The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts

The Restoration of Eel River

Plymouth’s Eel River once flowed uninterrupted from its headwaters to the ocean. But when a series of mills and dams was constructed in the early 1800s, natural habitat for fish and wildlife was lost. © James Downey, DPW

With the town of Plymouth and other partners, the Conservancy began restoring Eel River by removing the Sawmill Pond dam. Moments after the dam was removed, young brook trout were observed swimming through the area. © Kerry Crisley/TNC

Construction crews worked to transform the area back into a natural stream channel, adding rocks, stumps, logs and other natural debris to recreate pools, riffles and rapids that provide spawning areas for fish. © Kim M. Michaelis, DPW

The restored river begins making its trail. At its headwaters, the Conservancy helped turn 40 acres of cranberry bogs no longer in production back into native wetlands. © Kerry Crisley/TNC

Community volunteers — including a Boy Scout troop — helped replant the headwater bogs with 17,000 Atlantic white cedars, restoring a natural community that has largely disappeared from Massachusetts. © Casey Shetterly/TNC

As the unused cranberry bogs return to Atlantic white cedar swamp, water quality will improve and wildlife habitat will expand. Selling these lower producing bogs enabled the landowners to enhance operations at their other cranberry farms. © Casey Shetterly/TNC

Old, narrow culverts were replaced with wider ones that allow fish, turtles and mammals to pass through. These culverts also allow the stream to flow more naturally and filter sediments and contaminants more effectively. © Casey Shetterly/TNC

People can watch the ecosystem rebound from a new footbridge and path along the river and wetlands. © Casey Shetterly/TNC

Already, brook trout have been found spawning below the dam — for what is likely the first time in 150 years. © Marlin Harms via a Creative Commons license


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