Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Merrimack River Tour

The Merrimack River in Dracut, Massachusetts

I live only a mile or so from the banks of the Merrimack River in Manchester, New Hampshire. I know that the Scots Irish settlers in 1719 sailed (or rowed?) up the Merrimack River from Maine to Methuen to join their pastor, Reverend James MacGregor who was temporarily in Dracut.  From that point, sixteen families followed MacGregor to view the Nutfield Grant of land in what is now New Hampshire.  They liked what they saw, and they settled there permanently.

I have often wondered how they sailed (or rowed) up the Merrimack to Methuen.  I've seen the river from the land all my life. I've never been out on the river.  My daughter belonged to a crew team in Nashua, and the river was often too low to row, or too high to row, or just enough water for a crew shell.  Her crew in college rowed on the Merrimack in Lowell, above the dam, in several regattas. What was the river like before it was dam controlled?  Where did the Scots Irish, who came up the Merrimack River, put in along the river in Haverhill (which included parts of Methuen in 1719)?

Last week I took my first ride on the river with the Clean River Project out of Methuen.  This lovely tour is a fundraiser for the Clean River Project, which has been cleaning up the Merrimack River, mostly the 8 miles between Lawrence and Lowell, since 2005.  Seeing the river from the middle of the water gives an entirely new perspective to the size of the boats that could have fit up the river (probably quite large), and where they might have landed (there are currently many beaches and places for putting in boats, and most probably date back to 1719).

It is still unknown exactly where the Scots Irish landed along the river, but you might want to take this tour yourself to see if you can conjecture just how and where they might have been.

Captain Dennis gave us a lovely tour, with historical and
natural history lessons, and a sing-a-long or two! 

An island near Methuen, Massachusetts

A view of Lawrence, Massachusetts

We saw a lot of wildlife including cormorants, geese, ducks
and several blue herons
This is a photo of one of the traps set up on the Merrimack River by the
Clean River Project to catch trash floating downriver

This is one of those traps we saw along the Andover shoreline
We passed under the Route 93 bridge twice

This is the boathouse for the Greater Lawrence Community Boating program.
Dozens of kids waved to us from the docks and porches!

The Merrimack River is no longer an urban sewer along this stretch of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  It has been cleaned up and the shoreline preserved as conservation land. We observed lots of wildlife, and people swimming and boating.  Thanks to organizations like the Clean River Project, the Merrimack is again being used for recreation and tourism.

by Londonderry artist Tom Abruzese
An image of the ship that carried Nutfield 
settlers to New England in 1718.
Made from the shell from a Butternut Tree
growing on this property and matchsticks. 


Clean River Project 

Merrimack River Tours

A blog post about Pulpit Rock, where the Nutfield settlers paused for a religious service on their way from Methuen to Londonderry, New Hampshire:

The Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Merrimack River Tour", Nutfield Genealogy, posted August 24, 2019, ( accessed [access date]).

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