Otis Reservoir

New Hartford, being a river town, even if it is not a navigable, must pay attention to what is above and below it.  One of the more important things above it; though essentially forgotten today, is the Otis Reservoir.  This reservoir controls the headwaters of the West Branch of the Farmington River and is located in Massachusetts, in Otis and Beckett. Otis was built in the 1880’s to regulate the water supply for the Greenwoods Company in New Hartford and was owned by them, giving them almost complete control of the water rights from Otis down to New Hartford, some 20 miles distant.  It covers about 1200 acres, with a watershed of 11 square miles.  Because of its distance, water took almost 48 hours to travel from the dam to the mills; consequently, Greenwoods was an early adopter of both the telegraph and the telephone, since this allowed them to communicate with the dam’s gate-keepers.  If more water was needed, or less, the flow needed to be changed two days in advance. The goal was to keep a constant steady supply of water, even in the drier summer months.  West Hill Pond, Highland (or Long Lake), and several other minor ponds were also used to regulate the water flow in the West Branch.  Greenwoods pond itself, in New Hartford, was not a regulating water body; its dam was solely a power dam, creating enough of a fall to generate power.


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