Frequently Asked Questions

What is the mission of the Mystic River Watershed Association?

The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) was founded in 1972 with a mission to protect and restore the Mystic River, its tributaries and watershed lands for the benefit of present and future generations and to celebrate the value, importance and great beauty of these natural resources.

What is a Watershed?

The Mystic River Watershed is a network of streams, rivers, and lakes, all draining into the Mystic River. The watershed has been an integral part in the development of the 21 Greater Boston communities it connects.

Where is the Mystic River Watershed?

The Mystic River Watershed covers 76 square miles or roughly 1% of the land area of Massachusetts. It includes all the land area that drains into the Mystic River. Its headwaters begin in Reading, MA and form the Aberjona River, then flow into the Upper Mystic Lake in Winchester. From the Lower Mystic Lake, the Mystic River flows through Arlington, Somerville, Medford, Everett, Chelsea, Charlestown, and East Boston before emptying into Boston Harbor.

The "Lower Mystic River Watershed" refers to the area below the Amelia Earhart Dam in Somerville, which is salt water. Whereas the "Upper Mystic River Watershed" refers to the freshwater area above the Amelia Earhart Dam.

There are 44 lakes and ponds within the Watershed, with Spot Pond being the largest standing body of water at 307 acres in size. The 21 communities within the Mystic River Watershed include:

The Mystic River Watershed includes 21 communities in the greater Boston region:

Arlington | Belmont | Boston (Charlestown & East Boston) | Burlington | Cambridge | Chelsea | Everett | Lexington | Malden | Medford
Melrose | Reading | Revere | Somerville | Stoneham | Wakefield | Watertown | Wilmington | Winchester | Winthrop | Woburn 

What does the Mystic River Watershed Association do?

MyRWA accomplishes this work through the efforts of professional staff and thousands of volunteers working together on a project-by-project basis such as the Mystic Greenways, water quality monitoring, invasive species removal, youth education, and river herring monitoring and advocacy; and through working groups such as the Resilient Mystic Collaborative and the Stormwater collaborative.

What environmental issues threaten the Mystic River watershed?

The Mystic River Watershed is one of the most urban and densely populated watersheds in the Commonwealth. It has three Superfund sites-areas of hazardous waste- within its borders, and is home to various Environmental Justice communities. The Mystic has a history of industry along it's banks - evidence of which continues to linger. 

  • Poor water quality from stormwater runoff and sewage contamination along Alewife Brook

  • Contaminated sediments from a long industrial history (Aberjona River, Malden River)

  • Threats to the little remaining open space, throughout the Watershed

  • Localized flooding (particularly in Winchester and along Alewife Brook)

  • Poor public access to many of the rivers and brooks

  • Invasive species, such as water chestnut, impact water quality, species diversity, and habitat quality

  • Climate-related challenges including flooding, drought and heat

 What kinds of activities are available along the waterways?

  • Swimming at Shannon Beach in Winchester.

  • Swimming at Shannon Beach (Upper Mystic Lake, Winchester), Wedge Pond (Medford)

  • Boat rentals are seasonally available at Blessing of the Bay Boathouse, Somerville; Spot Pond, Stoneham; Spy Pond, Arlington

  • Canoeing and kayaking is a great way to experience the Mystic! Find a boat launch.

  • There are more than 12 miles of paths through waterfront parks for walking, running and biking. Find trails.

  • Birding hotspots include Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, Torbert MacDonald Park, Middlesex Fells Reservation, Horn Pond Recreation Area, Arlington Reservoir, Fresh Pond Reservation and the Mystic Lakes

    Visit our explore page to learn more.

What wildlife lives in the Mystic River watershed?

The Mystic River Watershed encompasses numerous habitats including forest, meadow, field, wetland, rivers, lakes and ponds, and is therefore home to a wide diversity of wildlife. 

  • Mammals such as fox, raccoon, muskrat, opossum, white-tailed deer, skunk and coyote.

  • Birds, including raptors such as red-tailed hawks and bald eagles, songbirds, shorebirds and wading birds.

  • Reptiles, such as garter snakes, painted turtles and snapping turtles.

  • Amphibians, such as frogs, toads and salamanders.

  • Fish, including blueback herring and alewives that swim upstream from the ocean each year to spawn.

 How can I become involved with MyRWA?

VOLUNTEER. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Mystic River Watershed Association.  For the first 27 years of its existence, all programs were volunteer-run! Opportunities for participation include serving on one of MyRWA’s committees (Policy, Clean Water Campaign); volunteering as a water quality or herring monitor; and participating in river and park clean-ups.

DONATE. Together we can we can keep the river, tributaries, lakes, ponds and parks that make up the watershed—healthy and vibrant for today and tomorrow. Your gift will be put to work: Keeping pollution out of our water; Revitalizing and connecting parks and pathways; Connecting youth and community members to our water; and Restoring important habitat.