The Eightmile River

The Eightmile River meanders through 40,000 acres of forests, fields and sleepy river towns. From its cold, fast-flowing headwaters to its confluence with the Connecticut River at Hamburg Cove’s freshwater tidal marshes, the Eightmile River remains in remarkably good condition with high water quality and rich aquatic life. Almost one third of the watershed is protected, including over 4,000 acres by the Conservancy, but development and alterations to water flow threaten this natural area.

Despite centuries of settlement, forests blanket more than 80% of the watershed including remarkably large, intact stands. Neotropical songbirds like cerulean warbler nest and feed in these dense forests, while mammals such as river otter and bobcat roam here undisturbed.

These intact woods complement the river’s free-flowing waters which teem with native trout, diverse migratory and resident fish and freshwater mussels, indicator species of the watershed’s health. The river also hosts a healthy mix of submerged aquatic plants and two globally rare plant species.

Only two significant dams impede the river, and the Conservancy and partners are working on ways to lessen the impact of these structures on aquatic life. Thanks to the work of the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Lyme Land Conservation Trust and the Connecticut River Watershed Council, fishways have been installed to improve habitat for migrating fish.

The tributaries of the Eightmile are also significant, and the Conservancy is working to protect these special places. Spanning more than 1,000 acres, Burnham Brook Preserve helps safeguard some of southern New England’s best juvenile Atlantic salmon habitat. Along the river’s East Branch, the Conservancy has helped protect hundreds of acres including undeveloped river frontage and is working to remove the last major dam in the watershed without fish passage.

In recognition of the river’s free-flowing condition, water quality and its rich aquatic life, the U.S. Congress has designated the river as Wild & Scenic River. The Conservancy and our partners worked for many years to achieve this important ecological and cultural recognition that will provide legal protection and funding. Designation has also been the recent catalyst for research, focus of expertise and development of a community structure to formulate a management plan to ensure continued protection of the river.

Contact Nathan Frohling, Lower Connecticut River Program Director, at 203-568-6289 or