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Welcome to the Housatonic River! Here are some fun facts and some great resources to help you explore and enjoy this great river.

Towns in the Housatonic River Watershed:

  • Alford

  • Becket

  • Cheshire

  • Dalton

  • Egremont

  • Great Barrington

  • Hancock

  • Hinsdale

  • Lanesboro

  • Lee

  • Lenox

  • Monterey

  • Mount Washington

  • New Marlboro

  • New Ashford

  • Windsor

  • Otis

  • Peru

  • Pittsfield

  • Richmond

  • Sandisfield

  • Sheffield

  • Stockbridge

  • Tyringham

  • Washington

  • West Stockbridge

8 major tributaries:

Williams River, Green River, Konkapot River, Ten Mile River, Still River, Shepaug River, Pomperaug River, and Naugatuck River.

Relevant River Information

Environmental Concerns for the Housatonic


As of 2020, the biggest environmental concerns for the Housatonic River include PCB contamination, habitat destruction and disruption, stormwater runoff, climate change, invasive species, and limited public access. To learn more about environmental challenges currently facing the Housatonic River, you can go to the HVA website here. To learn more about the remediation of PCB contamination in the Houstaonic, you can go to this U.S. EPA webpage: here.




Additional Facts


History:

  • The name “Housatonic” derives from the Mohican “Usiadienuk” and has been translated as “place of stones” or “beyond the mountain place” or “river of the mountain place.”
  • Is designated as a national heritage area by the U.S. Congress and receives funding from the National Park Service, one of 49 in the country.
  • The upper Housatonic Valley was the site of several important events during the American Revolution, including The Sheffield Declaration and Shays’ Rebellion.
  • Papermaking began in 1801 with the founding of Crane and Company in Dalton, MA. The company still manufactures paper for U.S. currency
  • Many hydroelectric dams were built along the Housatonic, beginning in the late 19th century.
  • During the 20th century, the upper Housatonic Valley became a summer classical music resort as many concerts and festivals sprung up in the area.
  • The iron and papermaking industries of the 19th century led 75% of the region to be deforested. Now, in the early 21st century, 75% of the land is covered in trees
  • During the 20th century, the presence of General Electric in Pittsfield, MA boosted the local economy. However, the release of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from the factories polluted the Housatonic River. The passing of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments (1972) and the Clean Water Act (1977) finally created a system to reduce and control pollution in the river.

Did You Know?:
  • There are 24 sub-watersheds in the Housatonic Valley





Here are some great organizations that help keep this river clean, healthy and fun to enjoy:

Click an icon below to learn more about Housatonic River activities
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Swimming
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Hiking, Walk & Run
Paddling
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Boating & Sailing
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Fishing

For a calendar of Housatonic Heritage events searchable by category, click here.

For a calendar of Housatonic Valley Association events, click here.

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Swimming

Where to go Swimming

 

It is not advised that people swim in the Massachusetts portion of the Housatonic due to PCB contamination, but there are places where you can safely swim in tributaries such as the Konkapot and Green Rivers as well as in the watershed’s lakes.

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Hiking, Walking, Running

Where to go on a walk, run, take a hike or bike!

 
  • Old Mill Trail. Located in Hinsdale/Dalton, it is approx. 1.5 miles long and is suitable for walking, running, and snowshoeing. Commonly seen vegetation include Hemlock Trees, hobblebush, Canada Yew, and long-growing needled evergreen. For location information, click here to be directed to the Housatonic Heritage website. About 75% of this trail is handicapped accessible.

  • Housatonic River Walk. Located in Great Barrington, it is suitable for walking, nature viewing, exploring sites of interest, and offers canoe access. For more information, click here.

  • Laura’s Tower. Located in Stockbridge, MA and is a 35-step steel fire tower that offers panoramic views of the central Berkshires. The path is 0.75 miles and is suitable for hiking/walking and wildlife viewing. For more information, click here to be directed to the Housatonic Heritage website.

  • Mary Flynn Trail. Located in Stockbridge, MA, it is a 1.2 mile trail that follows the Old Berkshire Street Railway, which operated from 1902-1930. It is suitable for running, biking, and walking. It is handicapped accessible. For more information, click here to be directed to the Laurel Hill Association website.

  • Bartholomew’s Cobble. Located in Sheffield, MA, it offers 5 miles of trails through a 329-acre property with open fields, transitional forests, freshwater marshes, a pair of small caves, and more. Admission is $5/adult nonmember and $1/child (ages 6-12) nonmember. Free admission for members. For more information, click here to be directed to The Trustees website.

  • Find hiking trail maps on the Housatonic Heritage website: click here.

  • Take a self-guided interpretive trail or join a free guided walking tour to learn about W.E.B Du Bois, who grew up in Great Barrington, MA. More info can be found here.

  • Explore the Berkshire 18th Century Trail to learn about several historic properties and their place in Berkshire history. More info can be found here.

  • Explore the Performing Arts Heritage Trail and visit many famous performing arts venues. More info found here.

  • Go on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment Trail and visit sites in both Connecticut and Massachusetts that related to the lives of regiment members. More info found here. 

  • You can even hike part of the Appalachian Trail!

  • The Housatonic Valley Association offers guided nature and history hikes.

Biking:

  • For bike route maps in Litchfield County (CT) and Berkshire County (MA), click here to be directed to the Housatonic Heritage website. The Housatonic Watershed area also includes sections of the Western New England Greenway (WNEG). For maps of the various biking sections, click here to be directed to the Western New England Greenway website.

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Paddling

Where to go paddling (listed in direction of upstream to downstream)

 

For paddling guides and directions for how to get to put-in locations, click here to be directed to the Housatonic Heritage website. There are two (extensive) paddling guides that contain information on the upper and lower sections of the Housatonic. The Housatonic Valley Association also offers some free guided classes.

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Boating & Sailing

 
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Fishing

Where to go Fishing
 

It is not safe to eat the fish in the Housatonic. Fish advisory warnings are currently in place.