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'Maug Days

Spending time in the past, the present, and the future of the glorious Lake Waramaug



Photographs by Visko Hatfield and Vi Owens

Passing glistening water, gloriously restored historic homes, and multi-million-dollar mansions under construction, it’s hard to fathom that a few decades ago, Lake Waramaug was choked with algae, thick as green paint, its shorelines sparsely dotted mostly with simple summer cottages and boat houses. “Hands down, it’s the nicest lake in Connecticut.” says homeowner Doug Hamilton, driving in his convertible along the slim, serpentine roads that hug Litchfield County’s Lake Waramaug. 

Even in recent years, as many lakes have been banned for swimming and watersports on sweltering summer days because of toxic algae blooms, Waramaug has remained a gleaming exception, due to the diligence of two organizations: the Lake Waramaug Task Force, formed in 1975, and the Lake Waramaug Association, honoring its 100th anniversary this summer.

“There’s so much to celebrate,” says association board member Richard Kleinberg, whose children mark the third generation of his family that’s grown up here. The nonprofit group is looking to increase its membership, and plans a centennial picnic on July 22 from 5:30 to 9, where all are welcome. Other commemorative events include creating an online lake history archive, planting 100 trees, and saving 100 acres around the lake. “There’s never been a more important time than now to preserve our land,” says Kleinberg. “Development is happening at an unprecedented rate, and we need to protect this unique natural setting.”

(Pictured Susie Payne and Richard Kleinberg––board members of the Lake Waramaug Association.)

Meanwhile, the Task Force continues its fascinating work to curb the growth of algae and weeds. “To think this used to be a dying lake, it’s something, how far we’ve come,” says Tom McGowan, the task force’s executive director, touring a new hatchery on Arrow Point that’s raising zooplankton – microscopic organisms that eat algae. He explains that the state made a disastrous mistake in the 1970’s when they released alewives into the lake, which they had thought would make for bigger and more sport fish, such as bass. Instead, the alewives ate the zooplankton - natural predators of algae - and the algae “went wild.”

“The hatchery, brainchild of “our genius guy,” limnologist Dr. Robert Kortmann, began last spring raising and releasing zooplankton into the lake, and water clarity has already improved significantly,” McGowan says. With an annual budget of $250,000, funded by local, state and Federal governments as well as private donations, the task force has done a dizzying array of other things to keep the lake fresh, including: releasing 3,000 brown trout every year to eat alewives; sending scuba divers down to hand-pull harmful invasive weeds; and reducing the amount of phosphorous flowing into the lake from local farms and household cleaning products.

Perhaps most effective of all has been the layer air system, which produces a bubbling, cauldron-looking effect in spots around the lake, something local kids call “monster water.” It’s a network of 6,000 feet of piping along the lake’s bottom, connected to four aerators that, in summation, mitigate algae.

(Pictured on the right, Doug Hamilton in his wife's electric boat.)

The Roxbury writer Ann Leary says she was so impressed by the work of the task force, she based one of her characters on its members. The setting for The Children, released in paperback in June, is on a fictional Lake Waramaug, and she and her husband, the actor Denis Leary, bought a house on the lake for inspiration. They purchased the one-acre property six years ago for $1.1 million, renovated it, and sold it for $2 million last year. “I’m sort of obsessed with Lake Waramaug,” Leary says. “The old gentlemen rowing along silently every morning, the people fishing in summer, ice fishing in winter, the sunrises, sunsets; it’s all so enchanting.”

The 680-acre Lake Waramaug, named after the Indian chief in 1725, is the second largest in the state after nearby Bantam Lake, and surrounded by the towns of Washington, Warren and Kent. At various times, there have been nine inns around its border; all but one, Hopkins Inn, have been torn down and/or converted to private homes. It used to be mostly summer residents, but now people want fully heated, year-round homes, with motorboats. They love its beauty and the two private clubs on the lake.

And while it may seem exclusive, there are still opportunities for visitors to access the lake. The Lake Waramaug State Park in Kent has 72 sites on 95 acres, and rents kayaks, canoes and paddle boards, and the boat launch at the Washington Town Beach issues a limited number of permits to trailered motor boats, depending on availability. 

There’s also a little-known oasis at the southwest end of the lake called Mount Bushnell State Park, where Chief Waramaug spent his summers. It’s 214 acres of preserved land, with no signs or designated parking areas, only mystical caves and rock formations, majestic trees and songbirds. (For directions, Google it.) Looking out across the glassy clear water, McGowan clasps his hands and smiles. “I think the chief would be pleased.” 


LAKE LITANY
By Alex Burns

Candlewood Lake
5,000 acres, maximum depth 89 feet
Boating with boat dock, fishing, park, playground, picnic tables, concession stand, many public beaches. 

Bantam Lake
1,000 acres, maximum depth 26 feet
Two beaches, swimming, fishing, camping, boating, sailing. Bantam Lake Ski Club is a waterski organization. Sunfish regatta is held here every summer; Bantam Lake Yacht Club; races every Sunday afternoon;  French Cup Race over Labor Day; “around the lake” race on July 4. 

Lake Waramaug
650 acres, depth 43 feet
Camping, lake fishing, car-top boating, picnicking, Kent public beach, boat rentals (canoe/kayak). 

Tyler Lake
190 acres, depth 23 feet
State boat launch

Mount Tom Pond
Boating (non-motor), fishing, hiking (stone lookout tower at summit) , picnicking, scuba diving, public beach.

Hatch Pond
Hiking, public fishing, public boat launch

North Spectacle Lake Pond
Only accessible to lakeside property owners 

South Spectacle Lake Pond
Fishing, kayaking, canoeing. No motorboats 

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April 2018

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Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
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View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: (860)868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
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More information

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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Five Points Gallery Annex
Telephone: 917-301-4397
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust
Telephone: 860-927-1927
Contact Name: Elizabeth
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Cost: Free

Where:
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More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Harrison “Whitey” Jenkins new artwork opens on Friday April 6 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT...

Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
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More information

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Cost: Admission Free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
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More information

The Loft Gallery will host Washington CT abstract artist, April Crumrine. April’s series of brightly colored paintings will be on view from April 12 through May 20, 2018. An artist’s...

Cost: free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: (860)868-9003
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More information

Show More...
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For her senior project, Shepaug Valley High School student and artist Sierra Soletsky researched art rehabilitation programs, a topic that reflects both her love for art and her interest in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

Connecticut's vernal pools are about to fill with life! Vernal pools are used by many species and are essential to supporting the health and biodiversity of our forests. Animals that rely on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Smyrski Farm
237 Merryall Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust
Telephone: 860-927-1927
Contact Name: Elizabeth
Website »

More information

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Cost: 15.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St N
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

More information

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Cost: 25.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St N
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View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

More information

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Cost: suggested donation of $10

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Kent Art Association Gallery
21 So. Main St.
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View map »


Telephone: 860-927-3989
Website »

More information

KMR arts presents the work of renowned artist and visionary Kim Keever  Opening reception is on Saturday April 7th at 3-6 p.m.  Keever's landscapes evoke the aesthetic...

Cost: Free

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
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View map »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
44 Upland Road
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View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Harrison “Whitey” Jenkins new artwork opens on Friday April 6 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Cost: $75

Where:
Litchfield Distillery
569 Bantam Road
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free - donations graciously accepted

Where:
New Morning Market
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

More information

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Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
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View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will host Washington CT abstract artist, April Crumrine. April’s series of brightly colored paintings will be on view from April 12 through May 20, 2018. An artist’s...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: (860)868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

More information

Show More...
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