Millers watershed map
The Millers River is located in north central Massachusetts, with approximately 20 percent of the watershed extending into the southern section of New Hampshire. The headwaters of the Millers River are located in southern New Hampshire and in the Massachusetts towns of Ashburnham and Winchendon.

The river flows towards the south, then westward, eventually emptying into the Connecticut River. The total drainage area for the Millers River Watershed is 392 square miles. Approximately 320 square miles are in Massachusetts, with the remainder in New Hampshire. The watershed is made up of all or part of 17 municipalities, with a population of approximately 87,000 people, and includes 81 percent forestland, six percent open space or farmland, six percent wetlands, and seven percent urban land. The population centers are concentrated in the Gardner, Athol, and Orange areas.

The watershed encompasses some of the most rugged and steep terrain of the state's central upland, including "the Bear's Den," a five mile stretch of the Millers River known for its sharp drop in elevation and rapidly flowing whitewater. "Monadnocks," the residual hills of erosion-resistant rock, are an important component of the uninhabited mountain wilderness that is characteristic of the watershed. The watershed supports a wide variety of outdoor opportunities such as camping, hiking, picnicking, and scenic viewing, which are provided by the vast acreage of unspoiled open space and forestlands in public and quasi-public ownership.

Watershed Priorities

  • Continue efforts to preserve open space and promote sustainable growth management by conducting a watershed-wide Regional Open Space Plan, as well as developing a Land Management Plan for a section of the Tully River
  • Complete the ongoing hydrologic assessment study to determine hydrologic impacts and implement actions that have been recommended
  • Continue to work to improve water quality by implementing a Nonpoint Source Education campaign and by continuing water quality monitoring through DEP's Strategic Monitoring & Assessment for River Basin Teams (SMART) Monitoring Program
  • Support continuing efforts to solve and mitigate PCB contamination in the Millers and Otter Rivers

River and underwater vegetation Watershed Successes

Through a Nonpoint Source Assessment study, stream teams were formed on the Tully and Otter Rivers. Prior to this, there were no active stream teams in the watershed. Action plans were completed and work is underway to tackle the identified problem areas. To date, some of the activities the teams have been involved with include: conducting numerous cleanups, initiating the process to investigate dam removal, coordinating with other entities on the formation of a greenway, and forming an open space committee.

PCB contamination of the Otter and Millers Rivers has been a long-standing issue in the watershed. Various agencies that were involved in this issue have been brought together to better coordinate and collaborate. USGS conducted a study and with the results, DEP was able to move forward in identifying a principle responsible party for the contamination.

Watershed Publications

Watershed Links

Millers River Environmental Center
Athol Bird and Nature Club
Birch Hill Dam Page (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Tully Lake Page (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Franklin Regional Council of Governments
Montachusett Regional Planning Commission

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