Explore the Merrimack River Watershed

Adventure and Education Abounds

Anna Berry | May 15, 2021
The bow of a canoe with the Merrimack River ahead.

Take a canoe trip on the Merrimack River to see what's at stake for yourself.

From Franklin, New Hampshire to Newburyport, Massachusetts, there is much to see and experience along the Merrimack River watershed. Before or after watchingThe Merrimack: River at Risk — which premiered on NH PBS on July 23, 2020 and is now in limited release — you can rediscover this beautiful region by foot or float to learn more about what's at stake.

Here are a few ways you can explore the watershed in New Hampshire on your own, celebrating the clean water and healthy forests that make it a great place to live, work and play:

Learn about the Indigenous history of the region from the Indigenous NH StoryMap.

The Indigenous NH Collaborative Collective website features a StoryMap of Indigenous heritage sites across New Hampshire. The area of land that the state and other parts of New England encompass, called N’Dakinna, is “the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook, and Wabanaki peoples, past and present.” Five of the historical sites are in the Merrimack River watershed, including the Hannah Duston Memorial State Historic Site in Boscawen, N.H. Read more about indigenous efforts to restore the waterway in Forest Notes here.

Visit the Forest Society's Merrimack River Outdoor Education & Conservation Area in Concord, open to hiking, birdwatching, cross-country skiing, fishing and paddling.

The dramatic floodplain landscape includes oxbows, back channels, and high terraces that host a dynamic collection of overlapping natural communities. A walk down the Les Clark Nature Trail will take you past a pine forest planted in the 1960s, a wooded swamp and beaver-influenced wetlands, a maple-oak-hickory terrace community, and a native silver maple floodplain forest. The silver maple forest is unusual in New Hampshire; it has specifically adapted to life among the shifting sand and silt that line the state’s largest rivers. No other tree species can survive in this challenging environment, so the silver maples end up winning by default.

Find more Forest Society reservations in the watershed.

  • Andrew Brook Forest, Newbury: The Forest Society primarily manages this property for sustainable forestry, productive wildlife habitat, and other conservation benefits in support of the greater Newbury community.
  • Buxton Forest/Elizabeth Simons Preserve, Weare: A marked trail leads through hemlock woods and past a beaver marsh to the summit of Mount Wallingford.  
  • Hedgehog Mountain Forest, Deering: Hike the Hedgehog Ridge Trail.
  • High Five, Deering: This property is a fantastic place to enjoy an afternoon picnic or a quiet sunset. 
  • McCabe Forest, Antrim: Two miles of hiking trails wind through upland pine-oak-hemlock forests, fields, old orchards, and silver maple floodplain forest along the Contoocook River.
  • Monson Village, Milford & Hollis: Visiting Monson Center, a historic gem, is literally a breath of fresh air, and a step back in time. This small portion of history is off the beaten path, but once you find it, you will never forget.

Paddle the Merrimack or its tributaries.

Bike in the Merrimack River watershed.


Two people in a canoe on the Merrimack River.
Take a taste of the Merrimack River watershed after your adventures.

Many of the region's local breweries rely on the clean water protected by healthy forests to craft their offerings. Here is a map of breweries from Brew New Hampshire. (And non-alcoholic beverages abound as well — Coca Cola of New England is featured in the film because the local bottling factory is one of the largest customers of Manchester Water Works, using more than 100 million gallons of water a year.)