Wenham Lake

About this Location

Wenham Lake borders the Phillips Nature Preserve to the east. Its greatest depth is 49 ft., and it encompasses a surface area of 250.6 acres. Ninety-eight acres lay in Beverly, 152.6 acres in Wenham. The total watershed area of the lake, including the lake itself, is 2,250 acres. The lake is fed by springs.

For the first two centuries after European settlement, alewives were harvested from the lake for food and fertilizer. By 1798, the alewife run was declining, and the town of Wenham acted to clear obstructions to the lake to help the annual migration. In the 19th century, the lake was stocked with land-locked salmon, white perch, and black bass. By the end of the 19th century, the alewives had become a “nuisance,” and the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the city of Salem to build structures to block the migration of alewives into the lake in 1891.

Wenham Lake is perhaps most famous historically for its ice harvesting and exporting industry. This occurred from as early as 1805 up until the last of the icehouses burned down in 1935. Two of the larger icehouses could house up to 14,000 tons of ice. the ice was packed in straw and shipped to Boston, then by ship around the world.

The lake now serves as the main public water supply for the cities of Salem and Beverly and is administered by the Salem-Beverly Water Supply Board. In 1894, the lake was connected to Longham Reservoir, and in 1910 – 1911, a canal was dug to connect the lake to the Ipswich River.

Content from J.C. Phillips Nature Preserve information page and map