Dec 9, 2013, 10:12 AM
North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce
427 Main Street, Athol, MA, 01331 • (978) 249-3849
Welcome to the North Quabbin region!
This nine-town area is really someplace special; out-of-the-way and not well known as a tourist spot, yet filled with scenic traditional New England beauty. It's a perfect mixture of countryside serenity and small town bustle. There is much to do and see during each of the four seasons. Professional guides are available for the array of recreational activities listed in this flyer, most of them accessible through North Quabbin Woods. The same website has detailed information about each of the activities listed here, as well as helpful links - just use the search feature. The 448-page guidebook "North of Quabbin Revisited" is the most comprehensive source of information on these nine unique towns - Athol, Erving, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Warwick and Wendell.
A pleasing mixture of hills and flatlands characterizes what geologists call the Central Massachusetts Uplands. Tens of thousands of acres are open to the public for hiking, including several state forests and eight properties of the prestigious statewide conservation organization, The Trustees of Reservations. The marked Metacomet-Monadnock trail passes through Wendell, Erving, Warwick and Royalston; it includes the summit of Mount Grace (1,1617 ft.) in Warwick. There are numerous entry points to the Quabbin Reservoir watershed lands. For example, inside the Quabbin Gate 35, at the end of South Athol Road off Route 122 in New Salem, an old railroad bed is a favorite trail for an easy hike along the Quabbin shore. There are well-maintained trails in the Bearsden Woods Conservation Area in Athol. The recently created Tully Trail loops 18 miles encircling the largely undeveloped Tully Valley (Athol, Orange, Royalston and Warwick). The trail connects some of the regions most scenic properties and views, with trailheads at the base of Tully Mountain in Orange and at the Tully Lake campground in Royalston.
Bicycling & Jogging
Meandering over a mixture of valley flatlands and hills, the region’s paved back roads are ideal for bicycling. Mountain or “fat tire” bicyclists can appreciate gravel and dirt roads, too. Mountain bikers can explore many different habitats along the designated 7.5-mile mountain bike trail around Tully River and Long Pond. As you pedal or run by, take in the subtle beauty in the trees, gardens, houses, lakes, rivers and mountains of our villages and countryside.
Bring along a basket from home, or stop at one of the region’s well-stocked country stores for provisions, and you’ve got the makings for a perfect mealtime interlude. Stop at the historic town common, the Quabbin Overlook behind the New Salem fire station, or one of the well-maintained picnic areas, complete with tables and grills, at Laurel Lake Recreation Area in Erving, Ruggles Pond in Wendell, or Tully Lake Recreation Area in Royalston.
Fresh, clean lake and river water, at a comfortable temperature for the swimmer, is abundant in the North Quabbin Region. There are several public beaches, and with luck you’ll chance upon an out-of-the-way swimming hole. Laurel Lake Recreation Area in Erving State Forest is reached on country roads (follow signs) off Route 2 from Erving Center or off Route 2A from Wendell Depot. The beach has a lifeguard and snack bar. In Wendell State Forest, supervised swimming is available at Ruggles Pond Recreation Area, reached from Wendell Center or from Route 63 in Millers Falls (follow signs). There are public beaches on two Athol lakes – Lake Ellis and Silver Lake.
Cascades of water over rocky ledges offer a treat at any time of the year. Icy sculptures in winter, thundering drama in spring, sunny sparkling in summer, and spectacular shimmering of crystal and color in the fall foliage season. At Doane’s Falls in Royalston (a mile north of the Athol town line), Lawrence Brook drops 200 feet over exciting cascades. Take a quick look at the picturesque top of the falls, a perfect spot for shutterbugs with an attractive stone bridge as a backdrop, or hike along the pathway on the north side of the falls to the middle and bottom cataracts. Bear’s Den in North New Salem (on the north side of Neilson Road, approximately one-half mile west of Elm Street), is beautiful and rich in legend. Here, the middle branch of the Swift River has carved a small gorge through the hills creating a sparkling waterfall adjacent to granite cliffs almost 100 feet high. Hardy hikers can discover the beauty of Royalston Falls (accessible off Falls Road or via the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and Tully Trail off Route 32) and Spirit Falls, also in Royalston. A small but beautiful falls has carved out the Devil’s Washbowl at the Arthur Iversen Conservation Area in Warwick.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Millers River between Athol and Orange offers a comfortable flat-water trip, ending just above a power dam in Orange. Watercraft can be launched in Athol from the Alan Rich Environmental Park (50 Main Street) or in Orange off East River Street. see: http://millerswatershed.org/blue-trails/ There is whitewater canoeing and kayaking in the river where it forms the border between Erving and Wendell; a section known as the Farley Flats. Canoes can be launched on Route 2 about a mile west of Erving Center. The Tully Lake Campground off Doane’s Hill Road at the Tully Lake Recreation Area welcomes canoeists and also has canoe rentals available. Placid Tully Lake has a boat launch area adjacent to the picnic grounds odd Route 32. Piragis Boats & Motors in Athol rents canoes and kayaks.
The Quabbin Reservoir, open for fishing from April to October, tops the list for fishermen in the North Quabbin Region. With access from Gate 31 off Route 122, in New Salem, lake trout, bass, pickerel, landlocked salmon and hornpout are abundant. Motorboat and rowboat rentals are available to licensed fisherman, or you can launch your own craft. (Information is available from the Quabbin Visitor's Center, (413) 323-7221). Ponds listed in a Boston Globe survey of "best bets" for fishing include Lake Mattawa in Orange, Wickett Pond in Wendell and Riceville Pond in Petersham. More than three-dozen brooks and ponds in the area, including Millers River, are stocked with trout.
Small-scale agriculture is an important feature of the North Quabbin Region. The largest of the area’s roadside stands is King’s Farm on White Pond Road in Athol. Visitors are welcome at the maple sugar houses at the Johnson Farm on Wheeler Avenue in Orange and Hamilton’s Orchard off Route 202 in New Salem. Come in March, sugaring time, when the nights are cold and the days are warm, and you can watch the sap being boiled down – 40 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup! Apple blossom time in May in harvest time in September and October are perfect for visiting Hamilton’s Orchard, where you can buy freshly-pressed cider, pick your own apples (and raspberries in the summer), and amble along the marked nature trail. The Red Apple Farm, on Highland Avenue in Phillipston (off Route 2A) has a picturesque orchard with many varieties of apples and cider sold in a retail store, as well as pick-your-own raspberries and blueberries. Inquire locally, and you’ll find many people in the region raising not only vegetables but dairy goats and cows, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits, sheep, and more. During the summer months, Butterfield Park in Orange hosts a local farmers market every Thursday afternoon. The Seeds of Solidarity Farm in Orange sponsors the annual Garlic and Arts Festival featuring locally grown foodstuffs, crafts, music and more...
Dining & Lodging
Enjoy one of our Fine Dining restaurants. Rustic country eateries, snack bars, and downtown diners offer the visitor a wide choice of good food. For a good night’s rest, there’s a choice of our country inns, motels and campgrounds. To see a complete list of area restaurants and lodging places, please visit our Chamber Membership Directory.
The Lost Towns
When the Quabbin Reservoir was built in the 1930s to provide clean water for Metropolitan Boston, the Swift River Valley Towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott were taken by the state. What has been called an “accidental wilderness” was created as a watershed – 119,00 acres in all. The haunting memory of the “Lost Towns” is an important part of the North Quabbin Region’s heritage. The Swift River Valley Historical Society museum, preserving memorabilia from the lost towns, is open Wednesday afternoons in the summertime. Locater in the Whitaker-Clary House on Elm Street in New Salem, this is one of the state’s finest small museums; a visit there is an emotional experience not easily forgotten. Hikers and bicyclists easily reach the former town common of Dana from Quabbin Gate 40 off Route 32A in Petersham. For further information about the Quabbin, call the Quabbin Visitor’s Center, (413) 323-7221, or see the web site (http://www.friendsofquabbin.org).
Hunters come to the woods and meadows of the North Quabbin Region in search of the game ranging from whitetail deer to pheasant. Thousands of acres are open to hunters and trappers. The largest state forests, all of which have an abundant game population, are in Erving and Warwick. Wildlife management areas controlled but the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (with some stocking of pheasants) include the Birch Hill area (partly in Royalston) and the Phillipston and Popple Camp areas (in Phillipston and Petersham) and the Millers River area (in Athol and Royalston).
Opportunities for cross-country skiing abound in the area; include many back roads (some in state forests) that are unplowed in the winter. There are more than 10 miles of orchard trails and forest roadways at the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston. Bearsden Woods Conservation Area in Athol has ungroomed trails for advanced skiers. The Northfield Mountain Environmental Center, on Route 63 between Erving and Northfield, has well-maintained cross-country ski trails appropriately marked for skiers of all levels (rentals and lessons available).
The Fisher Museum of Forestry at Harvard Forest, Route 32, Petersham, north of the town center, has a fascinating display of dioramas depicting the evolution of area land use plus an informative nature trail through an old farm. The museum is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The L.S. Starrett Company has a small museum dedicated to the history of the firm, which has been making precision measuring tools in Athol for more than 125 years. Historical societies in each of the towns are open during the summer for limited hours. The largest in Athol (Sundays from 1-3 p.m. in July and August), Orange (Sundays from 2-4 p.m.), and New Salem (Swift River Valley Historical Society Museum are Whitaker-Clary House, Wednesdays from 2-4 p.m.)
Antique dealers, craft shows, flea markets, and tag sales – all offer the visitor an opportunity to hunt for treasure, old and new. Stained glass, pottery, weaving, knitting, scrimshaw, furniture, wooden toys, calligraphy, and patchwork are only a few of the crafts practiced by talented artisans in the North Quabbin Region. The Petersham Craft Center off Route 32 north of the town center and the North Quabbin Woods in the center of Orange both have retail stores and special exhibits. The Chamber of Commerce can provide lists of antique dealers and craftsmen. Check the ads in the Athol Daily News (especially Friday and Saturday editions) for information about church and temple rummage sales, flea markets and front yard tag sales – where one household’s junk becomes another one’s treasure.
For more detailed information please visit our other ecotourism site, www.northquabbinwoods.org
The Chamber gratefully acknowledges Royalston-resident and author Allen Young, who has allowed the Chamber to use copyrighted material throughout this website from his remarkable regional guidebook North of Quabbin, published in 1983. Pick up his 2003 update, North of Quabbin Revisited, which includes new maps and photos, for a fascinating, in-depth guide to this nine-town region.