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

Towns in the Ipswich River Watershed:

  • Burlington

  • Wilmington

  • Reading

  • North Reading

  • Middleton

  • Peabody

  • Topsfield

  • Hamilton

  • Ispwich

Major Tributaries:

Boston Brook, Emerson Brook, Fish Brook, Maple Meadow Brook, Miles River, Skug River, Kimball Brook

Relevant River Information

Environmental Concerns for the Ipswich

As of 2020, the biggest environmental concern for the Ipswich River is abnormally low flows. This problem is exacerbated by drinking water withdrawals and water exports outside of the watershed. To learn more about environmental challenges currently facing the Ipswich River, click here

Additional Facts


  • 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.
Did You Know?:
  • Fauna
    • Mammals: The American River 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.
  • The Ipswich River supplies water to Beverly, Danvers, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynn, Lynnfield, Middleton, Peabody, Salem, Topsfield, Wenham and Wilmington.
  • According to the IRWA website, 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.

Neerby Parks and Green Spaces

  • Reading Town Forest
  • Ipswich River Park
  • Mass Audubon's Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Bradley Palmer State Park
  • Willowdale State Forest
  • Julia Bird Reservation
  • Harold Parker State Forest
  • Boxford State Forest
  • Independence Greenway in Peabody

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

Click an icon below to learn more about Ipswich River activities
Hiking, Walk & Run
Boating & Sailing

Ipswich River Events - 

To learn more about Ipswich River events, both virtual and in-person, click HERE.


What People Are Saying...

On a cool fact about the river:

Not exactly a cool fact, more a sad fact. But 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.

On 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)

On a cool fact about the river: 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.


On a highly recommended place to explore on or 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.


On 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)

On a highly recommended place to explore on or 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!).

On 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)

On a 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.

On a highly recommended place to explore on or 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)

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Where to go Swimming


Interested in sticking your head underwater? Click here to find places in the river, along the coast, and in lakes or ponds where you can safely swim.

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Hiking, Walking, Running

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

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

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

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

  • For more information regarding paddle routes, access points, and river conditions, click here to be directed to the IRWA website.

  • To download a free map of the Ipswich River Water Trail that includes launch sites, click here. The free map must be used on the Avenza Maps app.

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Boating & Sailing

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Where to go Fishing

There are opportunities to fish and clam along the Ipswich River watershed. Click here for more information. Make sure to check water conditions, fish advisories, and other regulations beforehand!