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Towns in the Ipswich River Watershed:

  • Andover

  • Beverly

  • Billerica

  • Boxford

  • Burlington

  • Danvers

  • Georgetown

  • Hamilton

  • Ipswich

  • North Andover

  • North Reading

  • Lynnfield

  • Middleton

  • Peabody

  • Reading

  • Rowley

  • Tewksbury

  • Topsfield

  • Wenham 

  • Wilmington

  • Woburn

Major Tributaries:

  • Boston Brook

  • Emerson Brook

  • Fish Brook

  • Maple Meadow Brook

  • Miles River

  • Skug River

  • Kimball Brook

Organizations working in the Ipswich River Watershed:

What's happening in the

Ipswich River Watershed?

Click here to find out!

The Ipswich River supplies the municipal water for Boxford, Wilmington, Ipswich, Lynnfield, Middleton, Danvers, Topsfield, Beverly, Salem, Lynn, Peabody, Hamilton, and Wenham. Additionally, all communities within the watershed have private wells that draw from the river's aquifer. 

Learn more

Environmental Concerns for the Ipswich


The biggest environmental concern for the Ipswich River is extremely low flows, caused by overwithdrawing from the river and made worse by drought. After years of the river regularly running dry, the Ipswich was named one of America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers in 2021. To learn more about environmental challenges currently facing the Ipswich River, click here




Additional Facts


History:

  • The river used to be called the Agawam.
  • The Algonquians were some of the first people to live along the Ipswich River.
  • Volunteer monitoring of the river herring population has taken place since 1999, one of the longest running herring counts in the region. (IRWA)
Did you know?
  • One third of a million people in 14 Essex county communities depend on the Ipswich river for their drinking water. We need to protect and care for the river and assure it remains healthy for our children to enjoy.
  • According to IRWA, the average daily usage in many communities ranges from 75 to 167 gallons of water per person per day. The state guidelines for residential water consumption advise no more than 65 gallons a day per person.
What species can you find in the watershed?
  • Fauna
    • Otter, beaver, muskrat, fox and deer
  • Birds
    • Great blue heron, kingfisher, snowy egret, sandpiper, osprey, bald eagle, wood duck, and snowy owl
  • Reptiles
    • Painted turtle, water snake, blue salamander, and wood frog
  • Insects
    • Damselflies, hummingbird moths, dragonflies and monarch butterflies.





What are people saying?

River fact:

"People should know the river frequently runs dry in the summer due to withdrawals of water by the cities and towns that depend on it for drinking water."

A favorite memory: 

"I love to go out to the shellfish beds and gather oysters and clams. There is a camaraderie among the clammers, as we all love the estuary, the salt marsh, and, of course, the shellfish."

-Christine Sandulli (Outreach Committee Member, Ipswich River Watershed Association)

River fact:

"One third of a million people in 21 Essex county communities depend on the Ipswich river for their drinking water. We need to protect and care for the river and assure it remains healthy for our children to enjoy.

 

A highly recommended place along the river: 

"I really like the stretch from Rt 97 to the Foote Brothers Canoe Landing. This part of the river passes through the Audubon Sanctuary and allows the paddler to enjoy birds and other animals in a very quiet stretch of the river."

 

Past changes and hopes for the future: 

"Parts of the river dry up in summer and drought conditions. When this happens, the ecosystem services that human and wildlife depend on start to change or even disappear. I look forward to celebrating the removal of 2 dams that are being considered right now (thanks to IRWA). Once we free up the river, fish migration will have no barriers and the river will flow free for the first time in hundreds of years!"

-Dave Comb (Member of the IRWA board of directors, Ipswich River Watershed Association)

A highly recommended place along the river:

"The section that passes through the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is not to be missed, but my personal favorite paddle is Boston St to Farnsworth landing (the prettiest landing on the river!).

Past changes and hopes for the future:

"Having the town of Reading come off Ipswich River water was a big change, and now North Reading has followed suit. I hope that all communities (whether they use Ipswich River water or not) can change their behavior norms so that I never see a sprinkler running in the middle of the day again. No sprinklers at all would be even better."

-Rachel Schneider (Outreach Manager, Ipswich River Watershed Association)

Favorite Memory:

"I think my favorite paddle was with a group of students from a local city who had never been in kayaks or canoes, never on the river, and seldom out in nature. Their delight is a fond memory."

A highly recommended place along the river:

"This is a hard question. Every section has its special qualities. I would say South Middleton to Farnsworth Landing as it goes from a treed riverside to a winding flood plain with lots of wildlife."

-Judy Schneider (Member of the IRWA board of directors, Ipswich River Watershed Association)

Ipswich 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
Looking for transportation options? Click here to find out!
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Swimming

 

Swimming locations:

  • Thunder Bridge East Street (Middleton). The beach is under the bridge and is surrounded by trees. 

    • During the summer, parking is for Middleton residents only

    • Cars parked along East Street will be ticketed 

 

  • Ipswich River Park (North Reading). Some features include a conservation area and restored wetlands, a paved 2 mile walking path, a gazebo, and parking areas.

    • 15 Central Street

    • Directions from Rt. 128: Take Rt. 28 Exit, North Reading. Follow Rt. 28 into North Reading. Turn right onto Rt. 62 (Kitty’s Restaurant). Turn right onto Central Street. The park is on the left.

 

  • Crane Beach/Steep Hill Beach (Ipswich). The entire conservation area is 1,234 acres, including the 4 mile long beach which is open year-round. It was the filming location for the beach scenes for the movie Little Women (2019). It is one of the world’s most important nesting areas for piping plovers.

    • Click here or here for Crane Beach parking and admission prices

    • Click here for a Crane Beach Day Pass and here to look at all passes 

    • Cape Ann Transportation Authority (CATA) provides summer weekend bus service between the Ipswich MBTA train station and the beach 

 

  • Sandy Point State Reservation (Ipswich). This beach is located at the southern end of Plum Island. Hours go from sunrise to sunset. Parking available on Parker River Wildlife Refuge Road.

 

More swimming spots from the Ipswich River Watershed Association >>

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Walk, Hike, and Bike

 

Walking, hiking, and biking locations:

  • Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary (Essex County). There are 12 miles of interconnecting trails. There is a vernal pool, an observation tower, narrow passages, and caves. Click here for a PDF of the map. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk

    • 87 Perkins Row

    • Parking reservations are required. Click here to reserve a parking space.

  • Ipswich River Park (North Reading). See Swimming Section above for more details. 

  • Bradley Palmer State Park (Topsfield) This 721-acre park is open from sunrise to sunset. Activities in this park include hiking, mountain biking, biking, canoeing and kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.  

    • 40 Asbury St

    • Parking: May 15 through November

      • MA resident: $5 (determined by license plate)

      • Non-MA resident: $20 (determined by license plate)

  • Boxford State Forest (Boxford; North Andover). Most trails are wide, making them ideal for hiking, cross country skiing, and biking. Animals in this area include the Northern Goshawk, Heron, Owls, Bluebirds, Blanding’s turtle, and Blue-Spotted Salamander.

    • 29 Crooked Pond Dr.

  • Willowdale Mill Reservation (South Hamilton). There are three different trails in this Reservation. There is Greenbelt’s fish ladder, where migrating fish pass through around the Willowdale Dam. The Southern Trail goes through hardwood forests. The Riverside Trail goes along the banks of the Ipswich river.

    • Parking is limited to 4 cars

    • From intersection of Route 1 and Ipswich Road in Topsfield: Go east on Ipswich Road which becomes Topsfield Road in Hamilton. In 2.4 miles, turn right onto Willowdale Road/Winthrop Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead on the right, just beyond the bridge 

    • From intersection of Route 1A/133 and Market Street in Ipswich Center: Go west on Market Street which becomes Topsfield Road in Hamilton. In 3.3 miles, turn left onto Willowdale Road/Winthrop Street. Trailhead and parking are 0.1 miles ahead on the right, just beyond the bridge 

  • Julia Bird Reservation (Ipswich). The reservation is 58 acres. Click here for a list of bird sightings in the reservation. 

    • Parking is limited to 2 cars

    • From Route 128/Exit 45/Route 1A North: Go north on Route 1A. In 7.0 miles, turn left onto Waldingfield Road. Trailhead and parking are 0.3 miles ahead on the right, just beyond the bridge

    • From intersection of Route 133 and Route 1A in Ipswich: Go south/east of Route 133/1A. In 4.0 miles, bear right to continue on Route 1A south. In 0.9 miles after Route 133and Route 1A split, turn right onto Waldingfield Road. Trailhead and parking are 0.3 miles ahead on the right, just beyond the bridge

Check out birding locations, courtesy of the Ipswich River Watershed Association >>

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Paddling

 

Paddling locations:

  • Riverbend (Ipswich)

    • There is a dock at the Riverbend office where people may launch their own non-motorized boat, parking in their lower parking area. IRWA members can use IRWA kayaks and canoes for free. 

  • Ipswich Dam (Ipswich)

    • From Riverbend, you can paddle 1 mile downstream to the Ipswich Mills Dam or, depending on the water level, go upriver for miles. 

More paddle routes, river conditions and the Ipswich River Water Trail courtesy of IRWA >>

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Boating & Sailing

 

We have no information for this activity; please contact us if you have any information we should include here.

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Fishing

 

Fishing locations: 

  • Stiles Pond (Boxford). This 60-acre pond is stocked with Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Calico Bass/Black Crappie, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Golden Shiner, and Chain Pickerel starting each May through the spring and into the early summer.

  • Hood Pond (Topsfield) This pond is open year round from sunrise to sunset. Fishing is only allowed in non-motorized boats.

    • Directions: Take Interstate 95 to exit 50 to Route 1 North towards Topsfield. Travel 4 miles to Ipswich Road. Take a right onto Ipswich Road. Follow Ipswich Road for about 2 miles (it turns into Topsfield Road once you are in Ipswich). There will be two turnouts on the right hand side for parking. 

More fishing and clamming spots from the Ipswich River Watershed Association >>

Make sure to check water conditions, fish advisories, and other regulations beforehand! Also, in order to fish along this river, those who are 15 years and older must have a fishing license.