Representing one of the smaller watersheds in the state, the mainstem of the Shawsheen River flows 25 miles from its headwaters at the Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, losing 70 feet in elevation as it travels to its confluence with the Merrimack River in Lawrence. The watershed has an urban character throughout and supports a population of approximately 250,000 people. Approximately 4.5% of the watershed area is covered by wetlands or open water.
The Shawsheen River represents the only major tributary to the Merrimack River that does not have a dam or any other man-made obstruction from its confluence to the Atlantic Ocean, making it an easy access for numerous species of anadromous fish. According to legend, the name "Shawsheen" is actually a Native American word, meaning "serpent" or "serpentine," which refers back to the meandering nature of the river.
- Work to improve water quality
- Promote efficient growth management practices and emphasize the importance of open space preservation and habitat conservation
- Build constituencies throughout the watershed
- Increase recreational opportunities throughout the watershed by improving access to local waterways
Over twenty stream teams were trained to conduct river walk surveys and water quality sampling at over 120 stations within the watershed. These stations cover over 90% of the basin area. Due to the results of these surveys and follow-up cleanups of pollution hot spots, it is likely that the Department of Environmental Protection will be able to remove the basin from the list of impaired waters in the near future.
- Shawsheen River Watershed Assessment Report file size 7MB
- Shawsheen River Watershed Action Plan file size 1MB
- Shawsheen River Recreational Map
This information is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Water Policy