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Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge


Great Meadows is a large wetland/river system in a suburban area.  In addition to large portions of it being in a National Wildlife Refuge, it is easily accessible for recreation (boating and fishing); provides opportunities for education (close proximity to public and private schools); supports multiple state-listed/protected wetland species (plant and animal); is identified on Massachusetts' BioMap2 as being Core Habitat with some Critical Natural Landscape; includes Priority Natural Communities, most of it is mapped as habitat for Species of Conservation Concern, and includes a large area of Forest Core which is a Landscape Block; and includes numerous state-certified vernal pools.


Exemplary Ecosystem Services

Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion

Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning

Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)

Storm abatement

Flood storage/mitigation

Water quality improvement


Conservation Status and Threats

  • Conservation status

    Federal Protection Partial non-federal ownership however majority within National Wildlife Refuge
  • Adjacent land use

    Residential - medium density
  • Approximate natural buffer width

    > 100 ft
  • Other Information

    The water quality in the river is dependent on land use upstream and much of that is heavily suburbanized and has been for decades, or even centuries.



  • Approximate size (ha):

    Approximately 1,600 ha (wetlands)
  • General wetland characterization:

    Inland Fresh Seasonally Flooded Basin/Flat, Inland Fresh Meadow, Inland Shallow Fresh Marsh, Inland Deep Fresh Marsh, Inland Open Fresh Water, Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp, Inland Fresh Wooded Swamp
  • Adjacent water bod(ies)

  • Approximate stream order

  • Name of body of water

    Concord River
  • Surficial geology

    Swamp deposits (muck, peat, silt and sand).  Reference: Surficial Geology of the Concord Quadrangle, MA (USGS circa 1962)


  • Soils

    Numerous due to expansive size.  Highlights from NRCS websoil survey:  Freetown muck, ponded; Saco mucky silt loam; Hinckley loamy sand


Flora and Fauna

  • Dominant flora

    "Extensive buttonbush-dominated wetlands reflect long-term vegetational changes along both rivers. In many areas, invasive species, such as water chestnut or purple loosestrife have displaced plant species of high waterfowl value, such as bur-reed and bulrush." (USFWS website)
  • Unique flora

    Engelmann’s Umbrella-sedge (Cyperus engelmannii, state Threatened) and Few-seeded Sedge (Carex oligosperma, state Endangered),
  • Dominant fauna

    Muskrat, great blue heron and numerous other terrestrial and avian species (migratory and residential)
  • Rare fauna

    American Bittern, Blanding’s Turtle, Common Moorhen, Least Bittern, Umber Shadowdragon, Pied-billed Grebe, and King Rail


  • GMNWR1
  • GMNWR10
  • GMNWR7

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