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Tucked away in the gently rolling hills of the Berkshires and surrounded by the City of Pittsfield, Onota Lake is a fantastic destination in the western region of Massachusetts. With 617 acres of water, the lake has more than enough room for boating and water sports, and anglers will find plenty of fish to challenge them. The water, however, is just the tip of what Onota Lake has to offer. The lake is close to all the attractions of the Berkshires including concerts, live theatre and festivals. Onota Lake is an ideal home base to start exploring the many reasons people have been coming to the Berkshires since the 1800's.
Onota Lake is a natural lake that was enlarged by the construction of a dam. The southern basin was the original lake before the dam. It was bordered by an old roadway that, although submerged, still separates the two basins, earning Lake Onota the nickname "two lakes in one." Onota Brook is the lake's outflow, flowing southeast to join the West Branch of the Housatonic River.
Lake Onota has a maximum depth of 66 feet and an average depth of 22 feet. It is classified as mesotrophic or moderately fertile. Established in 1985, the Lake Onota Preservation Association (LOPA) is a citizen organization created to monitor and protect the quality of water in the lake. Water levels are drawn down three feet in the fall to improve water quality, protect the shoreline from ice, and prevent flooding from spring runoff. The City of Pittsfield owns both the lake and dam and is responsible for the water levels.
The City of Pittsfield also manages Burbank Park on the eastern shore of Onota Lake. The 153-acre park has swimming beaches, a pavilion and is used for concerts during the summer. The park encompasses a quarter of the lake's shore and provides public access to the lake. There is a double concrete boat ramp with parking, giving visitors a chance to explore the lake by boat, sailboat, canoe, kayak or on water skis. The park also includes a fishing pier.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife stocks Onota Lake with brown trout, and anglers come to the lake hoping to catch a trophy. The lake also holds healthy populations of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, white perch, black crappie and bluegill. In the winter, ice fishing for northern pike draws anglers to Onota Lake.
Winter brings plenty of snow to the Berkshires, and trails for snowmobiling and cross country skiing cross the region. Some of the trails run through the Pittsfield State Forest which also has trails for hiking and biking. The state forest includes 65 acres of wild azaleas which burst into pink flowers in early summer.
The Berkshires have something to offer in every season, and in addition to the natural beauty and outdoor recreation, they are known for their cultural events and museums. The Hancock Shaker Village was occupied until it was sold in 1960 to a group that wanted to protect the village, its buildings and artifacts. It opened as a museum the following year and is a great day trip from Onota Lake. Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, is a short drive from the lake as is the Shakespeare Theatre.
Vacation rentals dot the shore of Lake Onota, particularly on the northeast and southwest shores, and real estate is available for sale both on the lake and in Pittsfield. With its beautiful fish-filled waters, gently rolling hills and plentiful cultural opportunities, Lake Onota is a perfect starting point for a Berkshires getaway.
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