The Ipswich River
The Ipswich River begins in Burlington, MA and passes through the towns of Wilmington, Reading, North Reading, Peabody, Middleton, Topsfield, Hamilton, and Ipswich, connecting with the Atlantic Ocean at Ipswich Bay. The river has been dammed since Colonial days, providing power for the Ipswich mills. In the days of sailing ships, ocean-going cargo vessels, fishing and whaling boats navigated the treacherous outlet between Plum Island and Crane Beach, resulting in numerous shipwrecks.
The Ipswich River Watershed Association is a non-profit organization working to protect the Ipswich River and its watershed since 1977. The headquarters is located on a 23-acre property known as Riverbend, with almost a half-mile of frontage on the Ipswich River.
Foote Brothers Canoes on Topsfield Road in Ipswich is open from April to October. The River runs through Bradley Palmer State Park and Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, where abundant wildlife and wetlands are accessible by kayak and canoe. Shuttles take groups upstream from 8 a.m. to noon.
Stories on this site about the Ipswich River
The Choate Bridge - The American Society of Civil Engineers cites the Choate Bridge in Ipswich as the oldest documented two-span masonry arch bridge in the U.S., and the oldest extant bridge in Massachusetts. The Old Town Landings and Wharfs - Many a pleasant sail down the river are in the memories of William J. Barton. "These were the names of the places and flats along the Ipswich River before my time, and familiar to me during my time. They were used by the fishermen and clammers. I know. I was one of them. It was the happiest time of my life."
County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills - The town voted in 1861 to build County Street and its stone arch bridge, connecting Cross and Mill Streets. A Woolen mill, saw mill, blacksmith shop and veneer mill operated near the bridge. The Town Wharf - The Ipswich Town Landing is one of several locations along the River where wharves were located over the centuries. The Fox Creek Canal - The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. In 1938 it was dredged to accommodate ship-building at Robinson's Boatyard, where small minesweepers were constructed for World War II. The Ice House - Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company harvested on the Ipswich River between Upper River Road and Haywood Street. Lines were drawn on the ice and horses dragged "groovers" along the line, cutting the ice about 6 to 8 inches deep. The ice was then floated to the ice house, where it was cut into blocks. Diamond Stage - In 1673, two fishermen from the Isles of Shoals, Andrew Diamond and Harry Maine, arrived together in Ipswich. Mr. Diamond built a platform for salting and shipping fish, and became quite successful. The location is still known today as Diamond Stage. Along the Ipswich River - Historic photos of the Ipswich River from original glass negatives taken by early Ipswich photographers Arthur Wesley Dow, George Dexter and Edward L. Darling. The Mill Road Bridge and the Isinglass Factory - The triple stone arch Warner Bridge that connects Mill Rd. in Ipswich to Highland St. in Hamilton was designed by architect Henry Hubbard. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that it was first constructed in 1829, and Ipswich town history records that it was “rebuilt” in 1856. In 1931, the roadway was raised; stone parapets and the […] Ipswich Mills Dam video - This video was taken in the summer of 2016 during the Ipswich Mill Dam drawdown, which coincidentally occurred duirng the worst part of the summer drought. The video describes the investigation that was conducted at that time of the dam’s structure, and a study of the feasibility of […] The Green Street dam - (*In March 1934, Congress passed the Civilian Conservation bill, creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC). It was through this program that the old jail on Green Street was demolished and the short-lived Green Street dam was built.) by Harold Bowen, Volume III Tales of Olde Ipswich, […] Deluge! An Eyewitness Account of the Mother’s Day Storm of 2006 - The spring of 2006 brought a paucity of rain that resulted in very dry conditions throughout Eastern New England. I remember noting the dryness of the landscape while patrolling through April into early May. Places normally exhibiting pools of standing water; the low ground west of Route One, […] Rum runners - Ipswich folks have always had a taste for good rum. Its hidden creeks was a paradise for the rum runners and bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Tales of the Coast Guard chasing rum runners were common. It was very seldom that one could be caught. The booze was unloaded at convenient places like Gould's Bridge. To distract the authorities, someone would set a fire in town. The boy who fell beneath the ice - The Rev. Joseph Dana served the Second Congregational Church at the South Green from 1765 until his death in 1827 at age 85. Rev, Dana’s tombstone in the Old South Cemetery reads: “In memory of the Rev Joseph Dana D.D., for sixty-two years, Minister of the South Church. His […] An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary - These photos are from one of my favorite hikes in Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Sanctuary at 87 Perkins Row in Topsfield. Twelve miles of trails weave through an amazing mix of forests, meadows and wetlands, with great views of the Ipswich River from the central drumlin and two eskers that were left by retreating glaciers only […] Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder - Joseph Ross (1822-1903) began his working life as a house carpenter in Ipswich, his native town. He is best known for designing the first movable span bridge in the country, which he patented in 1849 at the age of 26. According to his obituary, “he has been engaged […] Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009 - The video above was posted on Youtube by Donald Freyleue. Herman Melanson’s Boatyard on Water Street burned in a spectacular fire on August 7, 2009. The boathouse was constructed by Herman Melanson’s father in 1954. Herman and his mother continued to live there after it was sold to Arthur Harrington in 1985. Harrington’s […] Samuel Goodhue’s pier - In the early 20th Century, Samuel Goodhue operated a canoe rental business on the Ipswich River at the end of Peatfield St in the area known as Pole Alley. A photographic history of the Ipswich Mills Dam - Until 350 years ago, the Ipswich River ran unencumbered from its origin 35 miles upstream, carving its way through a 148-square-mile watershed. Herring, shad, salmon and alewife swam upstream to spawn. Thomas Franklin Waters noted that, “Great shoals of alewives came up the river in the Spring and were seined […] Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006 - Fourteen inches of rain fell between May 14 and May 16, 2006, creating the historic 2006 Mothers Day Flood. Water flow levels in the Ipswich River were 27% higher than recorded in previous epic floods. Photos are from the Ipswich River Watershed Association site with additonal photos provided by myself and readers. Kerry […] Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry - John S. Glover opened a wharf on Water St. in 1847, receiving shipments of coal and cement, along with maritime salvage. His wharf was a short distance from the home be built on East St. around 1872 across from the present-day Town Wharf, which was demolished recently. The business was sold to Charles Lovell […]