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Lake Fairlee is a lake where memories are made. The 450-acre lake in the Eastern Vermont Gateways region is a natural lake, enlarged by damming a tributary of Ompompanoosuc River in 1939. Actually, Lake Fairlee is the second water body to hold the Fairlee name; nearby Lake Morey was originally called Fairlee Pond. This tends to confuse those not familiar with the region. Both lakes were once part of the town of Fairlee - a typical New England town that included a large amount of acreage. Lake Morey was near the business district of Fairlee and Lake Fairlee about five miles to the southwest of town. A ridge of hills separated the two locations and the town split in two, with West Fairlee, Post Mills and Thetford a separate entity altogether. They inherited Lake Fairlee.
All types of water sports are enjoyed at Lake Fairlee except personal watercraft - banned by the Sate of Vermont. Residents and visitors alike enjoy sailing, wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. Although there are a number of summer cottages and year-round residences along the lake, much of the shoreline is still wooded as large areas of the lake are owned by summer camps. Since 1906, at least nine children's camps have held sessions on Lake Fairlee; four are still in operation.
Lake Fairlee is an excellent fishery: rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and perch from the lake have all been represented on the state size records. The town of Thetford along the southeast shore provides a boat launch for local residents, and the state Fish and Game Department owns a public boat launch on the northeast shore along the highway. Huge trout are caught in Lake Fairlee, with the inlets of Middle Brook and Blood Brook most attractive to fly fishermen. In winter, ice fishing and ice skating are favorite activities on the lake if the ice is thick enough.
The Lake Fairlee Association works to assure good water quality and keeps a close eye for invasive species. The very active organization works with the towns to provide annual events, organize clean-up days and keep cottage owners up-to-date on current issues, new regulations and expectations. The town of Thetford maintains a recreational facility with swimming, tennis, picnic grounds and child's play area that is open to residents of West Fairlee and Post Mills for a nominal fee. Canoeing is very popular, as is kayaking in the hopes of spotting bald eagles, herons and raptors hunting their dinner near the shore.
Around Lake Fairlee, there is much public land available for hiking and cycling. The West Fairlee Wildlife Management Area, Fairlee Town Forest and Thetford Town Forest all offer limited opportunities for mountain biking and nature observation. The Podunk Wildlife Management Area is only six miles west of Lake Fairlee and offers both hiking and ponds for fishing. The Wildlife Management area is an excellent spot for bird watching, and autumn colors here are absolutely spectacular! Groomed snowmobile trails, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are all plentiful in the area near Lake Fairlee. There's even an old-fashioned drive-in theater near Fairlee for summer evening entertainment.
Lake Fairlee was likely better known a hundred years ago than now. In 1869, Thomas Henry Chubb began to manufacture fine fishing rods and sell all sorts of fishing gear from a factory in Post Mills. Chubb's father, a former commodore in the Confederate Navy, built the town's first summer hotel, the Commodore House, and helped promote the idea of marketing Thetford's scenery and climate to summer visitors. Other summer hotels were built, cottages began to dot the lake shores, and there was a boat livery - and a steamboat - at Post Mills.
A succession of summer camps for children offered healthy outdoor activities to city children, resulting in the three camps now operated by the Aloha Foundation and the YMCA Camp still in existence. One of the camps is a family multi-generational camp, where adults can relive their childhood fun and introduce the summer camp experience to their children and grandchildren. West Fairlee was once an important copper mining area. The dam is owned by the owner of the former mill site in Post Falls. An amusing tale in the area relates that, when the mill changed hands, the new owner declared he owned the water and opened the dam to let the water out. This promptly lowered the water level by seven or eight feet, leaving the camps' swim docks in shallow water. The state of Vermont had to step in and declare ownership of the water.
Vacation rentals are usually available on Lake Fairlee if reserved early in the spring. Most are private self-catering cottages rented by the week or month. Several bed-and-breakfasts are located in the area, although not directly on the lake. The area to the east near the Connecticut River is well-supplied with country inns, often with specialty dining. Real estate in the area around Lake Fairlee is occasionally available, sometimes on the lakefront itself. Only 65 miles to Rutland and 40 to Montpelier, Lake Fairlee is close enough to draw you for a weekend or a lifetime. Come experience the traditional Vermont lake vacation. Lake Fairlee's waiting for you.
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