Photo by the Fort River Watershed Association

Towns in the Fort River Watershed:

  • Amherst

  • Belchertown

  • Hadley

  • Pelham

  • Shutesbury

Major Tributaries:

  • Plum Brook

  • Hop Brook

  • Amethyst Brook

  • Adams Brook

  • Harts Brook

What's happening on the Fort River watershed?

Click here to find out! 

Organizations working in the Fort River Watershed​:

Fort River Watershed Association

Learn More

Environmental Concerns for the Fort

The biggest environmental concern is typical of most rivers in Massachusetts - pollution and excess nutrient loading from nonpoint source runoff. In 2019, the Town of Amherst received a grant to protect the Fort River from stormwater runoff. Read about it here.

Additional Facts

Did You Know?

  • The Fort River is the longest un-damed, free-flowing tributary in MA feeding the Connecticut River.
  • 9 out of the 12 mussel species found in New England can be found in the Fort River. These mussels can filter up to 5 gallons of water per day, contributing to the health of the Fort River.
  • The Fort River was once home to the aboriginal Norwottuck tribe. In 2017, the Fort River Division and Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge held events to celebrate this heritage. For more information, check out this article.
  • In 1820, a 22-foot high stone dam was built to power a fly-fishing factory. This dam was in operation until 1953 and was removed in 2012.

What Are People Saying?

What is a challenge working with the Fort River?

“The river is largely hidden from view and on private land, which makes it hard to invest the community in its preservation.”

What is your favorite memory of the Fort River?


“Watching my kids cover themselves in mud from the banks of the river and wash it off with glee at our favorite swimming hole.”

- Brian, Fort River Watershed Association

Fort River Activities
Walk, Hike, Bike
Boating & Sailing
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Swimming is permitted in the Fort River, though it is sometimes dangerous near Amherst due to high bacteria levels. More information on safe swimming can be found here & here

Swimming locations:

  • Groff Park (Amherst)

    • For directions, click here. 

  • Off Stanley St. (Amherst)

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Walk, Hike, Bike


Walking, hiking, and biking locations:

  • Amethyst Brook Conservation Area (Amherst) is a network of trails for walking, running, dog-walking, and biking.

    • Parking available on Pelham Road.

  • Groff Park (Amherst) includes a playground, wading pool, picnic areas, and ballfields.

    • Parking is available at 72 Mill Lane. 

  • Wentworth Farm Conservation Area (Amherst) has suitable areas for walking (dog-walking especially!) and running.

    • Parking is available at Kiwanis Field at 137 Stanley Street. 

  • Emily Dickinson Trail (Amherst) is a 1-mile dirt walking trail between Groff Park and the Norwottuck Trail parking area.

    • Parking is available at Southeast Street or Groff Park.

  • Lawrence Swamp and Hop Brook (Amherst) offers views of marsh and prairie ecosystems. This location is suitable for walking, biking, birding, and more. 

    • This location is ADA accessible.​

  • Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (Hadley) has a 1.2 mile Fort River Nature Trail. There are benches and educational kiosks on site. 

    • Universally accessible. 

    • Parking is available at Moody Bridge Road.

  • Cadwell Memorial Forest (Pelham) is a great spot for casual hiking, biking, or cross-country skiing.

    • Parking is available off of Packardville Road. 


  • Wentworth Conservation Loop Trail (Belchertown) is an 0.8 mile hike with a relatively small climbing hill.

    • Parking is available across the street on Route 9 (same parking location as the Holland Glen Trail). 

For a Map of Fort River trails, click here

For birding information, check out: Bird Sightings at the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge.

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The Fort River is suitable for kayaks and canoes. Because the river is shallow, narrow, and often obstructed by trees, the Fort River Watershed Association recommends that it is only used by experienced paddlers. 

Paddling locations:

  • Pelham Road Crossing (Amherst)

    • For directions, click here

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Boating & Sailing


The Fort River is not suitable for boating or sailing.

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Fishing locations:

  • Old Mill Pond (Hadley)

    • For directions, click here.

  • Harts Brook (Hadley)

    • For directions, click here.