Pieces of History in Harriman Reservoir | Happy Vermont

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Harriman Reservoir

Pieces of History in Harriman Reservoir

The size of Harriman Reservoir is impressive, but its history is what grabs your attention. Along the reservoir’s floor are remnants of an old logging village that was flooded in the 1920s when the Deerfield River was dammed to generate power.

Harriman Reservoir, also known as Lake Whitingham, is the largest body of water located entirely within the state of Vermont. Enjoyed by boaters, swimmers, paddlers, and fishermen, the reservoir extends about 10 miles from Wilmington to Whitingham in southern Vermont.

The scenic reservoir is owned by TransCanada and is a source of hydroelectricity. Originally developed by the New England Power Company in 1922-23, the reservoir flooded the former pulpwood and lumber village of Mountain Mills, located just outside of Wilmington.

When water levels are low, you can occasionally spot submerged tree stumps and foundations from Mountain Mills. How extraordinary would it be to come across this forgotten little village?


An old postcard of Mountain Mills (courtesy of the Town of Wilmington).
An aerial view of Harriman Reservoir.
boating, fishing, Harriman Reservoir, History, swimming, Travel Tips, Whitingham, Wilmington, Windham County
  • Cedar ...
    Posted at 11:24h, 11 March Reply

    Always sad to see a way of life taken away. But,.. time marches on.

  • Erin @ I Heart New England
    Posted at 17:14h, 11 March Reply

    How interesting!

  • Erica Houskeeper
    Posted at 19:29h, 12 March Reply

    Hi Cedar – So true. I wonder how people felt about the flooding of Mountain Mills when the reservoir was developed. It’s such an interesting story.

    Hi Erin — Thanks for stopping by.

  • LC
    Posted at 03:29h, 13 March Reply

    I am very pleased to have found your blog- I grew up in Vermont and know the state quite well… and often miss it! I have returned a great many times through the years! LC

  • Erica Houskeeper
    Posted at 14:17h, 13 March Reply

    Hi LC — A fellow Vermonter! I so glad you came across the site. I really enjoyed looking at your beautiful garden photos on your blog. Very inspiring!

  • Margaret
    Posted at 01:59h, 15 March Reply

    This reminded me of the account of the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts. Jane Yolen wrote a beautiful account of the flooding of three small towns to form the reservoir in the children’s book, Letting Swift River Go. Such a strange concept to think of your hometown being underwater, isn’t it?

  • Erica Houskeeper
    Posted at 11:15h, 15 March Reply

    Hi Margs,

    I thought a lot about the Quabbin Reservoir when I was researching this piece. I’ll have to check out Jane Yolen’s book. Yes, it is so strange to think of these towns being underwater.

  • matthew houskeeper
    Posted at 13:52h, 20 March Reply

    I didn’t realize it was so large. 10 miles long is much more than I imagined

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:15h, 18 July Reply

    I read a book about the lost village under water, do you know the name of that book? GS in MA

  • Erica Houskeeper
    Posted at 02:02h, 19 July Reply

    Anonymous –
    Sorry , I don’t know the name of the book. Someone from the town of Wilmington, Vermont might be able to help you. Visit http://www.wilmingtonvermont.us/

    • Melissa Hays
      Posted at 13:05h, 20 September Reply

      I realize this question was posted over 7 years ago so I don’t know the likelihood of this reply ever being seen. But–just in case!–Sue Miller wrote a novel titled “The World Below” which refers to Mountain Mills an the reservoir.

      • Erica
        Posted at 13:11h, 20 September Reply

        Hi Melissa — Thanks for the tip! I will have to check out the novel. I am familiar with Sue Miller but I wasn’t aware of this book. Thank you! -Erica

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:24h, 20 March Reply

    The planning for the future via the way of progress by dest planned destruction can set the times back. I believe what we think we created can very well destroy the heart and soul of the original place.

    Mountain Mills Vermont past lives on under the mounds of water above it, and tear drops that now surround it.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 02:53h, 22 June Reply

    The book “The World Below” by Sue Miller talks about these submerged towns.

  • Sharon Dawson
    Posted at 14:05h, 09 January Reply

    Found some pictures on the Hoosac Tunnel Railway site that shows the remains of the railroad trestle that led from the Mountain Mills town (now recreation area) across the Harriman Reservoir. Can still see the trestles that are set into the ground in the far back corner of the recreation area to align with.
    Pictures seem to be taken a few hundred feet away from the Mountain Mills Recreation Area towards the Ferry Launch area.

    • Erica
      Posted at 21:20h, 09 January Reply

      Hi Sharon – Thanks for sharing those photos. That area is fascinating — I am always interested in learning more about it. Thanks again! -Erica

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    Posted at 09:58h, 07 January Reply

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  • Brendon Kelly
    Posted at 16:17h, 24 January Reply

    I love reading about all things Vermont. I spent my summers from 1973 until 1988 on the lake. My Grandparents were one of the only families that had a cabin/house on the lake during those years right off Castle Hill Road. We would water ski and boat from sunrise until sunset. Then have a bonfire on the beach almost every night while roasting smores. My cousins lived at the other end of the lake and we all had one of the best upbringings a child could ask for. I miss that area and lake so much.

    • Erica
      Posted at 21:13h, 24 January Reply

      Hi Brendon — Sounds like wonderful memories! That area is so beautiful, and the time you spent there as a child must have been absolutely magical. Thanks for saying hello. -Erica

  • Michael Bobee
    Posted at 18:07h, 08 February Reply

    I used to spend many weekends here with my parents and friends of the family.(1970’s) We would swim and water ski. My parents were later involved with the security & upkeep of the boat ramps, picnic and parking areas. I have very fond memories and hope I can visit again sometime.

    • Erica
      Posted at 08:35h, 09 February Reply

      Hi Michael — It’s a beautiful area. Cherish those wonderful memories! Thanks for saying hello.

  • William Hays
    Posted at 15:45h, 08 March Reply

    Lost railroads, too. The Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington, inundated by the Harriman Dam, and the Boston & Albany branch, lost to the Quabbin Reservoir in MA.

    • Erica
      Posted at 22:21h, 08 March Reply

      Hi William — Very interesting! I’ll have to look into that a bit more. Fascinating stuff, for sure! Thanks for saying hello! -Erica

  • Susan Boyd
    Posted at 15:10h, 02 March Reply

    My cousin and I are Boyd’s. Boyd’s who settled in Wilmington. (Benzil Boyd and Julia Ray Boyd). I think they are part of the group that got flooded out many years later and we are interested in researching this history of our family. If anyone knows anything, we would love to hear all about it!

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