Deerfield watershed map
The Deerfield River, with its drainage area of approximately 665 square miles, is one of the coldest and cleanest rivers in Massachusetts.

Most of its headwaters are located in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont. The Deerfield River flows approximately 70 miles before draining into the Connecticut River in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The watershed includes more than 149 streams, 21 lakes and ponds, and 20 municipalities with a population of approximately 35,000 people.

As a result of the watershed's mountainous topography, the Deerfield River, which drops approximately 2000 feet from its headwaters to its confluence with the Connecticut River, is renowned for its steep profile and high water quality, which have historically attracted numerous sport-fisherman and whitewater enthusiasts.

The raging currents of the river have also attracted large electric utilities, resulting in the construction of ten hydropower dams on the river since 1911. The state is actively involved in stocking the river with thousands of trout to augment native populations, along with approximately a half-million juvenile salmon, as part of a larger salmon restoration project in the Connecticut River.

Watershed Priorities

Knotweed infestation of river banks
I nvasive Plants: An important priority in the watershed is invasive plants, particularly Japanese knotweed. Japanese knotweed has become the most visible and established invasive plant in the Deerfield watershed. A project was conducted by the Deerfield River Watershed Association (DRWA) to inventory knotweed infestations in selected subwatersheds using volunteers and then conduct removal demonstration projects at several sites.

Hydropower Issues: The hydroelectric facilities along the Deerfield River are operating under recently renewed FERC licenses that contain numerous conditions, including minimum flows, to protect the natural resources of the river. A flow-monitoring project funded the installation of a staff gage and remote electronic flow monitoring equipment that enables volunteers and others to measure minimum flows below Fife Brook dam. Flow data from this site are now available from the DFG, Riverways Program through their RIFLS database. DRWA recently completed a study to evaluate the impacts of flow fluctuation on benthic macroinvertebrates below a Deerfield River hydroelectric dam.

Open Space Planning: In the late 90's only one watershed community had a current, approved open space plan. Several years ago with guidance and funding from the Deerfield Watershed Team, eight complete and six partial open space plans for individual watershed communities were developed. In addition, a regional watershed-wide open space plan was developed. A watershed-wide open space forum was held in the fall of 2002.

Monitoring and Assessment: The MassDEP published a Water Quality Assessment Report on the Deerfield in 2004 that evaluated recently collected water and biological data to assess the status of water quality to see if was meeting Massachusetts water quality standards. In 2005 the MassDEP conducted another comprehensive water quality survey of the watershed. These data are currently being evaluated and will be used to produce an updated water quality assessment report. The Franklin Regional Council of Governments completed a grant funded study of Nonpoint Source Pollution Assessment in the Deerfield Watershed in 2008 that produced a comprehensive inventory of potential nonpoint pollution sources and a detailed action plan for reducing impacts to water and habitat quality from these sources.

Volunteer Monitoring: The DRWA continues to conduct successful yearly volunteer water and biological sampling programs in the Deerfield watershed. They recently obtained grant funding to purchase equipment to analyze bacteria samples they collect at popular local "swimming holes" and conduct bacteria source tracking surveys on problem tributaries. They also started a yearly program to monitor aquatic macroinvertebrates in selected rivers and streams with trained volunteers. These data will be used by the MassDEP to help assess water and biological quality in the watershed. DRWA also recently completed a volunteer monitoring study to inventory calling birds and amphibians in selected marshes.

Watershed Success

Covered bridge along the Deerfield River
MassDEP, DCR, DFW, consultants, and Deerfield River Watershed Association volunteers conducted watershed-wide comprehensive environmental monitoring. Over 100 sites located in streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands throughout the watershed were sampled or surveyed for one or more of the following: water chemistry and bacteria, sediment quality, habitat quality, benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, marsh birds and amphibians, and riparian vegetation. A "State of the Deerfield Watershed" forum was held to present the results.

A watershed assessment report and a five-year watershed action were completed by EEA and consultants in 2005. A watershed assessment report evaluated and summarized the extensive amount of data and information now available on the natural resources of the watershed. From this report, and with public input, a watershed action plan was formulated to address major issues of concern.

The final report, "Deerfield River Watershed Study", was completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. The study investigated the hydrologic, environmental, physical, and economic impacts of dam removal and fish passage installation on four dams along the Green River in Greenfield. The study recommended removal of the first two defunct dams and fish passage structures at the second two currently active dams. The town of Greenfield has agreed to pursue steps toward implementing the recommendations. The Connecticut River Watershed Council, DRWA, MA Riverways Program and other members of the Deerfield Watershed Team are now assisting Greenfield officials in the challenging process of funding and permitting the recommendations with the ultimate goal of implementing them.

Watershed Publications

Watershed Links

Deerfield River Watershed Association

This information is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Water Policy