Tributaries of the Connecticut River

For inquiries contact Ed Klekowski, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

As is the case with most rivers, nearly all of the water flowing in the Connecticut originates from its tributaries. These streams and small rivers channel the rainfall and snowmelt from 11,250 square miles (29,138 sq km) in four states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut) into the Connecticut River. But the tributaries bring more than water into the river. Often, especially before the implementation of the Clean Water Act of 1965, the tributaries dumped vast amounts of industrial wastes, which poisoned the river for miles.

Millers River, Erving, MA in 1975. The river is discolored with wastes from paper recycling mills. Recycling saved a tree but killed a river.

The mouth of the Millers River where it enters the Connecticut (1975). The arrow marks the plume of pollution entering the Connecticut. Fortunately, because of the Clean Water Act, there are now waste water treatment facilities on the Millers River and water quality has greatly improved.

Tributaries also bring new forms of life into the Connecticut.

Green snow on the water. Millions (billions) of Wolffia brasiliensis plants floating out of the mouth of the Mill River in Hadley, MA. These microscopic plants are the world's smallest flowering plants. There are no leaves, stems or roots. The plant is an amorphous blob of green cells and sometimes (rarely) forms a very small flower. Essentially all reproduction is asexual. The plant is a DNA cloning machine.

So as you can see, the tributaries can play very significant roles in what we find in the river's mainstem. The following essays will give some impression of the river's tributaries.