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Nashua River Designated Wild & Scenic River by Congress

Kayakers enjoying a paddle on the Nashua River

Kayakers enjoying a paddle on the Nashua River

On June 23, 2014, the Nashua River Wild & Scenic Act passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives.  It now awaits Senate approval. The Ocean River Institute will keep you updated as the bill moves forward.

The National Park Service conducted a Reconnaissance Survey and determined that the Nashua River and its tributaries have all the ingredients for a successful Wild and Scenic River Study. It qualifies because of its significant natural, cultural and recreational resources, capable and committed local partners, and the communities’ demonstrated commitment to conservation of the River.


Congresswoman Niki Tsongas filed HR 5319 in 2012. In September, we were asked by the Nashua River Watershed Association to help them get support for their designation as a Wild & Scenic River. We delivered letters with 1,347 signers with personal comments to key Congress members.

H.R. 5319 would require the National Park Service (NPS) to study segments of the Nashua River in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for potential addition to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. H.R. 5319 will charge the National Park Service to provide opportunities for towns to work together across municipal and state boundaries to better their shared river resources. The NPS excels at providing communities and interest groups with the incentive, structure, expertise, and funding needed to identify the issues and goals.

H.R. 5319 contains no intergovernmental or private sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.

To be considered as a Wild & Scenic River, the Nashua River must meet four criteria:

1. Scenic natural and agricultural landscapes

2. Recreation including fishing and boating

3. Ecological values, and

4. Local industrial and cultural history.

The Nashua River is particularly worthy. Due to savvy, articulate citizen grassroots advocacy, the Nashua was the first polluted river in the nation to turn itself around.

The Nashua River was one of the ten worst polluted rivers in the nation when Marion and Hugh Stoddart began to mobilize a clean up. Theirs became the work of a 1,000 to rescue and restore the Nashua River. As a result, in 1966 Governor Volpe signed the Massachusetts Clean Water Act, first such act in the nation. In 1972 the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency mandated that all rivers be fishable and swimmable by 1983. In 1977, trout were found swimming the Nashua River. Fish came back.

The communities, municipalities and two states along the Nashua have earned the opportunity to do a study together directed by the National Park Service. The lore of the Nashua River runs deep from the writings of Thoreau and Rudyard Kipling to the actions of Marion Stoddart and 1,000 friends.