Beyond the Boundaries

Connecticut River

Help Us Protect the Connecticut River Watershed

From its source in the Northern Forest to its mouth at Long Island Sound, the 410-mile Connecticut River weaves through four states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. As it flows from north to south, it passes through a variety of landscapes, from boreal forests and floodplain grasslands, through urban areas, to coastal saltmarshes and wetlands.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge encompasses the entire 7.2-million-acre Connecticut River watershed. This vast and varied refuge provides crucial habitat for both common and threatened wildlife species, from freshwater mussels and endangered Puritan tiger beetles to a variety of fish, birds and mammals.


The Conte refuge mission includes conservation, education and recreation, and encourages public-private partnerships throughout the four-state watershed. As a watershed-based national wildlife refuge, this refuge is leading the way as a model for landscape-level collaborative conservation. One example of the creative approaches undertaken here is the Watershed on Wheels, or WoW Express. Launched in 2010, this mobile visitors’ center brings educational services to residents throughout the watershed. Through interactive exhibits, the Wow Express helps to connect people with the natural resources that provide them with clean water, clean air, local foods and scenic vistas.

Significance and Threats

As the longest river in New England, the Connecticut is one of the region’s central ecological, economic and cultural features. The watershed’s forests are nesting grounds for migratory birds such as thrushes, bobolinks and warblers, as well as the home of large mammals such as the American black bear. The river and its tributaries shelter fish such as eastern brook trout, shad, salmon and herring. At the Connecticut’s mouth, marshes provide shelter and nutrients for a wide variety of marine wildlife.

The watershed also provides hydroelectric power, water, farmland and recreational opportunities vital to millions of people. As a result, development, pollution and other human activities pose challenges to wildlife and habitats here, as does the looming peril of climate change.


Connecticut River Watershed
Connecticut River Watershed | James Weliver, USFWS

What NWRA is doing

NWRA is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to safeguard the Connecticut River watershed in a variety of ways, including:

  • Identifying high-priority habitat and developing methods to safeguard it;
  • Seeking funding for habitat protection and restoration from a variety of sources;
  • Establishing education and conservation partnerships with other government agencies and local groups;
  • Promoting Conte refuge as a model for landscape conservation within the Refuge System;
  • Building connections between Conte refuge and international bird habitat conservation programs.

What can you do to help?

By making a contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge Association you’ll help our team to continue its work to protect and enhance the Connecticut River and other landscapes and wildlife across the country. Please consider making a donation today.

You can also join our Action Team and receive alerts on actions you can take to protect the refuge system and the wildlife within it. Through the Action Network you can learn about measures pending in Congress and send messages about them directly to your congressperson. Please join today and help us stand up for the refuges!

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