The WatersheD




From Reading to Watertown, Lexington to Winthrop and places in between, there are 22 communities and many ways to enjoy this urban jewel. Explore the Mystic by canoe or kayak or on foot in one of many parks and paths. There are more than one dozen unique parks offering local history, vistas of Boston, birding and wildlife viewing. 


Maps & Atlas

The Mystic River Watershed is 76 square miles and includes 22 communities in the greater Boston area. Use the interactive Mystic River Environmental Atlas to explore water quality data, recreational opportunities, accessibility and physiography about the watershed. 

Watershed Issues

As in many urban watersheds, water quality in the Mystic River Watershed is impacted by stormwater runoff, aging sewer infrastructure and sewer overflows. Additional nutrients in the river can fuel plant and algae growth. In addition, the Mystic River and several of its tributaries have a history of industrialization that has left behind heavy metals and other pollutants in the riverbed itself. 

Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater is a major cause of pollution affecting fisheries, habitat quality and the overall beauty of the river.

Water Chestnut

This invasive weed clogs the Mystic River, impeding boating, fishing, and swimming, and crowd out native plants.


Severe weather events may overrun our sewer system and cause overflows directly into our rivers, streams and communities.


This potentially harmful bacteria is monitored throughout the watershed primarily at recreational areas.


Due to many years of industrial activity there are areas of highly contaminated sediments throughout the watershed.

Environmental Justice

Mystic River communities have a disproportionate share of cumulative environmental hazards.

River History

The Mystic offers a rich and varied history and has played an essential role in the development of the Boston region. For hundreds of years, Native Americans lived and fished along the Mystic River – known as the “big river” or “great tidal river.”  In 1631, the first ship built by Europeans in Massachusetts launched from the shores of the Mystic River. During the 19th century, 10 shipyards along the river built more than 500 clipper ships. Later, tide mills were used to grind grain and spices, saw wood, and process paints, cloth and other products. Today, a mix of houses, businesses, parks and factories border the river and its tributaries.

The Mystic in 3 Minutes

A timelapse Journey