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Towns in the Merrimack River Watershed:

  • Amesburg

  • Andover

  • Chelmsford

  • Dracut

  • Groveland

  • Haverhill

  • Lawrence

  • Lowell

  • Merrimac

  • Methuen

  • Newburyport

  • Salisbury

  • Tewksbury

  • Tyngsborough

  • West Newbury

  • Suncook River
  • Powwow River

  • Contoocook River

  • Piscataquog River

Organizations that work in the Merrimack River Watershed: 

Merrimack River Watershed Council

River Merrimack

  • Souhegan River

  • Nashua River

  • Concord River

Major Tributaries:

What's happening on the Merrimack Watershed? 

 

Trash Patrol Paddle Series: The New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club started this group in order to maintain the cleanliness of the river. On the first Saturday of every month, a group of people pick up trash from the Merrimack from their kayaks. 

River Ruckus: Haverhill celebrates the Merrimack River in September with River Ruckus in downtown Haverhill. There is live music, boat rides, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and fireworks! 

Yankee Homecoming: Newburyport’s Homecoming is the second oldest in the US. It is a week long

celebration with nightly concerts, street performers, a road race, fireworks show and a parade.

Merrimack River Eagle Festival: Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge hold a day of fun indoor and outdoor activities, including eagle sighting tours, live eagle demonstrations, and more.

Museums:

The Lowell Boat Shop and Museum has been operating for over 200 years!

The Lowell National Historic Park offers a glimpse into the city's industrial past through preserved textile mills. They also offer maps of suggested waterway walks 

Learn More

Environmental Concerns for the Merrimack


The biggest environmental concern for the Merrimack River is sewage pollution, where old cities have combined sewer systems that discharge straight to the river. In addition, runoff from streets and buildings from several cities pollutes the water. In 2018, the Merrimack was ranked as one of America's Top 10 Endangered Rivers because of the water quality impacts from polluted runoff, and from continuously damaged lands throughout the watershed. There are 847 dams throughout the Merrimack and its tributaries, some of which could be removed in the future to restore the river’s natural flow. There are six hydroelectric dams on the river. Learn more about environmental challenges currently facing the Merrimack River >>




Additional Facts


History:

  • Several cities were built on the Merrimack during the 19th century, to capitalize on water power. The development of Concord, Manchester, and Nashua in NH, as well as Lawrence, Lowell and Haverhill in MA, severely impacted the river’s ecosystem. Sewage runoff declined the river’s health. In the 1920s, 12 millions gallons of Lowell sewage entered the river every day. However, in the 1970s, the river began improving due to activism, legislation, and restorative work.
  • “Salmon, shad and Alewives were formerly abundant here...until the dam,...and the factories at Lowell, put an end to their migrations hitherward.... Perchance, after a few thousands of years, if the fishes will be patient, and pass their summers elsewhere...nature will have levelled...the Lowell factories, and the Grass-ground River [will] run clear again.” -Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849.
  • Learn more about the Merrimack River's water quality >>
Did You Know?
  • The Merrimack is a drinking source for 600,000 people! Including the towns of Lowell, Lawrence, Tewksbury, Methuen, and Andover (as well as Nashua, NH).
  • The Merrimack Watershed supports over 75 state and federally listed endangered species. (source: American Rivers)
Four Major Regions of the Merrimack (source: Merrimack River Watershed Council) :
  1. Lower MA: Sea → Great stone Dam in Lawrence. 30 miles. Most of this area is tidal, making it more difficult to paddle on. Many powerboats occupy this area.
  2. Upper MA: Great stone Dam (Lawrence) → NH border. 19 miles with 2 dams (Lawrence and Lowell). Wide variety of boating (kayaking, canoeing, crew)
  3. Lower NH: NH border → Garvin’s Falls Dam (Bow, NH). 35 miles with 3 dams (Manchester, Hooksett and Bow). Some opportunities for boating, but can be shallow at parts. (beware for deep draft boats).
  4. Upper NH: Bow→ Franklin. 30 miles. Range of water conditions, and long stretches of wild, boatable areas.





Merrimack River Activities
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Swimming
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Walk, Hike, Bike
Paddling
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Boating & Sailing
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Fishing
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Swimming

 

You can swim in the Merrimack, although it is strongly advised not to do so soon after a storm/rain. Please contact us if you have more information on swimming in the Merrimack. 

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Hike, Walk, Bike

 

Walking, hiking, and biking locations:

Riverfront Parks and Trails 

  • Alliance Park (Amesbury). Trails. To learn more about the history of Alliance Park, click here.  

    • On Lower Main Street, you will find  ~6 parking spots.

  • Deer Jump Reservation (Andover). There is a trail travelling the perimeter of the reservation. For more information, and history regarding Deer Jump, click here

  • The Merrimack River Trail (Andover) travels ~2 miles alongside the Merrimack.
    • Large parking lot with connection to trail at the back. 

  • Pines Recreation Area (Groveland)
    • Parking at the ramp is “by sticker only”. Stickers can be applied for at the Town hall.

    • Non-sticker parking is above the ramp gates. For more details about parking, launching, and using the Pines Recreation Area, click here

  • Bradford Rail Trail (Haverhill) On the south side of the Merrimack, 1.3 miles of former rail lines travel through Haverhill. The trail can be used for pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers. It is wheelchair accessible.

    • There is no designated spot for parking. It is advised to park along side streets.

  • Merrimack River Trail (Haverhill) near Buttonwoods Section and Hannah Dustin Rest Area

  • Pemberton Park (Lawrence). Built to remember the lives lost from the Pemberton Mill disaster of 1860, Pemberton Park is a beautiful place for a short walk or a picnic. Find directions here

  • Merrimack River Walking Path (Lowell) is a pleasant paved path along the Merrimack. Handicap accessible! 

  • Clipper City Rail Trail (Newburyport)1.1 mile path between the MBTA commuter rail station and the shoreline of the Merrimack River, running through the historic residential neighborhoods of Newburyport. Used for walkers, bicyclists, and other non-motorized users.

  • Newburyport Harborwalk Rail trail (Newburyport). 2 miles of flat pavement alongside the Merrimack. 

  • Maudslay State Park (Newburyport). For directions, click here! For a trail map, click here. For more general information from Mass Gov, click here

  • Moseley Woods (Newburyport). To get there, set your directions to 16 Spofford Street. When you arrive, there will be a rotary with the intersection of Merrimac Street and Spofford street. There are 16-acres, with a playground, shaded picnic area, and hiking trails. For more information, click here!

  • Old Eastern Marsh Trail (Salisbury). 1.4 mile paved trail from the river to Mudnock Road. Beautiful views and bird watching. 

Other parks (not including trails)  

  • First Landing Park (Haverhill). 0.8 acre area. For directions, click here.

  • Riverfront Park (Haverhill). For directions, click here. 

  • Washington Landing Park (Haverhill). Includes a playground. For directions, click here.

  • Riverside Park (Haverhill). For directions, click here​Visit the website here.

    • Parking areas off of Lincoln Avenue​.

  • Cashman park (Newburyport). For directions, click here. ​See their website for more information. 

    • Parking available for a fee of $10.

  • Joppa Park (Newburyport)

  • Waterfront (Newburyport). For directions, click here.

  • Waterfront Promenade Park (Newburyport). For directions, click here​. See their website for more information. 

Birding information: 

  •  In the spring/summer

    • waterfowl

    • herons

    • egret

  •  In the fall, shorebirds pass through the river cities. 

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Paddling

 

Paddling locations:

 

  • Non-sticker parking is above the ramp gates.

    • For more information about parking, launching, and using the Pines Recreation Area, click here

  • Washington Landing Park (Haverhill)

    • ​Directions Here. 10 parking spaces. No fee.

  • Riverside Park (Haverhill)

    • Directions here. 5 parking spots. No fee.

Information about Rentals

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Boating & Sailing

 

You can boat on the Wild and Scenic Segment of the Merrimack, which includes the upper New Hampshire Segment of the river, which has long stretches of wild sections available to boaters. For information on cruises along the Merrimack, click here.

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Fishing

 

You can fish on the Merrimack. However, due to mercury levels, the MA Department of Public Health advises children under 12 and pregnant women not to eat any fish caught in the Merrimack. They also advise all citizens to limit consumption of White Suckers and Largemouth Bass to two meals/month. For more info, click here. 

Fishing locations:

The most common fish caught on the Merrimack are Striped bass, Smallmouth bass, and Common carp.