Community leaders kayak 117-mile length of the Merrimack River

 In Chamber News

Community Partners Kayak the Length of the Merrimack River

From August 7-10, the “Merrimack River Valley Voyagers,” a group of community leaders from the Merrimack Valley, will kayak and camp the entire length of the Merrimack River—117 miles from Franklin, NH to Plum Island, MA—stopping in cities along the way for public events highlighting the river, including environmental issues; economic development; education and the workforce; and recreational opportunities.
The Merrimack River is a vital asset for a broad region that spans New Hampshire and Massachusetts providing drinking water to more than 600,000 people, as well as access to fishing, boating, and paddling for many more.  It is no wonder, then, that Massachusetts’ busiest state park (at Salisbury Beach) and busiest boat ramp (Cashman Park in Newburyport) are both located on the River.   The River’s economic impact can be seen by the billions of dollars of riverfront investment in recent years.
But environmental conversation and recreational access to the river continue to be priorities, which the trip will highlight.   Each of the lawmakers paddling on the voyage has sponsored legislation or amendments addressing the environmental concerns of cities and towns along the Merrimack, such as requiring more rapid notifications of sewage discharges in the river to protect swimmers and drinking water.  Senator Dizoglio, who along with Senator Kennedy has been actively seeking to create a Merrimack River District Commission, noted: “For the first time, this commission will convene a diverse group of experts from various sectors to work together, agree on the basic facts and advise the legislature on how to proceed to restore our beloved river so that it may be here for future generations to explore and enjoy.”
The Merrimack River and clean water is a priority for federal policy makers, including Congresswoman Trahan. She has convened stakeholders to discuss this important issue, visited water facilities, toured the riverwalk, and is continuing to work with  the EPA regional administrator  and cities and towns to make the river healthy for drinking, recreation etc. Congresswoman Trahan introduced the Stop Sewage Overflow Act in April and it passed the U.S. House in July.   She commented, “I’m proud of the Merrimack River Valley Voyagers for highlighting the collaborative work being done to preserve and protect this treasure. The federal government has an obligation to help municipalities like Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, and Manchester make urgently needed upgrades to their sewer infrastructure, to help prevent CSO pollution from jeopardizing the health and economic wellbeing of residents who depend on the river.”
The trip started as a simple recreational outing for Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn; Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce; and Derek Mitchell, executive director of the Lawrence Partnership.  Merrimack River Watershed Council Board President Dan Graovac, quickly got involved in the planning of the trip.
As Glenn explains, “In the Merrimack Valley, we all work together to promote economic development and the river is central to just about everything we do.   By paddling together, we thought it would symbolically demonstrate the importance of our partnerships and also the beautiful resource that flows through our communities.”
Documenting the entire trip will be Doug Sparks, editor of Merrimack Valley Magazine.  Plum Island Kayak in Newburyport will be providing kayaks and other equipment, and the RiverWalk Brewing Company will be sponsoring a “landing party” for the Voyagers Saturday afternoon on Plum Island.
The group will kayak 22 to 35 miles each of the four days of the trip with plans to stop in Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Newburyport.
Glenn anticipates some challenges.  “We’ll have to portage our kayaks around obstacles such as the Garvins Falls Dam near Pembroke, which has a hydroelectric plant and a waterfall; the Hookset Dam; and the Great Stone Dam in Lawrence,” he says.   One of the most difficult stretches of river will be the “urban canyon” of class 1-3 rapids in Manchester, he predicts.
Follow and #mrvvoyagers for updates and pictures from the trip.
For more information about the trip, contact:
Environmental Issues:  Dan Graovac, 401 864-5486
Economic Development and Community Partnerships: Derek Mitchell, 978 804-6989 and Dougan Sherwood, 617 223-7971
Education and Workforce Development: Lane Glenn, 978 476-2932
Full itinerary and local press stop contacts listed below


Merrimack River Valley Voyagers Include (Please note that new people are joining daily):

  • Linda Dean Campbell, Massachusetts State Representative, 15th Essex District
  • Diana DiZoglio, Massachusetts State Senator, 1st Essex District
  • Lane Glenn, President, Northern Essex Community College
  • Dan Graovac, President, Merrimack River Watershed Council Board of Directors
  • Charlotte Harris, Outreach Coordinator, NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster
  • Jim Kelcourse, Massachusetts State Representative, 1st Essex District
  • Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts State Senator, 1st Middlesex District
  • Heather McMann, Executive Director, Groundwork Lawrence
  • Christina Minicucci, Massachusetts State Representative, 14th Essex District
  • Derek Mitchell, Executive Director, Lawrence Partnership
  • Gene Porter, Chair of Lower Merrimack River Advisory Group
  • Glenn Prezzano, Publisher, Merrimack Valley Magazine
  • Daniel Rivera, Mayor, City of Lawrence
  • Dougan Sherwood, President, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce
  • Doug Sparks, Editor, Merrimack Valley Magazine
  • Andy Vargas, Massachusetts State Representative, 3rd Essex District


August 7, “Upper New Hampshire”:  Launching in Franklin, New Hampshire and paddling approximately 30 miles to south of Concord.  Includes a public event in Concord, a portage around the Garvin’s Falls Dam, and camping at the White Sands Conservation Area.
8 am Launch
Franklin High School, 115 Central Street, Franklin, NH
3 pm Public Event
New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, 31 College Drive, Concord, NH
August 8, “Lower New Hampshire”:  From the White Sands Conservation Area approximately 35 miles south to Nashua.  Includes a portage around the Hooksett Dam, a portage around the Amoskeag Fish Ladder Dam, a public event in Manchester, and a public event in Nashua.
8 am Launch
White Sands Conservation Area, White Sands Rd., Suncook, NH
1 pm Public Event
Amoskeag Fish Ladder Dam, 4 Fletcher St, Manchester, NH
August 9, “Upper Massachusetts”:  From Nashua approximately 22 miles southeast to Lawrence.  Includes a public event in Lowell, a portage around the Pawtucket Falls, and a public event at the dock at the Bellegarde Boathouse.
8 am launch
Independence Rowing Club, 75 Crown St., Nashua, NH
1 pm Public Event
UMass Lowell Bellegarde Boat House, 500 Pawtucket Blvd, Lowell, MA
6 pm Public Event
Greater Lawrence Community Boating, 1 Eaton St, Lawrence
August 10, “Lower Massachusetts”: From Lawrence approximately 27 miles east to Plum Island.  Includes a public event in Haverhill and a landing party on Plum Island.
6 am launch
Pemberton Park, Lawrence Heritage State Park, off Parker St, Lawrence
10:30 am
Public Event
Harbor Place, 2 Merrimack St, Haverhill
3:00 pm
Landing Party
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Dock/Landing on North Point of Plum Island
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