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At first glance, it seems like there is nothing around Buckley Dunton Lake, near Becket in western Massachusetts - that is, nothing but trees and wildlife. It's relatively small, only 161 acres, and shallow, just 10 feet deep, and its shoreline is completely undeveloped. There is hardly a building in sight. It is just a peaceful little lake in the woods. Step back, however, and a different picture emerges.
Buckley Dunton Lake is in the middle of some of the most beautiful countryside in Massachusetts. Tucked away in the Berkshires, it is completely surrounded by the October Mountain State Forest. At 16,500 acres, it is the largest state forest in Massachusetts, and Buckley Dunton Reservoir is its largest lake. There are campgrounds and hiking trails, and the Appalachian Trail passes through the state forest, very near the lake. The Appalachian Trail extends from Maine to Georgia and follows the ridgeline of Walling and Becket Mountains next to the lake.
In 1967, Soil Conservation Services dammed Buckley Dunton Reservoir for flood control. Before the lake was impounded, the land was forest, so the resulting fish habitat is excellent. There are plenty of stumps and submerged brush for the fish to hide in, and Buckley Dunton Lake has both plentiful and large chain pickerel and largemouth bass. There are also healthy populations of pumpkinseed, brown bullhead, and golden shiner to challenge anglers.
There is no actual boat ramp at the lake, but there is a gravel area near the dam to launch small fishing boats, canoes, and kayaks. Buckley Dunton Lake's quiet nature makes it an ideal lake to explore by canoe and kayak. Paddlers can glide near the beaver lodges and watch herons fish in the shallows around the lake. Nearby, the Massachusetts Audubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is also a great place to canoe and see beavers and birds. There are many beaver lodges along Yokun Brook and over 1,314 acres of hardwood forests, meadows and wetlands to explore.
Perhaps Buckley Dunton Lake's best attraction, however, is its location. The lake is literally in the center of the Berkshires, so it is close to everything. Each year, tens of thousands of visitors flock to the Berkshires to enjoy the region's natural beauty and its well deserved reputation as a center for the arts. The area is home to museums and galleries, along with the Tanglewood Music Festival. Tanglewood is the summer home of the Boston Symphony and it plays host to world famous musicians every season.
Visitors to the Berkshires can treasure hunt in the many antique shops or enjoy the snap of a crisp apple from one of the region's orchards, spending the night in a historic bed and breakfast. There are also plenty of vacation rentals, including some in the state forest near Buckley Dunton Reservoir. For people that fall in love with the Berkshires and want to stay, there is real estate available. In the winter, skiing and winter sports are available nearby.
The Hancock Shaker Village is a great day trip from Buckley Dunton Lake. Located in the northwest corner of the Berkshires, the village was an actual Shaker Community until 1960. When the Shaker Central Ministry made the decision to close the community, they sold the land and buildings to the group that opened the village as a museum. The Shakers originated in Manchester, England in 1747, and fled to the colonies to avoid persecution. Believing in racial and gender equality, celibacy, pacifism, and confession of sins, the Shaker's might be best known for the beautiful simplicity of their furniture and the hymn, Simple Gifts. Visitors to the Hancock Shaker Village can tour the buildings and grounds where the Shakers lived and worked.
Buckley Dunton Lake is a quiet, peaceful lake sometimes only interrupted by the slap of a beaver's tail. At its heart, the lake illustrates the lines of the Shaker hymn: "Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free." It is a gift to visit Buckley Dunton Reservoir.
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