, chestnut-sided warbler, and yellow warbler. A landscape that contains forests of different ages as well as wetlands, grasslands and shrublands provides diverse habitat and supports a higher diversity of plant and animal species.
Over 700 acres of wetlands at Tully Lake serve to purify water, provide wildlife habitat, and slow flooding. Water passing through wetland vegetation is purified of toxins and sediments. The lush vegetation and nutrients in wetlands provide food and cover to a rich diversity of wildlife. Wetlands also absorb and slow water, releasing it gradually and reducing flooding.
A spruce bog, more commonly found in northern New England, lies in an isolated kettle hole formed by melting glacial ice. Sundew and pitcher plants can be found amongst the cranberries in the spillway field.
Cultural resources are physical remnants of human history, such as Native American cutting implements, early American settler foundations, and other historical artifacts. These remnants of our culture's past are inevitably linked to our "natural resources", because they tell a story of how humans depended on the environment for food, shelter, and a way of life.
As you walk within the Tully Dam reservoir area, you may discover the remains of an old homestead, a grist mill, or a church. As you consider how people lived before the days of refrigeration, supermarkets, and fast-food, perhaps you will realize that we are no different than ancient peoples in our dependence on nature. Although most of us do not grow our own food, milk our own cows, or butcher our own meat, we depend on somebody else to do that for us. And they in turn depend on clean water and air, healthy soil, and verdant pastures to provide food to the world.
A good place to get a taste of Tully Lake's cultural resources is to walk "An Ordinary Story" Trail. It starts at the Recreation Area parking lot by the bulletin board, and has several interpretive signs about both our natural and cultural resources.