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East branch of the Quabbin, looking north in early spring

"Quabbin." The area was originally inhabited by the Nipmuck Indians, and the name, it is believed, is a Nipmuck word meaning "where the waters meet." To call it unique is inadequate, as are all words that attempt to describe it. Twenty-five thousand acres of water and fifty-six thousand acres of forested land combine to create the wild Quabbin Reservation, separating the Pioneer Valley and Western Massachusetts from the more densely populated eastern portion of the state.

Looking north over Quabbin's Moosehorn Brook valley toward Mt. Monadnock

Quabbin is often referred to as wilderness, as those familiar with it can attest. Indeed, Thomas Conuel titled his book on its history, Quabbin: The Accidental Wilderness (1981; Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, MA). It is hard to believe that such a place exists in a state as heavily populated as Massachusetts, yet fifty miles west of Boston and its suburbs lies Quabbin, a vast jewel, untamed nature at its best.

Looking past Snell Island to Mt. L

According to Les Campbell, who has spent a lifetime capturing the exquisite beauty of Quabbin through photography, it seems that there are four perspectives from which we can view this special place. The first is the immense reservoir that serves as a water source for several million people living many miles away, the result of a remarkably complex and costly engineering effort nearly a hundred years ago. The second is the historical human perspective: the lives of the residents of the villages and towns who were displaced when the reservoir was created in the early 1900’s, and the lives of their predecessors, the Nipmuck Indians, who inhabited the area prior to the arrival of white people. The third perspective is Quabbin as a wildlife preserve – an unintentional consequence of the creation of the massive reservoir and protection of the watershed land surrounding it – unparalleled anywhere in New England or the Northeast. The fourth perspective is harder to define. We can perhaps call it the spiritual perspective. Quabbin offers solitude and beauty that provide respite from the trials and tribulations of every-day life. For those who are open to the experience, there comes serenity through an un-definable connection with something profoundly great. - Les Campbell, paraphrased

Winter light in Hemlocks

“Quabbin has offered me solitude and a place for reflection. I have enjoyed venturing off into a deeply wooded section with absolutely no destination in mind, just letting the forest invite me into its secret places. I would sit and observe my wandering thoughts, letting my mind take me wherever it wanted, until there was no one on the journey and no one in the forest – just the Quabbin woods.” - Paul Rezendes, photographer and author of “The Wild Within” and other works.

Hop Brook outlet

William O. Foye fished the trout brooks of the Swift River valley as a boy, and describes the magic of the waters that feed into the reservoir today: “[T]heir sounds invoke anticipation, and a sense of the primeval: the musical flow of rivulets, the shrill rushing of larger brooks, the dull roar of larger streams, the softer whisper of slow moving waters. Like the forested hills where they originate, each suggests a permanence dating at least to the last Ice Age. They bring excitement and feeling of life in earlier time, of the melting of glaciers and the return of forests. The magical sounds of streams … transport the awed listener out of the present.” - William O. Foye - Trout Waters: Reminiscences with a description of the upper Quabbin Valley (1992; Haley’s, Athol, MA)

setting moon, Middle Branch, Swift River

Naturalist and photographer John Green is one who is intimately familiar with the beauty of Quabbin. In his words, “One who is truly sensitive to the wonders of nature knows the meaning of peace.” Wonders and peace abound here.

A magical sunset, at Moore's Island cove

Storm clouds gather, with Mt. Zion in the distance

A dramatic sunrise to remember at the Pelham overlook.

Overlooking Quabbin's Swift River valley with Mt. Monadnock in the background.

An abandoned Quabbin road in Autumn light.

Twenty-five thousand acres of water; 412 billion gallons; eighteen miles long; 181 miles of shoreline; one of the largest sources of untreated drinking water in the world.

Quabbin cleanses the soul.

stillness and quiet as the winter night descends in Quabbin

Walnut Hill Tracking & Nature Center
325 Walnut Hill Rd, Orange MA 01364Phone: 978-544-6083
E-mail: walnuthilltracking@verizon.net
All photographs on this site are by Nick Wisniewski