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One of four scenic lakes alongside Route 100, Amherst Lake is a picturesque spot to enjoy a vacation. Every traveler along the main route through the Eastern Vermont Gateway region has likely marveled at the sight of the pristine lake directly east of the highway. It's a sight skiers on their way to the Killington/Pico ski areas north of Plymouth have seen time and again, yet it never fails to delight the eye. Of late, Lake Amherst has become more of a destination in its own right as vacationers seek out a quiet Vermont getaway. Amherst Lake fills the bill nicely.
Located only five miles from Okemo Mountain and less than 15 miles from Killington/Pico, the area around Amherst Lake is filled with outdoor winter activities. Besides downhill and cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, nearby Ludlow holds a winter carnival and several festivals to break winter's monotony. After an excellent winter experience, visitors vow to come back during the summer to take a fresh look at the lovely green scenery. They are not disappointed, even late in the year when the trees turn to red and gold.
Amherst Lake offers swimming, boating and fishing against a backdrop of some of Vermont's most beautiful hills. A no-motors lake, Amherst Lake is great for sailing, rowing, paddle-boats, canoeing and kayaking. The lake's north-south orientation creates surprisingly brisk winds at times, much to the delight of sailors and windsurfers. Although there are many cottages along the shore, the wooded landscape makes it easy to believe you are alone with the wilderness. A small marina along the north shore rents canoes and kayaks and provides fishing bait. The State of Vermont Fish and Wildlife maintains a boat launch site and fishing docks as access for non-residents.
A natural pond on the Black River, Amherst Lake's depth belies its small size. Only 80 acres, the lake reaches a depth of 90 feet and supports both cold water and warm water fish. Brook trout, lake trout, perch, pickerel, pan fish, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are caught here. As part of its trout-stocking program, Fish and Wildlife sometimes stocks two-year-old trout up to 18 inches long in Amherst Lake, creating an influx of anglers hoping for a big trout.
Off the water, a variety of warm-weather activities are available to visitors. Nearby Ludlow holds many small shops and craftsman galleries. A wealth of preserved forest land in the area provides ideal opportunities for hiking, cycling and nature observation. There are many opportunities to enjoy nature within a 20-mile radius of the lake, including Coolidge State Forest, Coolidge State Park, Okemo State Forest, Green Mountain National Forest, along with many acres of conservation-protected land. Summer near Killington/Pico offers gondola rides and an alpine water slide.
The Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival occurs each summer near Plymouth. In nearby Plymouth Notch, the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site contains several restored historic buildings and mementos of the United State's 30th President. President Coolidge grew up and married here. While on a visit to his family, then-Vice-President Coolidge received word that President Warren Harding had died unexpectedly and was sworn into office here by his father - a notary public.
Amherst Lake is one of two natural lakes formed along the Black River in Windsor County. Little is said about the lake in local histories, but the Gazetteer and Business Directory of Windsor County, VT, compiled by Hamilton Child in 1883-84 talks of the two beautiful ponds, each about a mile long, south of Plymouth and north of Ludlow. He calls them the Plymouth Ponds. The Black River has ground out a deep channel in the limestone over millennia, leaving towering cliffs and high banks along portions of the lake. At some point a small dam was constructed across the Black River where it outlets to Echo Lake, but history doesn't tell us who built it or why. A great many dams were built in the area both for flood control and for industrial hydropower. At one point in the late 1800s, gold was discovered near here, creating a short-lived miniature gold rush.
Neighboring Echo Lake holds a state park with swimming, day use, playground, campsites, fishing docks and boat launch. This popular state park was first a girls' summer camp, then a Boy Scout Camp for nearly 60 years before being transferred to the state of Vermont for Echo Lake State Park. Unfortunately, the dam prevents boating between the two lakes, but it's only a short drive down Scout Camp Road.
Vacation rentals are often found on Amherst Lake. Most are private, self-catering cottages and homes, but several country inns and bed-and-breakfasts are found in the surrounding area. Several motels are available in Plymouth just four miles away. Ludlow has a full complement of vacation rental opportunities, particularly close to Okemo Mountain. Real estate can sometimes be found along the shore on Amherst Lake. The options for an active vacation at Amherst Lake are limited only by your energy. And a campfire along the shore at the end of the day will bring peaceful closure to yet another great day. Come enjoy scenic Amherst Lake - it will quickly become your favorite!
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