BECKET -- Within the southeastern corner of October Mountain State Forest, and within the town borders of Becket, is a most spectacular lake called Buckley-Dunton Reservoir: 161 acres of kayaking and canoeing bliss, except perhaps on weekends during the summer. Its name comes from the old Buckley-Dunton mill, which operated nearby.
The lake is the largest body of water within Massachusetts' largest state forest, and a relatively new lake, dammed in 1967 by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service as a flood control measure. At its deepest point, it is only 10 feet, and it averages only six.
Access for kayaks is easy, the water clear and, because much of the lake bottom was forest floor some 50 years ago, it is mostly covered with stumps and boulders that offer no trouble and indeed add to the interest. A few stumps still reach the water's surface, forming miniature islands to provide a foothold for a variety of plants. The submerged stumps are benign and offer little danger, while the occasional boulder will give the kayaker quite a jolt.
The lake's elevation is some 1,750 feet, and it contains some floating plants I mostly see in bogs, bladderworts, a group of carnivorous plants that have tiny bladder-like structures on their many branched underwater leaves.
Three bladderwort species that I examine -- the common, small-floating, and purple -- appear well-fed, having creatures within their tiny bladder traps so small they are barely visible.
And while all but a few yellow pond lilies elude us, the more spectacular and sought-after fragrant water lily proliferates in the southern cove and along parts of the eastern shore. Its 3-to-5-inch white flowers never fail to summon just a couple more photographs. And to add to the enjoyment, with perseverance, you might just spy a pinkish variation from time to time. We are fortunate that the sky is a bright overcast, allowing for a better chance to capture far better images of these brilliant flowers than if it were sunny.
Summer wanes and bulrush, a reed-like plant, flourishes, as do cattails and, unfortunately, invasive common reedgrass, or phragmitites, and the occasional purple loosestrife.
As with most Northeast waterways, the lake has active beaver, and a large lodge awaits a closer look. Kingfishers patrol the shallows for shiners, and a great-blue heron searches the shoreline for frogs. Song birds are unsettlingly quiet, and except for the high-pitched "zee-zee" buzz of the handsome cedar waxwings and the plaintive "pee-a-weee" song of the wood pewee, a woodland flycatcher, we hear no voices.
Had I thought, I would have brought along a pail to gather late season blueberries -- what I do gather are delicious, and with practice it is easy to gather berries by the handful while floating.
We encounter several anglers in kayaks, prompting Tony Costello, my fellow kayaker on this trip, to wish he had brought his rod. And I imagine him with his Nikon in one hand and a fly rod in the other. Our late-August float has one drawback -- biting flies that find defenseless legs within the kayak canopies.
The north end of the lake has ducks this morning, probably female mallards, and a green heron, perching on a low branch to concentrate on movement just below the water's surface. I wonder if the kingfisher that flies to a nearby branch after catching a small fish is one of the two we saw earlier. The water is low here and in a few places I encounter difficulty paddling, but the view south is well worth it. Here, beyond the shore are red spruce, evident of our high elevation, and the nasal call of a red-breasted nuthatch breaks my concentration, wishing quiet adventures like this could last forever.
If you go ...
What: Buckley-Dunton Lake
October Mountain State Forest
Where: To reach the forest, from Route 20 in Lee head west through the downtown to Center Street. Turn right onto Center Street and then right onto Bradley. Follow signs to the entrance.
What: Canoe trip to Buckley-Dunton Lake
with Mass Audubon, Berkshire Sanctuaries
When: Sunday, Sept. 15, 9 a.m. to noon
Where: Directions given on registration
Information: (413) 637-0320, www.massaudubon.org