Saville Dam

Barkhamsted, Connecticut
Saville Dam, a remarkable engineering marvel nestled in the heart of Barkhamsted, Connecticut, stands as a testament to human ingenuity and it is still used.
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About This Location

Saville Dam, a remarkable engineering marvel nestled in the heart of Barkhamsted, Connecticut, stands as a testament to human ingenuity and serves as a vital lifeline for the region. This earthen embankment dam, adorned with intricate masonry work, holds back the waters of the Farmington River’s eastern branch, creating the breathtaking Barkhamsted Reservoir.

The dam’s grandeur is immediately apparent as you approach it. Stretching 1,950 feet in length and rising to a towering height of 135 feet, it is a commanding presence against the backdrop of the Farmington River’s tranquil waters. However, what truly sets Saville Dam apart is its aesthetic design. Unlike many utilitarian structures, this dam follows a graceful convex curve, an artistic touch that enhances its visual appeal.

As you explore the dam, you’ll be captivated by the upper gatehouse tower, often described as a ‘castle’ or a ‘chapel.’ This architectural gem not only serves its practical function but also adds a touch of elegance to the dam’s overall appearance. It’s no wonder that Saville Dam has become one of the most photographed destinations in Litchfield Hills and beyond.

Yet, the true significance of Saville Dam lies in its role as the guardian of the Barkhamsted Reservoir. This colossal body of water, with a staggering volume of 36.8 billion US gallons, serves as the primary water source for Hartford, Connecticut. It’s no exaggeration to say that the reservoir quenches the thirst of a city and sustains the lives of its residents.

The story of Saville Dam dates back to 1927 when the Metropolitan District Commission embarked on a mission to secure the land that would later be home to this engineering marvel. Construction began in earnest in 1936, with the dam’s completion in May 1940, at a cost of $10 million. It was named in honor of Caleb Mills Saville, the chief engineer behind this ambitious project, who had played a pivotal role in its successful realization.

The Barkhamsted Reservoir, held steadfastly by the Saville Dam, didn’t reach its full capacity until 1948, but it has since become a symbol of resilience, resourcefulness, and the enduring bond between human communities and the environment.

For visitors, the Saville Dam offers more than a glimpse into the world of civil engineering; it provides a serene setting for picnics, relaxation, and the enjoyment of Connecticut’s natural beauty. The vast grassy area overlooking Lake McDonough, just across Route 318, invites you to unwind, take in the stunning surroundings, and appreciate the legacy of the Saville Dam—a testament to human innovation and the enduring harmony between nature and civilization. In recent years, Saville Dam has gone viral on Instagram and has become a favorite location among photographers locally and from afar.

Location

Address: Saville Dam Road, Barkhamsted, Connecticut
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.910611, -72.953667
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.910611, -72.953667
Parking Notes: There are two parking lots at both sides of the dam along Saville Dam Road. Parking is free and ample.

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