From its start at a small, lonely pond near the Canadian border, the Connecticut River runs more than 410 miles - past forests, and farms, small towns and industrial cities built and occasionally ravaged by its power. Fed by 38 major tributaries and draining a basin of 11,985 square miles, the river passes rapids where bald eagles swoop for fish and through tidal marshes teeming with marine and bird life.
Finally, the river broadens into a majestic, mile-wide estuary at Long Island Sound and ultimately a great sandbar - a perfect place for beach-nesting piping plovers and a natural blockage to deep-draft shipping vessels.
The Nature Conservancy's History
Comprised of scientists from the four states the river touches, the Connecticut River conservation team works across state lines to understand the river for what it is — the center of the largest freshwater ecosystem in New England. The Connecticut sustains diverse landscapes and communities, and provides one of the last remaining homes for many threatened species.
When the four Conservancy chapters in states through which the river flows came together to launch the Connecticut River program, they faced the reality that the whole river — all 410 miles of it — is a conservation priority. It isn’t just one marsh in Connecticut or some tributaries in Massachusetts that are ecologically significant, but the entire ecosystem.
A river doesn’t stop when it reaches the state line, nor does a shad or an osprey that is following its winding course. But threats cross borders, too, and years of intense human use have disrupted the natural flow that nourishes our fisheries and the riverside forests that protect us from floods and filter pollution before it reaches our waters.
The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Connecticut River landscape for more than 40 years. The Conservancy's first land acquisition in the watershed was 46 acres at Burnham Brook in East Haddam, CT, in 1960. To date, we have protected nearly a quarter-million acres in the watershed.
In addition to protecting land, we also work to restore critical processes and features like natural stream flow, connectivity and intact floodplains across our four states, because we believe that working at the scale of the problem is the only way to make a meaningful difference. Securing these natural processes now is a necessary part of securing our future.
For more information about The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut River program or to support our work in your state, please contact:
Connecticut River Basin Program Director
The Nature Conservancy