The Ipswich River circa 1900

The Ipswich River

Paddling on 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.

Ipswich River Watershed Association

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.

This is a wonderful photo of the Ipswich River taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter in 1906. He was standing on Bayberry Hill near the top of Spring Street where Arthur Wesley Dow had a studio.

View of the Ipswich River by George Dexter and Arthur Wesley Dow
A bit of Little Neck is visible on the left with Treadwell’s (aka Perkins) Island to the right of it. In the far distance is Halibut Point in Rockport, then Castle Hill, and finally Heartbreak Hill on the right. The houses in the foreground would be on Jeffreys Neck Road or Newmarch Street.

Ipswich Wharf early 20th Century 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. … Continue reading Along the Ipswich River
Frozen Ipswich River 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 protracted life was eminently devoted to… Continue reading The boy who fell beneath the ice
Green Street dam, Ipswich ma The Green Street dam - "It was a poor time in which to build a dam. The winter was very severe and at times the temperature was below zero. The center of the dam was soon washed away, and by spring the new structure had almost disappeared."… Continue reading The Green Street dam
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary - 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 15,000 years ago. … Continue reading An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Isinglass Mill in Ipswich MA 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 constructed in 1829, and rebuilt in 1856. The isinglass mill sat on the downstream Ipswich side of the bridge.… Continue reading The Mill Road Bridge and the Isinglass Factory
Melanson Boat Shop Fire Ipswich Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009 - The boatyard, constructed in 1954, burned in a spectacular fire, and has since been replaced by a residential building.… Continue reading Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009
Ipswich town wharf circa 1930, photography by Edward Darling 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." … Continue reading The Old Town Landings and Wharfs
Boston rum runners caught during prohibition 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.… Continue reading Rum runners
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. … Continue reading Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006
Ipswich Samuel Goodhue's pier, circa 1907 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.… Continue reading Samuel Goodhue’s pier
The Ipswich Riverwalk mural - In 2005 EBSCO Publishing commissioned artist Alan Pearsall to paint a 2,700-square-foot mural on one of the old mill buildings occupied by the company in Ipswich. The mural is the centerpiece of the town's Riverwalk. … Continue reading The Ipswich Riverwalk mural
The Ipswich River circa 1900 The Ipswich River - The 35-mile Ipswich River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Ipswich Bay. The Ipswich River Water Association works to protect the river and its watershed. Foote Brothers Canoes on Topsfield Rd provides rentals and shuttle service from April to October.… Continue reading The Ipswich River
Old footbridge on the Ipswich River at the downtown dam. 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 at night by the light… Continue reading A photographic history of the Ipswich Mills Dam
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.… Continue reading Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry
The Ipswich steamship Carlotta The steamship “Carlotta” - The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point boat yard, and sailed from Town Wharf to the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Little Neck, Ipswich Bluff and Grape Island were favorite destinations for tourists and locals.… Continue reading The steamship “Carlotta”
Joseph Ross Ipswich MA Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder - Joseph Ross (1822-1903) is best known for designing the first movable span bridge in the country, which he patented in 1849 at the age of 26, and became the most common railroad bridge type in the Boston area. His corporation Joseph Ross & Sons was highly successful.… Continue reading Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder
Willowdale community, Topsfield Rd., Ipswich and Hamilton The Willowdale Mill - In 1829, Dr. Thomas Manning of Ipswich constructed a 6' tall dam and mill on the Ipswich River along Topsfield Rd. Workers were provided housing a the large stone house. In 1884 the mill building burned and much of the stone walls for the mill building collapsed. … Continue reading The Willowdale Mill
The Choate Bridge in Ipswich MA is the oldest double stone arch bridge in America 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. … Continue reading The Choate Bridge
County Street bridge and factories, Ipswich MA 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.… Continue reading County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills
Schooner at the Ipswich Town Wharf The Town Wharf - The Ipswich Town Landing is one of several locations along the River where wharves were located over the centuries. … Continue reading The Town Wharf
Fox Creek Canal marker on Argilla Road 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.… Continue reading The Fox Creek Canal
The Ipswich ice house 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.… Continue reading The Ice House
Green Street Bridge painting by Theodore Wendel The Green Street Bridge - Twenty years after building the County Street Bridge, construction began for the Green Street Bridge. The original structure was made of wood but was later replaced by an arched bridge of stone on May 14, 1894. This was the fifth bridge built on the Ipswich River in the Town of Ipswich.… Continue reading The Green Street Bridge
Diamond Stage and Treadwells Island in the 1832 Ipswich map 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.… Continue reading Diamond Stage
The Choate Bridge in Ipswich, photo by George Dexter Battles of the bridges - Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters The stone bridges which span the Ipswich river with their graceful arches are picturesque and interesting, but the readiness with which the Town proceeded to build the latter two stone bridges is in singular contrast with the belligerent opposition to the earliest ones. The… Continue reading Battles of the bridges

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