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Our Projects > Studies and Information About York's Rivers, Maine > A Few Facts About York's Rivers

About the Watershed

The York River watershed -- the land that drains into the York River -- is approximately 32 sq. miles, and includes a large portion of York, and small sections of Kittery, Eliot, and South Berwick.

York is one of the most rapidly growing towns in Maine, and the character of the watershed is rapidly changing.

About the River

The river's tidal salt marshes represent a significant habitat in Maine, especially for migratory shorebirds. The watershed includes approximately 406 acres of tidal marsh (according to a report by the York County Soil & Water Conservation District, 1996).

The tidal portion of river is approximately 8 miles long. The tidal fluctuation can be more than 10 feet. Much of the river is not navigable at low tides.

The York River is a tidal river, with small unnavigable freshwater tributaries feeding into a relatively large tidal basin.  The tributaries and ponds of the York River are: (listed from downstream, headed upstream, the way a spawning alewife would encounter them)

    • Cider Hill Creek (N of river), originally known as New Mill Creek
      • Scituate Pond (dam)
      • Middle Pond (dam)
      • Folly Pond (dam)
    • Libby Brook (S of river), originally known as Old Mill Creek
      • Dolly Gordon Brook
        • Johnson Brook
    • unnamed brook out of Boulter Pond (dam) (N of river)
    • Smelt Brook (N. of river)
      • Belle Marsh reservoir (dam, 1983)
    • Rogers Brook
    • Curtis Ridge Brook (S. of river)
    • York Pond (dam)

About the Use of the River

Most of the river is meeting its state water quality standards under the federal Clean Water Act. However, two sections are not meeting these legally designated uses:
  • The York River is closed to shellfishing upstream of Ramshead Point and downstream of Stage Neck due to bacterial pollution.
  • Smelt Brook has low dissolved oxygen, probably due to the Belle Marsh reservoir dam.

The York River has great fishing for striped bass and flounder. There is a run of alewives, smelt, and sea-run trout. Even an Atlantic Salmon was caught in the York River recently, although the small freshwater input of the York River was probably not sufficient to support a spawning population, even historically.

The York River is also increasingly used for boating, with power boats, sailboats, and canoes/kayaks all sharing the waters.  Waterskiing and jetskiing are prohibited.

Several of the Ponds are used for town public water supplies, for towns adjacent to York.  York's water supply comes from the same area (Chases Pond), but the pond is part of the Cape Neddick River watershed.


Continue to Habitat and Species Inventories.

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