The Berkshires Blog

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Discover the Freshwater Adventures of the Berkshires

The warmth of late spring and summer is here and that can only mean one thing – it’s time to enjoy the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams of the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. From high-elevation rocky brooks and cool ponds to the big lakes and rivers that fill the valley, there are endless opportunities to enjoy water-filled adventures this summer. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular.

Boat Rentals

One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to enjoy the lakes in the Berkshires is with a boat rental from Onota Boat Livery or U-Drive Rent-a-Boat. Located in Pittsfield on the shores of Onota Lake and Pontoosuc Lake, these boat rental operations give you the chance to take control of your own adventure for the day and explore the hidden coves and shorelines of two of the region’s best lakes. If you’d rather fish than cruise, Onota Boat Livery has a fully stocked bait and tackle shop so you can pick up what you need before hitting the water.

Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

Kayaking & Whitewater Rafting

If the excitement of swift-moving rivers is more your style, you’ll find it in the whitewater of the Deerfield River. Each spring and summer, kayakers and whitewater rafters head to the Deerfield River for one of the East Coast’s premier whitewater destinations, just a few miles east of North Adams, in Charlemont. Both Crab Apple Whitewater and Zoar Outdoor run whitewater rafting trips on the Deerfield River. Also offering whitewater experiences is Berkshire East.

Unlike other whitewater destinations in the Northeast, the excitement of kayaking or whitewater rafting on the Deerfield River isn’t restricted to spring. The water flows in this section of the Deerfield are controlled by the Fife Brook Dam, a few miles upstream. In a normal summer, the dam releases water on schedule almost daily, meaning that once a day the Charlemont section of the Deerfield has perfect whitewater conditions. It also means that later in the day, the rush of water subsides and there is a gentler flow. Crab Apple Whitewater and Zoar Outdoor take advantage of this by offering opportunities to raft the exhilarating whitewater when the dam releases, or to book a beginner, or intermediate rafting trip later in the day when the current is not as strong. Ask about renting inflatable kayaks for exploration on the quieter sections of the river! No matter your skill level or thirst for adventure, there is a whitewater rafting or kayaking trip waiting for you.

Berkshire Canoe and Kayak Scenic Tours also offers guided tours on the Housatonic River, the main vein of water that weaves through the Berkshires. Enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the meandering river and the nature that surrounds it. Each trip lasts around two hours, so there’s room in your family’s itinerary to enjoy non-water activities the same day as your river adventure.


The Berkshires is the home to the storied fly fishing river, the Housatonic. The Housatonic River gets its start high on the Berkshire plateau and flows through Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Sheffield, before exiting into Connecticut. The river grows from a small mountain stream to a slow-moving river by the time it hits the border, and features just about every fishing experience in between. Best fished with a guide, fly fishing on the Housatonic is an experience not to be missed.

Want to get out on the water and seek out some bass? The Berkshire Fishing Club in Great Barrington is the perfect spot to fish poppers from a boat provided by the club. Charter the Berkshires will bring you right to the fish! From bass to pike to trout, Charter the Berkshires offers clients entertainment and education on their fully rigged 25-foot boat.

If you’re looking to cool off this summer, or find a different form of adventure, the lakes, ponds and rivers of the Berkshires are here to be explored and fished by boat, kayak, or raft.