The town of New Salem was affected greatly by the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made water supplies in the country, which supplies the drinking water for nearly half of Massachusetts. Much of the town is off-limits wilderness controlled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. On the bright side, the people of New Salem are next door to 39 square miles of reservoir on 81,000 acres of reservation land for fishing, hiking, birdwatching, hunting, biking, and other outdoor activities.
New Salem lies at the southeastern corner of Franklin County and is the largest town in the county. It is bordered by Orange to the north, Petersham to the east, Ware to the south, Pelham, Shutesbury and Wendell to the west. The town is south of MA Route 2 and the major through road is U.S. Route 202.