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Rivers in the Northeast are popular recreation areas for paddlers, swimmers, anglers and bird watchers. A key component in the nature of rivers is a variety of vegetation that falls or is swept into our rivers and streams. For some paddlers, homeowners, and others who live near rivers, large woody vegetation is an impediment or simply unsightly. For the fish, mammals, birds and insects who live in and around the river, these logs and big branches form an essential element of the river’s ecology. Protecting these instream habitat characteristics is important to assuring a species-rich and diverse river system.

With funding from the Fields Pond Foundation, and in cooperation with the MA Department of Fish and Game, AMC has developed the following video and brochure for paddlers, property owners, and others about ways to balance paddling safety, aesthetics, and the ecological values of our rivers. Click here to download the guide >>

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Paddlers and beaver dams: Paddlers and others should leave beaver dams alone unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise. It is usually very easy for paddlers to lift their boats over beaver dams; in fact, in high-water conditions they can often be paddled over without the need to step out of the boat.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts regulates beaver dam modification or removal, and those contemplating any action related to beaver dams should contact their local board of health and consult this page. In other states, please consult the appropriate local or state officials.

Additional considerations for whitewater: Woody vegetation in whitewater rivers can present additional safety concerns and should be taken seriously by paddlers. Although similar considerations as demonstrated in the above video should be exercised when deciding if to remove instream vegetation on a whitewater river, paddlers should also be aware of hazards presented by different water levels and conditions. For whitewater rivers especially, it is important that paddlers understand their rights of navigation, while also recognizing that strainers and woody debris are integral to the ecological integrity of the riverine ecosystem. 

Get Out Paddling with the AMC: AMC offers paddling trips through our chapters and at our facilities. Click here to plan your paddling trip and to explore more of AMC's paddling resources.

Additional Information on Woody Debris in streams and rivers:

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Inland Fisheries Division has a very informative Large Woody Debris Factsheet which provides background on the ecological values of large wood in the stream and also includes guidance on how and when to remove wood if necessary.

A new slide show is available to accompany the brochure with updated photos and information on dealing with woody debris.

Video by David Griffin Photography