Rivers and Watersheds

river restoration RI

While almost all of Narragansett Bay is located in Rhode Island, 60% of the watershed that contributes fresh water to the Bay is in Massachusetts. The Narragansett Bay watershed encompasses 1,754 square miles, with 1,024 square miles in Massachusetts. The major Bay tributaries include the Taunton and Blackstone Rivers which are largely in Massachusetts, and the Pawtuxet River watershed, which is entirely in Rhode Island. 

Smaller watersheds that are in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts include the Ten Mile, Palmer, and Kickemuit. In Rhode Island's Washington County, the Saugatucket, the Narrow River, and the coastal salt ponds define the region's character. The Wood-Pawcatuck watershed is shared by Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut. 

Partnerships in protection

To promote healthy rivers and streams, Save The Bay works with many partner organizations across the watershed:

Protecting Our Watersheds

Save The Bay promotes healthy water quality in our tributaries through our work to improve stormwater and wastewater treatment. We also encourage sustainable water use to increase river connectivity, or the ability for wildlife including migratory and native fish species to use streams to migrate. 

Save The Bay and our watershed partners assess the effects of road crossings, dams, and other human influences on river health, and develop and implement strategies to restore the connection between the estuary and upstream habitats. We support migratory fish restoration through dam removal and the construction of fish passage projects.

Wild and Scenic Rivers

In 2009, the Taunton River was included in the National Park Service Wild & Scenic Rivers Program. The river was selected for its outstanding wildlife habitat and rare species, its scenic river corridor and its value for fisheries, archaeology and agriculture. The Taunton River is the longest undammed coastal river in the region and has Narragansett Bay’s most significant herring run.

The Wood-Pawcatuck Rivers and selected tributaries are in the process of being nominated for this important status. A bill is in front of Congress to authorize a National Park Service study of these rivers for inclusion in the program. These tributaries represent some of the most pristine habitats for native trout and rare species in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

To protect coastal habitats, Save The Bay:

  • encourages smart development that protects the public’s right to access the coastline.
  • works to assess threats to salt marsh health and to restore healthy, functioning marshes.
  • supports efforts to restore water quality and has transplanted eelgrass to several areas around Narragansett Bay. We continue to plant small areas to assess their ability to support eelgrass habitat.
  • is working to restore scallops using caged spawner sanctuaries in the salt ponds.