Quality of Life: Recreation: Nature
Nature at its best!

The central natural feature of the Merrimack Valley is the Merrimack River, created in central New Hampshire by the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers. The Merrimack flows south through New Hampshire for 78 miles, entering Massachusetts at Tyngsborough. Once in Massachusetts, it continues southeast for about six miles before turning to the northeast near Lowell. From there, the Merrimack flows 44 miles to Newburyport where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Once severely polluted, the Merrimack River has made a remarkable comeback in the past 25 years due to stricter environmental laws and heightened public awareness of the river’s rich resources. The Merrimack is now fishable and swimmable along most of its length, and canoeing and kayaking have become popular recreational activities. Bird watching is unsurpassed, with bald eagles seen from Lawrence to Newburyport. The Merrimack River Watershed Council offers free canoe and kayak tours from April through October.


Andover Trails Committee

Bay Circuit Trail

Cochran Wildlife Sanctuary

Merrimack River reservation

Pomp’s Pond and Foster’s Island

Ward Reservation
The Ward Reservation contains more than forty separate parcels of former farm and pasture land, with more than seventeen miles of stone walls. The property includes all or portions of three hills: Shrub Hill, Boston Hill, and Holt Hill, connected by miles of trails.


Manning State Park


Georgetown-Rowley State Forest
This 1,112 acre forest offers a variety of year-round activities including horseback riding, hiking, walking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.


Veasey Memorial Park


Tattersall Farm

Whittier Birthplace Freeman Memorial Trail
As in the famous Underground Railroad, there are a series of stations (identified by numbered signs) along the Freeman Memorial Trail. Participants in the walking tour are asked to focus their attention upon 13 sights specifically cited in passages from either Whittier’s own poetry or from the prose of one of his many biographers.

Winnekenni Park Conservation Area
More than 700 acres, with 10 miles of walking trails. The park includes Winnekenni Castle, home to concerts and special events.


Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program

Lawrence Heritage State Park
Lawrence Heritage State Park includes two parks on the Merrimack River: Pemberton Park views of the city’s mills and historic dam and opportunities for fishing and boating, walking trails, lighting and benches. Lawrence Riverfront State Park offers tennis, basketball, street hockey courts; wooded walking trails; children’s play area and a sledding hill. Bashara Boathouse offers summer sailing and instruction.


Bellegarde Boathouse
Bellegarde Boathouse on the Merrimack River in Lowell is home to the Merrimack River Rowing Association. The facility is used by crew teams and by rowers and walkers alike.

Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust
Protecting land in Lowell and offering programs such as white water rafting trips on the Concord River in Lowell.


Greycourt State Park


Friends of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
The focal point for many birding trips is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, a 4,662-acre sanctuary located on Plum Island and less than four miles from downtown Newburyport. The Refuge has a wide variety of habitats such as beaches, sand dunes, salt marshes, salt pannes, freshwater impoundments, and maritime forests. Walking, hiking, nature trails, sunbathing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

Old Town Hill
Owned by the Trustees of Reservations, Old Town Hill offers several miles of footpaths and old roads. Several trails encircle the "Great Hill," another leads to the river south of Newman Road, and a recent trail (part of the Bay Circuit Trail) connects Hay Street with Boston Road. Bird watching; Canoeing/kayaking; Cross-country skiing/snowshoeing; fishing; hiking; nature study; picnicking; scenic vistas.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge: Plum Island
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is dedicated to promoting the restoration and protection of the waters and environment of the Parker River and Plum Island Sound watersheds.


Joppa Flats Education Center
Enjoy amazing views of the newly restored salt marsh and the Merrimack River estuary from the sanctuary. Owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Joppa Flats Wildlife Sanctuary is located along the road to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Check the kiosk at the entrance for information about programs and bird sightings.

Maudslay State Park
The former Moseley family estate on the Merrimack River, Maudslay features 19th century gardens and plantings, rolling meadows, towering pines, and one of the largest naturally-occurring strands of mountain laurel in Massachusetts. Ornamental trees and masses of azaleas and rhododendrons bloom in May and June. The park offers a perfect location for walking, biking, fishing, picnicking and cross-country skiing and hosts cultural events during the summer.

Moseley Woods
Moseley Woods is a 16-acre public park overlooking the Merrimack River in Newburyport, with hiking trails, picnic tables, a playground and a pavilion that is home to a summer concert series.

North Andover

Harold Parker State Forest
Harold Parker State Forest comprises just over 3,000 acres of rolling hills, low lying swampy areas, rock outcrops and several ponds. It’s a great place for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, swimming, camping and picnicking.

Ward Reservation
The Ward Reservation contains more than forty separate parcels of former farm and pasture land, with more than seventeen miles of stone walls. The property includes all or portions of three hills: Shrub Hill, Boston Hill, and Holt Hill, connected by miles of trails.

Weir Hill
Weir Hill includes over one mile of lake shore frontage and four miles of woodland trails and former carriage roads. Trails climb to and descend from the 300-foot peak down to the shoreline of Lake Cochichewick. Bird watching, cross-country skiing, hiking, horseback riding, nature study, picnicking, scenic vistas.


Salisbury Beach State Reservation
One of the state's most popular ocean beaches stretching for 3.8 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, this 521-acre park offers swimming, boating, fishing and camping. Facilities include a campground with bathhouses, an extensive parking lot, three comfort stations, over-the-dune boardwalks, and a playground and pavilion area. The facility also has two boat ramps located on the Merrimack River at the campground's southern edge.


Coastal Trails Coalition
A non-profit organization advocating for the Coastal Trails Network, a 30-mile public system of bicycle and pedestrian trails linking the communities of Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury.

Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsborough State Forest
A total of 1,000 acres, including 180 acres of ponds, swamps, and wetlands. The forest has six miles of trails offering hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Hunting is permitted in season.

Merrimack River Watershed Council, Inc.