We acknowledge and honor the indigenous communities who have nurtured the land and waters of the Neponset River Watershed for at least 10,000 years.

To our knowledge, the Neponset Watershed includes portions of the traditional lands of the Massachusett, Nipmuck, Pokanuket, and Wampanoag.

Our use and enjoyment of this area today is connected with their stewardship of it for many centuries and the history of their forced separation from their traditional homeland through colonization.

As you explore the Watershed, we encourage you to join with us in actively learning about its past and current indigenous heritage.

A Historical Narrative

“True Tales: Our River through the Meadows,” by Canton historian, George T. Comeau

Posted in the Canton Citizen, July 2011

The river we see today is not the same river that was used by the prehistoric or colonial people. In 1911, the legislature was pressed to act by allowing the dredging and straightening of the river. The Fowl Meadows had become “foul.” The stench and disease (most notably malaria) was dreadful. The legislature ordered the river to be repaired of these nuisances. The dredging operation began in 1913 and would widen and deepen the river. The refuse from the muck was merely deposited on the banks, and by 1923 complaints abounded from the landowners whose once fertile fields would now no longer drain properly. The straightening also bypassed the “horseshoe” curve in the river, which abutted Horseshoe Swamp. Even today the boundary line with Norwood follows the old course of the river and Horseshoe Meadow remains in Canton. Read more…

Dredging of the Neponset River in Canton, 1913. (Photo by I. Chester Horton, courtesy of the Canton Historical Society)

Natural History

From wooded hills to sedge-filled wet meadows, from the briny estuary to freshwater streams, from salt marshes to rock outcroppings, the Neponset River Watershed is rich with nature.

The Watershed is made up of a striking array of landscapes, habitats, and species – despite 10,000 years of human habitation and over 375 years of industrialization. Read more…

History of Dams on the Neponset

As a relatively small river located near Boston, it is not surprising that the Neponset was one of the first rivers in New England to be harnessed for water power.

These early dams tended to be significantly less permanent structures than their modern counterparts, apparently regularly washing out during spring floods, only to be promptly rebuilt.

Over time, a whole series of dams were built on the Lower Neponset from “Lower Falls ” (now Lower Mills) to “ Upper Falls” (now the area near the Tileston & Hollingsworth Dam). Lower Falls and Upper Falls each had at least two dams, as compared to the modern single dams. Each of the dams would have supported several mills on either side of the River. Read more…

View from the Baker Dam in Milton/Dorchester Lower Mills, looking east toward the Neponset River.