Stockbridge Bowl

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View of Stockbridge Bowl

Stockbridge Bowl, also known as Lake Mahkeenac, is a 372-acre (1.51 km2) artificially impounded body of water that is 4 km (2.5 mi) north of the village of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.[1]

The lake is 1 ¾ miles long, about ¾ miles wide, and its shoreline totals six miles (10 km), two miles (3 km) of which are owned by the Town of Stockbridge.[citation needed] Stockbridge Bowl is drained by Larrywaug Brook, which is tributary to the Housatonic River.[2] At its deepest, the lake is 44 feet deep.

Stockbridge Bowl is the largest lake within the Town of Stockbridge, with a public boat ramp making the lake accessible to all, provided that any vessel being launched into the Bowl must be thoroughly washed first to remove all possible Zebra Mussel contamination. Throughout the year, the lake is extensively used by scullers, canoers, kayakers, sailers, swimmers, waterskiers, powerboaters, and fishermen. Each September, during the annual Josh Billings RunAground, a team triathlon event, the middle leg of the race requires canoers and kayakers to navigagte one and three-quarters times around the perimeter of the lake. Up to 550 teams compete in the "Josh." The first leg of the Josh is a 28 miles bike race which starts in Great Barrington; and, the final leg is a six mile foot race that begins at the water's edge in Camp Mahkeenak and ends at the main gate to the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood. The Bowl is also home to the Mahkeenak Boating Club, a venerable sailing and social club with a three-story boathouse on the western side of the lake. When not performing or practicing, many members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra enjoy a beach owned by the BSO on the northern shore of the lake. Residents of the Town of Stockbridge may use the Town Beach on the south-east corner of the Bowl.

Although as a Great Pond the lake is nominally owned by the State of Massachusetts, the maintenance of the lake is the responsibility of the Town of Stockbridge. Since 1946, the Town has been assisted by the Stockbridge Bowl Association in protecting and restoring the ecology of Stockbridge Bowl.

The Stockbridge Bowl Association has approximately 350 members who live in or near the watershed of the Bowl. The Association or "SBA" has taken an active role in promoting safe use of the lake and in controlling the quality of the lake. In 2012, the SBA spearheaded the installation of a 255 foot long diversion drain which will allow the water level in the Bowl to be drawn down 5.5 feet in the late fall. Such a drawdown has been successful in many other lakes in the Berkshires and elsewhere to limit the growth of an invasive weed known as Eurasian Water Milfoil The fout-foot diameter diversion drain cost $1 million to engineer, to get regulatory approval and to install. The SBA worked closely with the Town to raise the funds needed for this project. Richard Seltzer, President of the SBA, has noted that "The ability to achieve a 5.5 foot drawdown is a major milestone in improving and restoring the health of the Bowl. It represents a triumph of cooperation between the Board of Selectmen and the SBA."

The shoreline is also the site of more than 450 private cottages. One property sitting above the lake is the Seranak Cottage, a 34-room house owned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This was formerly the summer home of Serge Koussevitzky, the director of the Boston Symphony and the founder of the nearby Tanglewood Music Center. The lake suffers from eutrophication due to excess nutrients blamed on runoff from development and septic systems in the immediate area.[3]

The 340-foot (100 m)-long earthen Stockbridge Bowl Dam was completed in 1880. It is owned by the Town Of Stockbridge. [4][5] A 2008 inspection found the dam in "satisfactory" condition.[6]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Stockbridge Bowl
  2. ^ Housatonic River Stockbridge Stream Team, Shoreline Survey Report and Action Plan, Housatonic Valley Association and Massachusetts Riverways Adopt-a-Stream Program. May 2002. Page 6.
  3. ^ Interesting Facts about Stockbridge Bowl, Stockbridge Bowl Association website, accessed Feb 6, 2012
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ National Program for Inspection of Non-Federal Dams. Stockbridge Bowl Dam (MA 00022), Housatonic River Basin, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Phase I Inspection Report, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waltham, Massachusetts, April 1981.
  6. ^ Inventory of dams in Massachusetts, website, accessed July 15, 2010. Original source and date undetermined.

Coordinates: 42°20′13″N 73°19′05″W / 42.337°N 73.318°W / 42.337; -73.318