Gardner Lake, situated on the border between Bozrah, Montville, and Salem in southeastern Connecticut, is home to Gardner Lake State Park which is located on the lake’s south shore in Town of Salem. The park was added to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) long list of park properties in 2001. The lake is natural in origin, though a 168 foot long earthen dam raises the water level 4 feet, bringing the average depth to 14 feet and providing a surface area of 529 acres. It reaches its deepest point at 39 feet near Minnie Island State Park, which is both the only island in the lake and Connecticut’s smallest state park at 0.88 acre.
The lake is named after the Gardner family, who originally owned much of the land in the area. In February of 1895, a grocer by the name of Thomas LeCount decided he wanted to move his house. Rather than dismantling and rebuilding it, he decided to wait until winter and pull his house across the lake. He got about 100 yards off the south shore of the lake when the house slipped into a large snow bank. Thomas could not right the house without breaking the ice. Eventually, he decided to leave it for the night and come back in the morning to solve the problem. Overnight, the mill operators drained some of the lake’s water for power. This caused the house to crack through the ice, pitching over at a steep angle. It stayed there until spring, and sank into 15 feet of water when the ice thawed. For many years the second story and attic remained above water looking much like a lighthouse. Children fished from it in the summer and skated through it in the winter. Some fishermen claim that on quiet nights they can hear mermaids playing the piano that sunk with the house.
Since 1993, the DEEP has stocked the lake with walleye, whose population continues to expand, and which join excellent populations of bull head and catfish. The boat launch on the southern shore was paved and lined in the fall of 2008, providing parking for 54 vehicles. Boat speeds on the lake are limited to 6 mph from sunset to 8:00 AM.