Fly fishing

COMMENT: It’s time to celebrate Massachusetts rivers | Opinion

As the days get cooler and the nights get chilly, we in Massachusetts often look out for a place of refuge.

In a world still dominated by COVID-19, being outdoors, where the “background noise” can be a rapid, a bird call or the whisper of a grazing doe, outdoor recreation offers a safe escape from the worries presented by the pandemic.

In a few weeks, the explosion of fall colors across New England will draw people outdoors. However, they don’t have to wait.

This month, Massachusetts residents can enjoy the outdoors by being in, on, and next to a river. We are a small state, but we are rich in rivers. With 28 major watersheds and over 300 named rivers, Massachusetts has over 8,200 miles of rivers offering multiple experience possibilities.

At the start of the pandemic my husband and I bought a pair of kayaks and by the end of summer 2020 we had explored 14 rivers in Massachusetts.

Whether carrying a boat, a fishing rod, or nothing at all, the people of Massachusetts can enjoy the glory of our rivers.

We took our kayaks, but Roger uses his bike to be near the water, but not in the water; Mark’s wheelchair provides its wheels. Jeanne directs her camera for her close-up animal photos, while Ian captures the scenes he sees through his watercolors. Everyone experiences rivers differently.

Each part of the state has its own treasure. The Taunton River – New England’s longest coastal river without dams – is a federally designated wild and scenic river known for its diverse habitats supporting populations of birds and other wildlife.

The Connecticut River takes its name from the Pequot word “quinetucket,” which means long tidal river. It’s a lovely river for paddling – especially in the fall, when motorboat traffic has largely declined – with several locations for canoeing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.

The Sudbury, Concord and Assabet rivers, also the Wild and Scenic rivers, have been recognized for their exceptional ecology, history, scenery and recreational value, and are popular destinations for hiking and paddling.

The Housatonic River has its source in the Berkshire Mountains. It flows 149 miles south into the Long Island Strait. Fishing is a major activity along the entire length of the river, offering some of the best fly fishing to be found in the eastern United States. The river is also home to a series of wooden bridges.

And these are just a few to get you started. To help Massachusetts residents celebrate and enjoy their abundance of riverine opportunities, the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance recently released its “Explore Your Rivers” guide to these treasures. (

The guide provides information on swimming, boating, boating, fishing, and walking / biking in watersheds statewide. There is information on accessible trails, kid-friendly activities, and public transportation, as well as links to nearby events.

So if you are feeling a little depressed, anxious, or not sure how to fill those weekends while you take a break from your indoor activities, go enjoy a river! and bring a friend.

Julia Blatt is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice of the rivers of Massachusetts. The alliance is a statewide membership organization of 81 environmental organizations from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. For more information:

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