Parker watershed map
The Parker River Watershed is located in the northeast corner of the state, nestled between the Merrimack River Watershed to the north and the Ipswich River Watershed to the south. It has a total drainage area of approximately 82 square miles and encompasses all or part of nine municipalities, including the City of Newburyport.

The Parker River originates at the confluence of two unnamed brooks located in the wetlands near Main Street in West Boxford. Once formed, the Parker River meanders approximately 21 miles through a rolling landscape before emptying into Plum Island Sound at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The Parker River feeds approximately nine major tributaries, including the Mill River, Ox Pasture Brook, Little River, Penn Brook, Jackman Brook, Wheeler Brook, Bachelder Brook, Beaver Brook, and the Rowley River. The watershed also includes fourteen lakes and ponds, covering approximately 295 acres of the watershed.

Approximately half of the area within the watershed is protected open space or used for recreation, such as the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is operated and maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior. The 4662-acre refuge contains a coastal barrier beach and offers a variety of wildlife habitats, such as freshwater wetlands and salt marshes. The refuge also lies within the Atlantic Flyway, an important corridor for migratory waterfowl.

Fish ladder along Parker River Watershed Priorities

  • Develop a better understanding of why the Parker River Watershed is stressed in terms of its flow regime
  • Continue to assess and control the negative affects of stormwater and nonpoint source pollution within the watershed
  • Create a setting for sustainable development in the watershed
  • Improve public access opportunities in the watershed, especially the tidal portion of the Parker River
  • Support the efforts to manage and restore anadromous fish, such as alewife and blueback herring, throughout the watershed

Watershed Success

With the assistance of the University of Massachusetts Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Program and the Parker River Clean Water Association, several demonstration "watershed friendly" landscapes have been created in the Parker River Watershed. These demonstration landscapes will provide a reference to people interested in reducing water and pesticide use while using native plant species. Several of these demonstration landscapes will also help to correct erosion and sedimentation problems at the selected landscape site.

Watershed Publications

Watershed Links

Parker River Low Flow Study pdf format of parker_lowflow.pdf
file size 35MB (DFW)
Parker River Clean Water Association
Greater Newbury's Friends of Our Trails
Merrimack Valley Planning Commission
The Trustees of Reservations
Bay Circuit Trail
Essex County Greenbelt Association
Peabody Essex Museum
Essex National Heritage Area
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Northeast Region
Water Resources of Massachusetts and Rhode Island (USGS)
Plum Island Ecosystems Long-Term Ecological Research Site

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