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Connecticut River Estuary

 

The lower Connecticut River from Middletown to Old Saybrook is a tidally influenced riverine lower perennial watercourse that bisects a landscape of relatively low density in the otherwise densely developed Northeast.  It is the only major river system on the Atlantic coast without a major port or urban center at its estuary. This long tidal river (the translation of its native American name) has reaches that contain biologically unique, diverse, productive, and ecologically sensitive natural communities.  It serves to link the land and sea as a migratory corridor for various birdlife, diadromous fish, and various mammals.  It is culturally sugnificant with a number of prehistoric, precolonial, and colonial sites recognized along its shores and within the adjacent watershed. It is host to a number of tourist destinations, state parks and natural areas, lies within the Silvio Conte National Widllife Refuge, and contains a number of culturally and historically significant resources along its shores.  The freshwater and brackish water tidal wetlands are exemplary communities in the region.  These communities,, and the tributary streams, shorelines, and open water areas associated with the river support a plethora of state and federal species of conservation concern including species listed on both the CT and Federal Endangered Species Acts.     

Exemplary Ecosystem Services

Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion

Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning

Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)

Aquifer recharge

Storm abatement

Carbon storage

Water quality improvement

Education

Conservation Status and Threats

  • Conservation status

    RAMSAR DesignationWithin the Silvio Conte NWR conservation focal area. Various CT WMAs, Parks and NGO Preserves occur
  • Adjacent land use

    Rural Residential (non-farm)
  • Approximate natural buffer width

    50-100 ft
  • Other Information

Ecology

  • Approximate size (ha):

    8,325
  • General wetland characterization:

    Inland Shallow Fresh Marsh, Inland Open Fresh Water, Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp, Inland Fresh Wooded Swamp, Coastal Salt Meadow, Coastal Regularly Flooded Salt Marsh
  • Adjacent water bod(iess)

    Stream, Tidal Systems
  • Approximate stream order

    from 1st order to multiple order tributaries
  • Name of body of water

    Long Island Sound, Salmon River, Eight Mile River National Scenic River
  • Surficial geology

    Soils consist of glacial tills on higher topographic elevations (uplands of the adjacent steep sided river valley) to stratified sand, gravel and silt at the lower portions of the topsequence, and extensive areas of Westbrook Mucky Peat within the brackish marshes of the estuary.  

  • Soils

    Soils consist of glacial tills on higher topographic elevations (uplands of the adjacent steep sided river valley) to stratified sand, gravel and silt at the lower portions of the topsequence, and extensive areas of Westbrook Mucky Peat within the brackish marshes of the estuary.  

Flora and Fauna

  • Dominant flora

    American Beachgrass (Griswold Point); Common Reed (Great Island, Ragged Rock Creek, and many other locations); Smooth Cordgrass (Ayers Marsh Old Saybrook, Great Island WMA, Old Lyme); Common Threesquare (Schoenoplectus pungens) and Arrowhead (Sagittaria spp.) (Selden Island Natural Area Preserve in Lyme); Annual Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica) Whalebone Creek Preserve Lyme); Narrowleaf Cattail - Rosemallow (Typha angustifolia - Hibiscus moscheutos) - Lords Cove in Lyme
  • Unique flora

    Wild Rice, Parker's Pipewort, Lilaeopsis chinensis, Golden Club
  • Dominant fauna

    Black Duck (Breeding resident and numerically dominant winter resident waterfowl), Tree Swallow (numerically dominant migratory songbird during staging for southbound migration)
  • Rare fauna

    Puritan Tiger Beetle, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, SHort-eared Owl, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Red Knot, King Rail, Common Moorhen, Piping Plover, Least Tern, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Short-nosed Sturgeon, American Eel

Gallery

  • Britannica_CT_River
  • CTRiver_NOAA
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