Historic Quabbin Reservoir Topographic Maps

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Each year scores of folks head out to Quabbin Reservoir to explore the Big Lady’s waters or surrounding upland areas to either connect with nature or gain a personal sense of the areas past. Many of these visitors rely on various maps or mapping tools like the Quabbin Map for fishing DCR provides or has acquired topographic maps from of one of the many vendors and tools such as GPS untis.

Though up to date topographic maps provide a fantastic depiction of contemporary surface conditions, they are less effective at identifying older features impacted by natural or human erosion over time. This is especially true for anglers since the surface area of Quabbin Reservoir proper is mapped with a solid blue polygon leaving no indication of the lake bottom details as shown below:

Quabbin Current Topo

Current Quabbin Reservoir Topo

Even the Quabbin fishing and bathymetric (lake bottom topography) available from the state simply show the general form of the inundated landscape, not the details for former roads, building foundations, ponds, railroad tracks, etc.

Fortunately the whole Quabbin Valley area topography had been mapped at different scales dating back to the late 19th Century. Additionally, those old paper quadrangles still exist in the map files of many public libraries.

An even fortune befell us when researchers at the University of New Hampshire Library compiled an online database of scanned topographic maps for the New England and New York State.

This means topographic maps of different scales and/or production dates are available to download as digital images (mostly in jpg format) like the two excerpts shown below.

The first of these images shows the topo map of the region between the former towns of Enfield and Greenwich before the lake was constructed while the second another area with a transparent lake layer super-imposed:

Early 20th Century Quabbin Topo Excerpt

Early 20th Century Quabbin Topo Excerpt

Quabbin Topo Excerpt With Water Layer

Quabbin Topo Excerpt With Water Layer

If interested in obtaining digital copies of available historic topographic maps click on the UNH link above then search for the following maps which cover the regions now covered by Quabbin Reservoir:

30′ Quadrangle (1:125,000) is Ware, MA

15′ Quadrangle (1:62,500) is Belchertown, MA

7.5′ Quadrangles (1:24,000) there are four:

Quabbin Reservoir

Windsor Dam



Many of these maps were prepared before Quabbin was inundated while others were just after and therefore show the reservoir surface water level hiding the subsurface contours …


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