The Plum Island Estuary in the largest wetland dominated estuary in New England (60 square kilometers) and drains a 600 square kilometer watershed within the Boston metropolitan area. It is part of the larger Great Marsh, the largest continuous salt marsh in New England, stretching from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. The majority of the wetlands in the estuary are permanently protected by the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and local land trust.

Although the estuary is protected, the watershed is becoming more developed, and it is being assaulted by numerous threats. Many of the rivers that feed the estuary suffer from severe water loss. Increasing paved surfaces associated with development increases storm water runoff, which may be contaminated with pollutants. With climate change, we can expect more intense and frequent storms that will lead to more flooding and pollution input, along with hotter and drier summers that will lead to water shortages and low or no-flow situations. All these factors will degrade shellfish beds, fish populations, and salt marsh habitats, essentially creating coastal dead zones.

Landowners around the watershed are the key to a healthy estuary. By changing simple habits relating to water and fertilizer use, specifically in landscaping practices, these people can make a difference in the health of the Plum Island Estuary and its many users (both human and wildlife).

To contact us:

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Slow the Flow Program

6 Plum Island Turnpike

Newburyport, MA 01950

Phone: 978-465-5753

Fax: 978-465-2807


Conserving the Plum Island Estuary, One Drop at a Time

Slow the FlowText Box: Jim Fenton
Text Box: David Stone

Any images that are not otherwise credited are courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge announces the “Slow the Flow” campaign and grant program. The program encourages landowners to make lawn care and landscaping more environmentally friendly. Five to ten grants, ranging from $500 to $1,000 will be awarded to landowners in the Plum Island Estuary watershed. One grant, for up to $2,500, will be given for a Low Impact Development project. Landowners must contribute a 50% match. The deadline for applications is April 20, 2012, with awards announced May 4th.

Dig this

To coincide with the grant program, a kick-off workshop will be held on March 31, 2012 from 8:30am to 3pm at the Refuge Headquarters. The workshop will address why the Great Marsh needs our help, and what North Shore residents can do to protect their watershed. The workshop is free, but there is a $10 fee to cover a catered lunch. Reservation is required.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is also sponsoring a talk by on April 7th, 10:00am at Newbury Elementary School, 63 Hanover Street, Newbury, MA. Click here for the flyer.