Relevant River Information

Environmental Concerns for the Merrimack

As of 2020, the biggest environmental concern for the Merrimack River is polluted runoff. Due to the various cities located on the Merrimack, the river is threatened by further infrastructure and roads. The river is ranked one of the most threatened because of the continuously damaged lands throughout its watershed. Additionally, there are 847 dams throughout the Merrimack and its tributaries, some of which will possibly be removed in the future to restore the river’s sustainability. There are six hydroelectric dams on the river. To learn more about environmental challenges currently facing the Merrimack River, click here.

Additional Facts


  • Several cities were built on the Merrimack during the 19th century, to capitalize on water power. In New Hampshire, Concord, Manchester, and Nashua were all built on the Merrimack. In Massachusetts, Lawrence, Lowell, and Haverhill were built. The creation of these cities severely impacted the river’s ecosystem. Run off, sewage, and wastes 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 action.
  • “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.
  • To learn more, click here
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.
Four Major Regions of the Merrimack:
  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.

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Towns in the Merrimack River Watershed:

  • Amesburg

  • Andover

  • Chelmsford

  • Dracut

  • Groveland

  • Haverhill

  • Lawrence

  • Lowell

  • Merrimac

  • Methuen

  • Newburyport

  • Salisbury

  • Tewkesbury

  • Tyngsborough

  • West Newbury

Major Tributaries:

Suncook River, Powwow River, Contoocook River, Piscataquog River, Souhegan River, Nashua River, Concord River

Local organization: 

Merrimack River Watershed Council

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

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.

Riverfest: Newburyport attracts thousands during the summer for a festival of new music sponsored by 92.5 (The River!). 

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


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

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Where to go Swimming


You can swim in the Merrimack, although it is strongly advised not to swim soon after a storm/rain. The Merrimack has been consistently tested for E.Coli Bacteria, and the levels do not exceed the level for swimming.

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Hiking, Walking, Running

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

  • Riverfront Parks and Trails: 

    • Amesbury: Alliance Park. On Lower Main Street, you will find  ~6 parking spots. Trails. To learn more about the history of Alliance Park, click here. 

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

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

    • Groveland: Pines Recreation Area. Parking at the ramp is “by sticker only”. Stickers can be applied for and gotten at the Town hall. Non-sticker parking is above the ramp gates. For more explicit details about parking, launching, and using the Pines Recreation Area, click here. 

    • Haverhill: Bradford Rail Trail  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.

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

    • Lawrence: Pemberton Park. 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. Directions here

    • Lowell: Merrimack River Walking Path is a pleasant paved path along the Merrimack. Handicap accessibility! 

    • Newburyport: Clipper City Rail Trail: 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: Newburyport Harborwalk Rail trail. 2 miles of flat pavement alongside the Merrimack. 

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

    • Newburyport: Moseley Woods. 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 info, click here!

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

  • Other parks without trails include: 

    • Haverhill: First Landing Park, Riverfront Park, Washington Landing Park, Riverside Park

    • Newburyport: Cashman park, Joppa Park, Waterfront and Waterfront Promenade Park

  • *1.1 mile multi-use path (bikers, walkers, runners, etc). 

    • What might you see? Birding info?

      •  In the spring/summer, waterfowl, herons, egrets and land birds nests in salt marshes along the Merrimack. In the fall, shorebirds pass through the river cities. 

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

  • Massachusetts: 

  • NH: Allenstown (5), Concord (6), Nottingham, Auburn (3), Canterbury (2)  MORE INFO about NH ramps (Zoom into the town, click on the star representing the ramp, you should find out about parking, fees, and types of ramp) 

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Boating & Sailing

Where to go Boating
  • Can you boat on this on this river?

    • Yes. The Wild and Scenic Segment includes the upper New Hampshire Segment of the river, with long stretches of boatable, wild sections.  

  • Merrimack River Cruises. Go for a cruise along the Merrimack! Directions here.

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Where to go 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 from 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. 

  • Locations to Fish

  • Common catch on the Merrimack

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