Flood Risk Management
The dam at Westville Lake is situated on the Quinebaug River in the towns of Southbridge and Sturbridge, Mass., approximately seven miles downstream from Old Sturbridge Village. This facility is part of a network of six dams constructed and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to relieve the effects of flooding along the major rivers of the Thames River Basin.
The Corps controls the flow of the Quinebaug River through the Westville Lake dam by raising and lowering three 4' x 6' electrically operated steel gates. During flood conditions, these gates can be lowered to hold back water behind the dam until it can be safely released downstream in a safe, controlled manner. The Westville Lake dam provides flood protection for several communities along the Quinebaug River including, Southbridge and Dudley in Massachusetts and Putnam, Danielson, Jewett City, and Norwich in Connecticut.
The Reservoir Regulation Team (RRT) in Concord, Massachusetts, uses radio and satellite communications to monitor river levels and weather conditions that influence flood control. The RRT then uses this information to direct water regulation activities at New England flood control dams such as Westville Lake.
Westville Lake was placed into operation in September 1962 at a cost of $6.5 million, and has prevented more than $53.7 million in flood damages.
Westville Lake Recreation Area lies just outside downtown Southbridge, Mass. The facility's easy access distinguishes Westville Lake as a popular outdoor recreation area.
The developed park includes a three acre athletic field enjoyed by softball and soccer enthusiasts as well as the occasional kite flyer. Several picnic tables and grills are situated throughout the recreation area. Two large picnic shelters accommodate group gatherings and can be reserved for a fee. The picnic shelters have multiple tables, two large grills, electrical outlets, and a wonderful view of the lake and dam.
Anglers can find an abundance of warm water fish in the lake including large-mouth bass and panfish. The State of Massachusetts stocks the Quinebaug River above the dam with trout creating a popular fly-fishing location. For boating and canoeing enthusiasts, two boat launches provide easy access to the lake and the slow-moving portions of the river.
During the winter months, though the entry gates are closed, the recreation area remains a popular destination due to its offering of ice skating, sledding, and cross-country skiing.
Photographers, hikers, and bird watchers relish the undeveloped land at Westville Lake. The old Grand Trunk Railroad parallels the Quinebaug River and is a popular walking trail. Old Mashapaug Road and the Hobbs Brook Area are also appreciated by outdoor enthusiasts.
There are more than three miles of trails at Westville Lake. Terrain varies from the flat rail bed of the Grand Trunk to rolling hills of the Community Trail. No motorized vehicles. Open to cross-country skiers and snow shoes in winter and open year round.
Pets are welcome at Westville Lake but must be leashed at all times at this facility and their owners are responsible for cleanup and disposal of all pet waste. Waste bag dispensers are provided at key locations throughout the facility.
Interpretive programs and dam tours are scheduled throughout the year and are offered upon request.
Reservations and Fees
There is no fee to enter or use Westville Recreation Area, however there are some fees charged to reserve some park facilities. To reserve any of the following facilities or obtain a Special Use Permit, please contact the park office.
- Large Picnic Shelter - $60/Day.
Offers 10 large tables and two large charcoal grills. Capacity approx. 100 people.
- Small Picnic Shelter - $45/Day.
Offers 5 large tables and one large charcoal grill. Capacity approx. 50 people.
- Ball field - $30/Day.
Large flat ball field for field games. Water fountain nearby.
For information and pricing of special use permits for large special events, please call or email.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns and manages 578 acres of land at Westville Lake. Field, forest, and wetland environments provide habitats for a variety of wildlife species. Frequently observed mammals at the park include otter, beaver, whitetail deer, and red fox.
The recreation area and its immediate surroundings have become a popular destination for those seeking a glimpse of both resident and migratory bird species. Common loon, wood duck, and cedar waxwing are just a few of the many bird species that have been seen at various times of the year at Westville Lake.
The Quinebaug River, once harnessed for mills and factories at several locations within the park, now meanders uninhibited through forests and wetlands for several miles on its way to Westville Lake. The river and its tributaries serve as the center of activity for many species of animals.
This land is maintained not only for recreation, but for forest and wildlife resources as well. A sampling of the wildlife and forest management techniques utilized at Westville Lake include the installation of bird nesting boxes, fruit-bearing tree release projects, and habitat improvement activities. These projects help enhance the opportunities for visitors to witness up-close the wonders of nature.