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One of the earliest of Massachusetts' iconic Great Ponds, beautiful Lake Cochichewick anchors the Town of North Andover to both its past and its future. Originally named the Great Pond, the waters served as a focal point for the 1634-chartered Cochiechewick Plantation. The name is an adaptation of the Algonquian phrase meaning 'Place of the Great Cascade' and likely referred to the rapids that adorned the many streams in the area, including Cochichewick Brook and the nearby Merrimack River. Whether there was a natural lake here originally is open to question; by the time estimates gave its size as 374 acres in 1795, industrious colonists had been damming the rivers and brooks as rudimentary water power for at least a century. Today, the lake covers 564 acres.
Local lore says that a Pennacook chief named Cutshamache sold the colonists the rights to the land for 'six pounds of currency and a coat.' The Pennacooks were friendly and helpful during the first difficult years. Eventually Cochiechewick Plantation became the town of North Andover and its Great Pond became Lake Cochichewick. Located less than 30 miles from Boston Harbor, the North Andover area was settled by farmers who eked out enough of a living from the rocky New England soil to prosper. Early histories describe a number of mills in the area, built for grinding grains, sawing timbers and operating simple machinery. The existing dam was built in 1837 to power a textile mill complex and was likely one of a succession of dams which repeatedly enlarged the size of Lake Cochichewick. By 1899, the lake was providing drinking water to the growing population. The town now protects the watershed to assure good water quality and recreational resources into the future.
Due to water quality concerns, there are no public swimming beaches along the shoreline of Lake Cochichewick. The lake is not stocked for sport fishing but panfish, chain pickerel, yellow perch and largemouth bass can be caught in its waters by properly licensed fishermen. A boat launch is located near the Water Treatment Plant at the southeast end of the lake. Permits are required and only available to township residents. No gasoline motors are permitted and no bodily contact with the water is allowed. Boats on the water are limited to 15 feet in length; paddling or rowing is preferred, although electric motors are acceptable. Canoes, kayaks, row boats and john boats are the usual way townspeople enjoy the water. Much of the shoreline is heavily forested, and few of the homes located on the lake can be easily seen from the water.
Once the preferred location for the estates of wealthy mill owners, little of Lake Cochichewick's shoreline has been developed for housing. A few small developments bloomed here before zoning changes began protection of the near-shore areas. A new condo development will provide waterside living to a larger number of area residents. The remaining stately mansions have nearly all been converted to alternate uses in private hands. A few have become preserves, or reservations as they are called here. Long range planning for the town includes attempts to develop some of the few remaining estates to conservation parkland to protect the watershed. The Stevens Estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now owned by North Andover, is a sought-after venue for weddings, events and meetings.
Weir Hill Reservation occupies 194 acres of a low ridge rising above the western shore of Lake Cochichewick and borders on the Cochichewick Brook near the dam and eastern edge of Stevens Pond directly downstream. A rail trail along the now-defunct Essex Railroad Line runs across the dam and through part of the Reservation. Dedicated to conservation, volunteers maintain several communities of native plants and trees, often through controlled burning. Birds and small native mammals are abundant. A number of trails within Weir Hill Reservation allow for walking, hiking, horseback riding and bicycling. In winter, the reservation is popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoe trekkers. Several other trails in the area are handily placed to lead outdoor fans to adventure among the fields and forests. Archeological evidence shows that Native Americans enjoyed this ridge long before the arrival of European settlers.
Although there are few places to find short-term lodgings at Lake Cochichewick, the lake is central to the downtown area. Several restaurants overlook the water. North Andover is the ideal spot for history buffs to vacation. The area is rich in early Colonial landmarks and history. The North Andover Historical Society produces guides for self-directed walking tours of the old Center City, with old homes and mansions dating as early as 1715. The Machine Shop Village contains factory remnants of the mill industries that gave North Andover its original claim to fame.
The western part of Andover melds seamlessly into the City of Lawrence. Formed in part from a northwest portion of North Andover, Lawrence took advantage to its excellent access to the swift-flowing Merrimack River. The booming industrial town that grew up along the banks of the Merrimack eventually surpassed the size of North Andover. The North Andover-Lawrence area provides all types of lodgings and guest facilities including hotels, guest stays, bed & breakfasts and quaint inns. Beautiful fall color brings a large number of seasonal visitors to the area to enjoy the autumn foliage. Quaint shops, unusual cuisine and excellent amenities assure everyone will be pleased at the end of the day.
Lake Cochichewick's careful protection and development guarantees that local townspeople will have quality drinking water for years to come. The many miles of walking trails and delightful views from atop the area's many rolling hills and ridges allow visitors to forget that busy Boston is only a few miles away. North Andover is a taste of Colonial countryside in the midst of the bustling Greater Boston Metroplex. Bostonians with a few hours to spare are missing the best of inland Massachusetts if they don't make the short trip north into the Greater Merrimack Valley region. Come spend a day or two at Lake Cochichewick.
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