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Amston Lake is between the towns of Hebron and Lebanon, near the border of Connecticut's Mystic Country and River Valley tourism regions. Jurisdiction of this 186-acre lake was divided between the two towns, leading to confusion over services and maintenance. Wanting their own identity, Amston Lake property owners formed their own tax district and bought their lake outright. Although properties along the lake were privately-owned, the lake itself had been in the hands of an estate, the last of a long chain of private owners. The new tax district started life with the unusual situation of holding a lake mortgage, since paid off.
Amston Lake is entirely private. There is no public access to the lake. All tax-paying property owners are allowed use of the lake, even those who don't have lake frontage: The Amston Lake District holds a number of properties in common for the use of all, including two lovely sand beaches, a duck pond, and seven other lake access points for boat launching. The shallow lake is noted for excellent fishing, leaving outside anglers hoping to gain access through a property owner. As 70% of the properties on the Lebanon (east) side of the lake are seasonal, many rent a cottage for a week or two in summer to try their luck with the largemouth bass, calico bass, rock bass, pickerel, eels, bullheads, pumpkinseeds, yellow perch, bluegills, green sunfish and white perch. A few trout remaining from a 2005 stocking are sometimes caught but are not common. Since 70% of the properties on the Hebron side are year-round residents, the fishing action never stops completely.
No gasoline motors are allowed on the lake, assuring peaceful fishing, canoeing, sailing and kayaking. Although about 700 property owners are listed on the tax rolls, several parts of the shoreline are undeveloped, leaving plenty of space and habitat for the abundant wildlife native to the area. Muskrats, possum, red-tailed hawks, turtles and harmless snakes are all seen regularly, and wayward beaver sometimes invade the duck pond. Migratory birds, ducks and geese show up seasonally, and residents have reported seeing wild turkey, osprey, blue herons, swans, cormorants and even a golden eagle.
Local residents take their job of caring for their beloved lake seriously. Both the Amston Lake District organization - the regulatory group - and the Amston Lake Association - the social and cultural group - work to assure water quality surveys are completed regularly and work to improve lake living for all residents. The lake association sponsors a number of activities such as boat parades and children's activities throughout the year.
Because of its central location, Amston Lake visitors and residents can find many off-lake activities to enjoy. Nearby the Air-Line Trail extends a side spur down to the lake area. The Air-Line Trail State Park is a 50-mile hiking path that follows the old railway founded by a previous owner of the lake, Phineas Turner. The popular trail skirts such natural areas as Raymond Brook Marsh, Salmon River State Forest, Greyville Falls Park and, of course, the Amston Lake Dam. The trail is suitable for walking, cycling and, in some areas, horseback riding. In winter, it is used for cross-country skiing and, in the State Forest portion, snowmobiling.
Those yearning for a night on the town can easily head for Hartford, only about 30 miles away. Hartford has every possible entertainment and activity visitors can desire. Some popular spots are the Mark Twain House and Museum, Connecticut Science Center, The Children's Museum and the famed Hartford Stage Theater. About 30 miles to the south, Groton welcomes with its sea breezes and several accessible beaches. The Submarine Force Museum, home of the USS Nautilus, will delight submarine buffs. Nearby Mystic holds both famed Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium. In between Hartford and Groton/Mystic are a wealth of state parks and forests, fabulous fall foliage, local craft and antique shops and farm stands offering the freshest in local produce.
Amston Lake has a long history of settlement. Chief Uncas, made famous by James Fenimore Cooper in his tale "Last of the Mohicans", and his tribes used the area as hunting lands. The first dam was built in 1735 across the unnamed tributary outflow of what was then known as North Pond to power a grist mill. A hundred years later an ironworks furnace occupied the site. By 1850, Phineas Turner had established three large and successful silk mills along the tributary to Raymond Brook. He rebuilt the dam, raising the lake seven-and-a-half feet, and doubled it in size to power the huge 44-foot waterwheel that ran his three factories. Turnerville, as Turner called the settlement that grew up around his factories, at one time held more than 30 homes, boarding houses, a store, and landed its own post office - of which he was the Postmaster. By the time of his death in 1903, the market for silk ribbons had passed its heyday and the business closed in 1897.
The next owner was Charles Ams, who promptly renamed the settlement and the lake after himself: Amston. Charles Ams was a successful industrialist until he attempted to produce the Ams-Stirling automobile at Amston. The automobile was plagued with design flaws and was unsuccessful. After two years and a grand total of 24 vehicles, all of which were returned for repairs, the business quietly folded for lack of investment capital. One thing that Ams did do was begin raising ducks on the three small mill ponds left from the Turner mills. Ams was far more successful in this hobby than he had been in the automobile business, likely because ducks come programmed to reproduce. One of these duck ponds still exists at Amston Lake.
Although Amston Lake is totally private, vacationers can still come here to enjoy the clear waters and the excellent swimming and fishing. A number of private lodgings are available for rent at the lake, both by the week and for longer lease. Some real estate is usually for sale, but little new development is being approved at present to protect water quality. Amston Lake is an ideal getaway for vacationers who need to be close to the metropolitan area but wish to fish or swim after a hard day at work. Come sample all the Amston Lake area has to offer. You'll quickly decide that perhaps owning a piece of the lake is in your future.
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