Rowley River and Egypt River Subwatershed Information

Municipalities: Rowley and Ipswich

Estimated Population: 3507

General Description: A tidal river system that is influenced by Bull and Dow Brook, two freshwater tributaries. Bull Brook Reservoir and Dow Brook Reservoir, which serve the town of Ipswich, are located in this subwatershed. Public water supply wells for the town of Ipswich are also located in this subwatershed. A portion of this subwatershed is located in the Parker River/Essex Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern. A non-functional fishway is located on the Egypt River, just downstream of the two reservoirs.

Recreational boaters enjoy the tidal sectionof this subwatershed accessing it from the Rowley Town Landing. A portion of Willowdale State Forest is located in the headwaters, as are some other parcels of protected open space. Some areas of Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Priority Site and Rare Habitat are located within this subwatershed. Shellfishing occurs primarily in the Rowley River east of the railroad bridge and the flats adjacent to the Rowley River. At one time there was a recreational oyster fishery in the Rowley River. The potential for this still exists as there remains good habitat for oysters. All shellfish waters in this subwatershed are classified as “Conditionally Approved”, except for the Eagle Hill River, which is “Conditionally Closed” during July and August.

Residential land use has increased slightly, up from 614 acres in 1991 to 628 acres in 1999. Undeveloped land use is nearly unchanged from 5284 acres in 1991 to 5267 in 1999.

Land Area: 6120 acres (9.6 square miles)

Land Use as of 1999: Undeveloped –5267 acres (86% of the subwatershed, Forest is 45%)

Residential – 628 acres (10% of the subwatershed)

Commercial/Industrial – 225 acres (4% of the subwatershed)

Named Tributaries: Club Head Creek, Shad Creek, West Creek, Sand Creek, Muddy Run, Dow Brook, Bull Brook.

Lakes and Ponds: Bull Brook Reservoir, Dow Brook Reservoir

Rapid Watershed Assessment: The proportion of impervious cover in this subwatershed is estimated to be 0.3%. The water quality would expected to be of high quality. While a comprehensive survey has not been done, one would expect to find excellent habitat, diverse communities, and a stable stream channel. However, actual water quality information exists that indicates influences from stormwater and potentially boat waste. Shellfish is the primary sensitive resource in the tidal portion of the subwatershed.

Water quality information: Water quality in this subwatershed is affected in several locations by stormwater. The shellfish beds are conditionally approved for harvesting, except for July and August in the Eagle Hill River. They are closed after certain rainfall events due to bacterial contamination, primarily from stormwater. Water quality data indicate that after rainfall events bacterial contamination increases and the greatest increases are in the vicinity of the Rowley town landing. Bacteria is monitored by the Division of Marine Fisheries at various locations within the tidal segments of this subwatershed.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society included monitoring stations in this subwatershed as part of the Plum Island Sound Minibays study. The Marine
Biological Laboratory is also conducting research in this subwatershed. The Parker River Clean Water Associations includes a monitoring station at the Rowley Town Landing as part of their monthly volunteer monitoring program.

Recommendations: Support the efforts and projects of the Great Marsh teams. Continue to promote stormwater management and boat waste management. Identify unprotected open space and work with landowners and communities to encourage land protection through conservation restriction and acquisition. Work with municipalities and land trusts to implement open space protection strategies. Promote outreach and education efforts directed towards boat waste
management. Work to implement the recommendations contained in the ACEC management plan. Evaluate the feasibility and benefits of repairing the fishway on the Egypt River.

(Data obtained from the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Massachusetts Watershed Initiative, 2002 Watershed Assessment Report)

PRCWA Contacts

We'd love to hear from you and get your input on ways to preserve the Parker River Watershed and the Plum Island Sound.

PO Box 798, Byfield, MA  01922
Telephone :

Email :


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Webmaster: Jerry A. Mullins

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Share common experiences & observations in our three beautiful watersheds (Essex, Ipswich, Parker).  Please share your activities with your photographs, mapping your location, and if possible, a journal reflection.


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Our Purpose!


The PRCWA is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the restoration and protection of the waters and environment of the Parker River and Plum Island Sound Watersheds.


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