Candlewood Lake

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Candlewood Lake
Candlewood Lake from space (NASA photo)
Location Fairfield / Litchfield counties, Connecticut, US
Coordinates 41°29′N 73°27′W / 41.49°N 73.45°W / 41.49; -73.45Coordinates: 41°29′N 73°27′W / 41.49°N 73.45°W / 41.49; -73.45
Lake type Reservoir
Primary inflows Rocky River, Housatonic River
Primary outflows Rocky River, Housatonic River
Basin countries United States
Max. length 11 miles (18 km)
Max. width 2 miles (3.2 km) widest point
Surface area 5,420 acres (21.9 km2)[1]
Average depth 40 feet (12 m)
Max. depth 90 feet (27 m)
Water volume 167,112 acre feet (206,130,000 m3)
Shore length1 60 mi (97 km)
Surface elevation 429 feet (131 m)
Islands 12
Settlements Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, and Sherman
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Candlewood Lake is located in Fairfield and Litchfield counties of western Connecticut, in the northeastern United States. At 8.4 square miles (22 km2), it is the largest lake in Connecticut.[2] The lake is bordered by five towns: Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, and Sherman.[3]

Hydroelectric dam[edit]

Candlewood Lake was formed behind a hydroelectric dam south of the Rocky River's junction with the Housatonic River. Similar to a giant battery, its main purpose is to store water during periods of low electrical demand for power generation when demand is high. Excess electricity from the valley's hydro-system is used to pump water up a hillside into the lake from the nearby Housatonic River during spring, and overnight hours in summer. The water is then allowed to flow back down into the river when extra electricity is needed in the grid, often during the region's mid-to-late summer heat waves. Power is generated by turbines that are spun by the water flowing into the river while pumping is done by reversing the impellers.

Construction for Candlewood Lake started on July 15, 1926 and was completed on September 29, 1928. Inhabitants were relocated, but many of the buildings were left standing and some farming equipment was left behind. The roads were not torn up before the valley was flooded. There was said to be a small cemetery in the areas that the lake was built, however during the construction of the lake the cemetery was relocated. Scuba divers can investigate buildings from that era, following the roads underwater, and discover artifacts from that era. Some of the notable underwater finds are model Ts, plane wreckage from small craft that have hit the lake since then, and covered bridges from that era.[4]

Power plant creation[edit]

On July 15, 1926, Connecticut Light and Power Company's board of directors approved a plan to create the first large-scale operation of pumped storage facilities in the US. By creating the lake and pumping it full of water from the Housatonic River, then letting the water pour down the penstock, and into a turbine, the utility could produce electricity.

Within a few weeks, 50 surveyors began to scout the valley, and lawyers were hired to process the deeds transferring land held by some families since before the American Revolution into the hands of CL&P. The utility had the power of eminent domain and so the farmers sold their land -- $2,356 for 53 acres (21 ha), $3,000 for 34 acres (14 ha), $100 for 3 acres (1.2 ha).

Starting in late July 1926, nearly 1,400 men labored to create Connecticut's largest body of water. About 500 men from Maine and Canada hand-felled 4,500 acres (1,800 ha) of woodland, burning the lumber in massive bonfires. Several dams were built. The largest, at the north end of the valley, measured 952 feet (290 m) wide and 100 feet (30 m) high upon completion.

On February 25, 1928, the first pumping operation began pouring water into the valley from the Housatonic. Engineers had planned on the Rocky River and its tributaries filling the valley one-fourth of the way, with the generating plant pumping the remaining three-fourths of the water out of the Housatonic. The valley filled quickly; on September 29, 1928, the water reached an elevation of 429 feet (131 m) above sea level, and Candlewood Lake was considered complete.

Popular recreation area[edit]

The lake is used year-round, although tourists primarily come during the summer months for fishing, boating, and golfing. Along its approximately 60-mile (97 km) shoreline are tourist resorts and recreational facilities, including golf courses, beaches, and marinas.

The lake is around 40 feet (12 m) deep in most places, with some deeper areas that are 80 feet (24 m). There is a 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) daytime speed limit for boats and a 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) nighttime speed limit from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise. A 6 miles per hour (9.7 km/h) speed limit is in effect within 100 feet (30 m) of shore, dock, moored vessels, and other places that the power company has marked as hazardous.

Environmental problems[edit]

The lake has an ongoing problem with the growth of eelgrass and Eurasian milfoil in shallower areas. Because of the silt kicked up by boats and the problem with water weeds and algae, the visibility in the lake is from 5 to 20 feet (6.1 m).

The level of the lake usually is lowered by 10 feet (3.0 m) over the winter in an attempt to freeze weeds. Attempts have been made to trim them with mechanical cutters on barges; this has had limited success. In December 2006, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, working with members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency treated Candlewood Lake for its eelgrass and algae issues with an organic phosphate; the initial results appeared promising. However, the full effect of the treatment, and subsequent additional treatments will not be realized for several more years.


A small village by the name of Jerusalem was submerged in the rising waters.[5]

Even before the lake's filling was completed, it became apparent it would draw summer vacationers from as far away as New York City. Land prices on what would become the shoreline had already jumped to $1,000 an acre; summer developments sprang up almost immediately.

Although it was almost called Lake Danbury, the new body of water ultimately got its name from New Milford's Candlewood Mountain - which was named after the Candlewood tree, whose sapling branches were sometimes used as candles by early settlers.

To this day Candlewood Lake is a popular tourist destination, and the area is home to many second homes of New York City residents. Common activities for lake-goers include swimming and boating. Candlewood Lake is also home to "Chicken Rock", a large rock from which people jump into the water.There is also a rope swing that allows people to swing out over the water. The 25-foot high rock, which projects into the lake from the shore on the Sherman side of the New Fairfield-Sherman border, is the site of frequent accidents.


  • Green Island
  • Deer Island
  • Cedar Island
  • Oak Island
  • Rock Island
  • Pine Island
  • Sand Island
  • Shipwreck Island
  • Skeleton Island
  • Thistle Island
  • Banger Island
Northern end of Candlewood Lake with Candlewood Mountain in Springtime

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Creating Candlewood Lake – Today in History: July 15". Connecticut Humanities. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Corrigan, Richard. "Swimming at Candlewood Lake, Connecticut". USA TODAY. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Creating Candlewood Lake – Today in History: July 15". Connecticut Humanities. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "Creating Candlewood Lake – Today in History: July 15". Connecticut Humanities. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  5. ^ Bendici, Ray. "What Lurks Beneath". Damned Connecticut. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 


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