We work to protect and restore the vital ecosystem of the Neponset Estuary.

Our focus is to restore damaged salt marshes and migratory fish runs threatened by filling, dredging, tidal restrictions, dams, and sea level rise.

The Neponset River Estuary is the section of the Neponset where freshwater and saltwater mix, creating a unique natural environment and recreational destination.

Seasonal water levels are replaced by a twice-daily 10-foot change as tides ebb and flow.

The marshes filter stormwater runoff, capture nutrients and sediments, and purify the water. They also serve as a protective bulwark against flooding, as resilient salt marsh soils and grasses dissipate storm surges, protecting both upland organisms and real estate.

The Estuary is home to 600 acres of salt marsh that serve as a nursery for fish and shellfish, a habitat for 200+ species of birds, and a foraging spot for seals, among others.

Historically, the Estuary attracted migratory fish like herring, shad, and alewives that returned to the Neponset from the sea, passing upstream to Walpole each spring, supercharging the food chain, and helping sustain indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

Rainbow Smelt. Photo by Tom Palmer.

An estuary is an area where a river meets the ocean.

Neponset Estuary between Squantum Point in Quincy (r) and the Rainbow Swash gas tank in Dorchester (l). Photo credit marinas.com

Our Plan

The Neponset Estuary, impacted by development, tidal restrictions, and climate change, is a priority for habitat restoration. Our salt marshes have suffered from ditches, dredging, restricted saltwater flow, and invasive plants. Dams have blocked herring and shad from swimming upstream for almost 300 years.

In 2023, we began working with the Town of Milton and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to develop a Neponset Estuary Climate Advisory Council composed of municipal and state staff, and representatives from community-based organizations to discuss climate resilience and the role of nature-based solutions.

Salt Marsh

We are also working to get an updated assessment of the salt marsh conditions across the Estuary, update climate modeling and marsh migration, and re-evaluate the status of the Baker Dam in light of the Lower Neponset Superfund and potential flooding issues. 

Invasive phragmites plant
Salt marsh ditch

For more information about our Estuary Program, please contact NepRWA River Restoration Director, Sean McCanty, at mccanty@neponset.org

A History of Conservation Efforts

Nature thrives in the Neponset River Watershed even though the filling, dredging, damming, and polluting that come with 400 years of industrialization and development have taken their toll.

Despite its proximity to Boston, many of the estuary’s open spaces and habitats are still intact, thanks to earlier generations of conservation leaders, like Charles Eliot, founder of the Metropolitan District Commission, who recognized the need to protect the Neponset’s marshes more than 100 years ago.

More recently, “early” NepRWA leaders, like Elizabeth Houghton and John Cronin, helped block highway and “wetland reclamation” projects in the 1960s that would have paved thousands of acres of natural spaces.

Read about about past salt marsh restoration programs.

Restored Salt marsh in the Neponset Estuary. Photo by Tom Palmer.

Explore the Estuary!

A great way to experience the Neponset Estuary is to paddle it. We recommend paddling at mid to high tide, launching from Milton Landing or DCR Neponset Park in Dorchester.

Order a paddler’s guide to help you explore even more of the Estuary and the Neponset River. The guide is FREE for NepRWA members!

Get your guide at neponset.org/paddlersguide

View of the Neponset Estuary and Gulliver’s Creek, at Rt 93 and Granite Ave. The River meanders here between Milton, Dorchester, and Quincy.
An Egret explores the Neponset River Estuary in Quincy
Great Egret in the Neponset Estuary. Photo by Sean McCanty.