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Delight in natural wonders experienced from the water on a paddle along the gently flowing Ipswich River, past locations where Indigenous People lived, fished and farmed.
The Ipswich River flows over 40 miles from its headwaters in Burlington, Wilmington and Andover, and acts as an artery that supports life in our region. Humans rely on the river as a significant water supply, as well as a place to relax and enjoy outdoor recreation.
The river is also an essential link in the corridors of protected open space or greenbelts that are central to our land conservation mission. Numerous Greenbelt properties directly border the Ipswich River, and over 4,000 acres within the watershed are protected.
Within this stretch of the river are the David Lampert and Thomas Sanders Reservations which are adjacent to one another at Rowley Ridge Road (Upper River Paddle), but on opposite shores of the river. Both properties consist primarily of floodplain wetlands, so they are wet and inaccessible. What they do offer is an excellent launch point for paddling on the Ipswich River.
This section of the river offers meandering stretches through mature, forested woodlands as well as open views of the former Coolidge Estate, Meredith Farm and the Topsfield Fairgrounds. A beautiful downstream paddle with scenic visits and gentle currents. You can take out at the Salem Road or the Route 97 launch sites.
At the junction of Fish Brook and the Ipswich you will pass the site of “Shenewemedy”, the Pawtucket village from which the earliest English settlers derived the name of their plantation. They thought the name meant “New Meadows,” referring to the many acres along the river, including the Topsfield Fair ground, that the Pawtucket had already cleared for future cultivation. Indigenous farmers prepared much more land for planting than they planted in any given year, to build nutrients and moisture into the mounded soil. The village place name undoubtedly was a different word in the Algonquian language with a different meaning.
This section of the river winds mostly through a broad floodplain area, where vast wetlands flank the river channel. Small channels can be explored off the main stem of the river. A serene, slow moving, downstream paddle with many wildlife watching opportunities. Starting at the Route 97 launch site, you can take out at the Asbury Street or Ipswich Road launch sites.
You will be following the great northeast bend of the Ipswich toward Ipswich Bay in the Gulf of Maine. The Ipswich River originally flowed into Massachusetts Bay at what is today the Beverly-Salem harbor. The river changed course after the end of the last Ice Age as the land rose, released from the great weight of the Laurentide Glacier. Isostatic rebound continues today, along with sea level rise. Indigenous people relied on this river to access the riches of the saltmarsh, clam flats, and islands of Ipswich Bay.
Many plants and animals, including rare and endangered water birds and plants, depend on the Ipswich River for survival.
The areas where flowing waters meet the shore contain ecological variety not found in drier habitats. Here you’ll find many birds, including Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Kingbirds and Baltimore Orioles.
The river offers abundant rainbow and brown trout in the late spring.
Upper River Paddle: Latitude 42.627, Longitude -70.967
Lower River Paddle: Latitude: 42.625659, Longitude -70.936220
Upper River Paddle/Rowley Bridge Road Launch:
From Route 1, Topsfield
Go north on South Main Street, in 0.1 miles turn left onto Salem Road which becomes Hill Street. In 0.8 miles turn right onto Cross Street and follow for approximately 0.5 miles and turn right onto Rowley Bridge Road. Park on left by sign and kiosk.
From Route I-95, Exit 72. Go east on Endicott Road (which becomes Washington Street) for 0.7 miles and take a right on River Road, then an immediate right onto Rowley Bridge Road. In 0.5 miles cross the bridge. Park by sign and kiosk.
Space for 2-3 vehicles on the side of Rowley Bridge Road (Opens in Google Maps) on the south side of the Ipswich River.
Lower River Paddle/Route 97 Launch:
From Route 1, Topsfield
Take Route 97 South (High Street) for 1.0 mile and look for launch site on your right. (Opens in Google Maps)
From Route 128/Exit 45 to Route 97 North
Take Route 1A North. In 0.1 miles, turn left onto Conant Street. In 0.2 miles, turn right onto Route 97 North. Launch site and parking are 4.25 miles ahead on the left. (Opens in Google Maps)
Space for about six vehicles in parking lot. You may also park on the street.
PO Box 1026
82 Eastern Avenue
Essex, MA 01929
Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider