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

The Neponset River changes character radically below Lower Mills, as it enters the Neponset Estuary. The intimate freshwater River, closed in by a buffer of overhanging trees, gives way to a wide-open waterway with sprawling salt marshes and sweeping views.

Seasonal water levels are replaced by a twice-daily 10-foot change in the water level as tides ebb and flow. Finally, the River is no longer the solitary domain of paddle-powered craft, as larger motor and sailboats are now also able to ply the waters of the Neponset.

Freshwater and saltwater mix here, creating a unique habitat that is one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on earth. The marshes filter stormwater runoff, capturing nutrients and sediments and purifying the water.

The estuary provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including all manner of sport fish and over 200 different bird species.

It is also a protective bulwark against flooding, as resilient salt marsh soils and grasses dissipate storm surges, protecting upland organisms as well as real estate.

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

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

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. Visit

View of the Neponset Estuary and Gulliver’s Creek, at Rt 93 and Granite Ave. The River meanders here between Milton, Dorchester, and Quincy.

For more information about NepRWA’s work in the Neponset Estuary, please visit