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York River Watershed

Water District Drinking Water Source

The York River Watershed covers 32 squared miles, mostly in York, but also in parts of Kittery, Eliot, and South Berwick, Maine. The watershed includes the main stem of the York River and its numerous tributaries, and several large ponds and reservoirs, as well as numerous small ponds and wetlands, including the extensive salt marsh estuary. Several large undeveloped forest blocks exist within the watershed, as well as numerous areas of agricultural land. There are dozens of areas of significant habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species, including the endangered New England Cottontail and Spotted Wintergreen, and the threatened Swamp Darter. Several areas of conserved land are located in the Watershed, including state managed areas and private easements.

Six dams are built throughout the York River Watershed, forming several public water supply reservoirs and other small ponds. The reservoirs include Folly Pond, Middle Pond, Bell Marsh Reservoir, and Boulter Pond, which all supply the Kittery Water District. Development within the watershed varies from dense commercial and residential areas, especially along the coast and highways, to virtually undeveloped areas near the reservoirs and the headwaters of the York River.

The York River begins at the outflow of York Pond in Eliot flowing through the remnants of Upper Bartlett Mill Pond south and southeast through woodlands and former mill sites into York. There it becomes tidal and is joined by feeder streams from South Berwick and Kittery such as Cutts Ridge Brook, Smelt Brook, Cider Hill Creek, and Rogers Brook. The main stem was never dammed and has retained healthy smelt, herring, eel, lobster, and flounder populations along with seasonal appearances of stripped bass and bluefish. The salt marshes along the banks are a defining characteristic extending inland eight and three-quarter miles and provide important habitat for inland and tidal waterfowl and wading birds. The mouth of the River is protected by Stage Neck creating a safe anchorage within the channel and two dredged basins for several hundred moorings and two town docks. The upper tidal reaches are restricted to small boats due to low clearance at Sewall’s Bridge.

• York’s Population grew by 30.9% from 1990-1999.
• The development and loss of the shoreline vegetation is a concern for water quality.
• A Watershed Management plan was completed in 2005.
• The Mount Agamenticus to the Sea Coalition compiled a conservation plan including the River in 2005.
Ongoing Projects:
Included in the landscape scale Mt Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative.
Shoreland Zoning and enforcement being improved in York.
Key Resource(s) for York River Watershed:
(Click the Title of the entry below to learn more.)
York Land Trust Inc.
Community Assistance Providers
Conserves and protects lands of ecological, historic, scenic, agricultural and educational significance in the greater York area.
York Rivers Association
Community Assistance Providers
A group of citizens, non-profit organizations, local, state and federal agencies working together to protect and restore the rivers of York.
York River Conservation Strategy
Outreach Publications
Compilation of watershed- based information. 
A Comprehensive Wetland Program for Frinding Salt Marshes in the York River, Maine
Publications, Websites, and Tools
Fish Communities and Habitats of the York River Watershed
Publications, Websites, and Tools
Report on a survey to assess the ecological integrity of fish communities and associated freshwater habitats in the York River.
York River Watershed Management Plan
Publications, Websites, and Tools
Nonpoint source pollution management plan for York River.
Towns located in Watershed:
Eliot [ME]
Kittery [ME]
South Berwick [ME]
York [ME]
Counties located in Watershed:
York [ME]
 Website: www.co.york.me.us
 Phone: 207-324-1571
 Population SWIM Towns: 121,400
 Total County Population: 202,232 (U.S. Census Est. 2006)
 Area SWIM Towns: 645.3 square miles
 Total County Area: 1002.6 square miles
Waterbodies located in Watershed:
(WC-watercourse, WB-waterbody)

Cutts Ridge Brook [WC]; Dolly Gordon Brook [WC]; Indian Pond [WB]; Johnson Brook [WC]; Libby Brook [WC]; Rogers Brook [WC]; Scituate Pond [WB]; Smelt Brook [WC]; Southside Brook [WC]; York Pond [WB]; York River [WC]

The York River was one of the first watersheds in Maine to be developed after the town now named York was settled in 1624. There has never been significant industrial activity on the River and the main stem of the river has never been dammed. The extensive marshes in the upper tidal reaches of the river remain largely intact.

The Harbor portion of the River was first dredged by the Army Corps in 1894, involved widening and straightening the channel by removing part of the spit at the southwestern end of Stage Neck, which protects the inner harbor from the exposed outer harbor. It has been modified twice since first in 1905 when the channel was widened and a shoal was removed north of Bragdon Island. Next in 1961 when the two boat basins were created.
The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm, Wells, Maine Copyright 2006 All rights reserved. Collaboration with NOAA CSC, Charleston SC