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Weekend Getaways

What is the largest artificial lake in Connecticut

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Located in western Connecticut just a few miles from the New York-Connecticut border, Candlewood Lake is the largest man-made lake in Connecticut. Candlewood Lake is not only the largest man-made lake in Connecticut, but also the state’s largest overall lake. This artificial reservoir has a total area of ​​5,420 acres or 8.4 square miles. In fact, no other lake within 60 miles of New York City is larger than Candlewood Lake. As a result, the lake serves as a popular tourist destination and offers year-round recreational opportunities for visitors and residents.

Known for its smallmouth bass and tournament fishing, Candlewood Lake is Connecticut’s favorite!

©Csouthard / Creative Commons License

Candlewood Lake’s creators envisioned it as a long-term water storage project. The dam, which contains the lake water, produces hydroelectric power for the region. Therefore, the lake required a large capacity to produce enough electricity during periods of high electricity demand. The lake accommodates this by containing a large amount of water for a lake of its size. Candlewood Lake is 11 miles long and 2 miles wide with a total shore length of 60 miles. Meanwhile, it has an average depth of 40 feet and a maximum depth of 90 feet. A “full pool” surface elevation of 429 feet gives a total water volume of approximately 167,112 acre feet. Additionally, it stores all of that water from just two sources: the Housatonic River and its small tributary, the Rocky River.

Five cities surround Candlewood Lake: Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford and Sherman. Its attractive shoreline makes the Candlewood Lake property one of the most expensive properties in the area. The lake has numerous recreational facilities that make it popular all year round. Activities available include fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and diving. Divers can explore the sunken attractions along the lake bed, including sunken cities, bridges, airplanes and vintage cars. In addition to boating and sailing, the authorities will even let you land on the surface of the lake in a seaplane! The lake attracts anglers thanks to its well-maintained stocks of smallmouth bass and largemouth bass. Other animals in and around the lake include herons, gray herons, cormorants, American mink and black bears.

History of Candlewood Lake

Candlewood Lake on a calm summer morning with boats docked and mountainside in the background, New Fairfield, Connecticut.
Candlewood Lake on a peaceful summer morning.


Native American tribes lived in the area where Candlewood Lake is now for hundreds of years. During the construction of the lake, workers found dozens of tribal artifacts, including arrowheads, hammers, war axes, and pottery shards. Wildlife in the area supported tribes such as that led by Chief Waramaug. Waramug was the chief cook – or sachem – of the Potatuck Indian tribe (now the Schaghticoke tribe) in the early 18th century. His people lived in the village of Weantinock, near present-day New Milford. Colonists eventually bought much of the land in the area from the Potatuck and other tribes to establish new colonial townships.

In the early 20th century, the area around what we know today as Candlewood Lake consisted of quiet farming communities. These included the city of Jerusalem and a small farming village in the Rocky River Valley that operated several mills. In 1904, the Connecticut Light and Power Company purchased the land where the dam for Candle Lake now sits. The company wanted to build a pumped storage facility and dam to generate electricity from hydropower. Their design represented the first proposed large-scale pumped storage power plant in the United States.

Beginning in 1926, hundreds of workers began building the levees that would form Candlewood Lake. Excavators have moved earth and lumberjacks have cut down trees to make way for the coming lake. The largest dam at the north end of the Rocky River Valley when completed was 952 feet wide and almost 100 feet high. In 1928, the water pumping facility began pumping water from the Housatonic River into the valley. About three quarters of the water for the lake came from the Housatonic, while the remaining quarter came from the Rocky River and its tributaries. Within months, Candlewood Lake was born.

Candlewood Lake: Geography

Candlewood Lake is located in Fairfield and Litchfield counties in western Connecticut. The lake runs practically from north to south. The Housatonic River flows along the northern and eastern edges of the lake. Meanwhile, the little Rocky River empties into the north end of the lake. The dam at the confluence of the Rocky and Housatonic Rivers serves as the barrier that forms the lake. Twelve islands are within the boundaries of Candlewood Lake: Green Island, Deer Island, Cedar Island, Oak Island, Rock Island, Pine Island, Sand Island, Shipwreck Island, Skeleton Island, Thistle Island, Banger Island, and City Island. “Chicken Rock, a 25-foot high rocky outcrop on the coast between Sherman and New Fairfield, is a popular geographical feature and springboard for daredevils looking to jump into the lake. Candlewood Mountain is north of the lake, just outside of New Milford.

Five cities border Candlewood Lake. Sherman sits on the northwest corner of the lake while New Milford dominates the northeast corner. Brookfield is on the east coast while New Fairfield is on the west coast. Finally, Danbury encompasses the south shore of the lake. US Routes 202 and 7 follow the east shore of the lake and pass through the towns of Danbury, Brookfield and New Milford. Numerous private residences and beaches line the shores of Candlewood Lake. These include the Candlewood Lake Club, the Sail Harbor Club and many others.

Watching the sunset over Candlewood Lake
In general, the waters of Candlewood Lake are relatively clean and well-maintained.

©Christina Marinette/

Aside from private homes and beaches, trees dominate most of Candlewood Lake’s shoreline. Deciduous and evergreen parks and hardwood forests grow almost to the water’s edge. You can even find candlewood trees in the area, from which the lake takes its name. In general, the waters of Candlewood Lake are relatively clean and well-maintained. However, the lake has problems with overgrowth of freshwater aquatic plants such as seaweed and yarrow. Boating on the lakes and excessive seaweed can severely limit in-water visibility. In most places you can see about 20 feet down, but in some places visibility is reduced to as little as 5 feet.

Numerous fish frolic in the lake. Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass live in abundance in the waters of Candlewood Lake. Other fish you can find in the lake are trout and crappie. The lake is home to various birds including gray herons, egrets and great cormorants. You can even find the occasional bear hanging out near the shore or diving into the water.

Candlewood Lake: reviews

Candlewood Lake receives mostly positive reviews online. Most people who visit the lake report enjoying the cool, clear water and sandy beaches. There are many places to launch a boat or trailer and the lake is perfect for boating or fishing. You can also practice water sports on the lake, including jet skiing, tubing or sailing. The fall foliage creates the perfect backdrop for boating on the lake, and the water feels great on hot summer days.

Negative reviews of Candlewood Lake are rare and generally mention the same things. First, the lake can get quite crowded in the summer. That means you need to keep a clear head while swimming to avoid getting hit by speeding boats. Also, if you want to enjoy a quiet, peaceful day at the beach, avoid visiting on public holidays. Finally, while the lake has many public docks and boat access points, it has few public beaches. Most of the lake’s beaches are private, making access to the beaches difficult on crowded days unless you know someone with private properties along the shore.


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