Muddy River Project Restoraton Overview

1882 Dredging

This 1882 photograph shows the dredging of the northern basin of the Fens, which was necessary to provide storage for floodwaters. (Boston Park Commission Report, 1883.)

Since October of 1996, the Muddy River has flooded three times, causing damage to residences, businesses, academic, medical and cultural institutions and the public transit system in Boston and Brookline.

The objectives of the Muddy River Restoration Project are:

Riverway, c. 1920 View upstream from the Longwood Avenue Bridge in 1920, twenty-eight years after construction (Thomas Elison, photographer, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site).

Riverway, c. 1920
View upstream from the Longwood Avenue Bridge in 1920, twenty-eight years after construction (Thomas Elison, photographer, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site).

 

Project Area

The Project Area is approximately 3.5 miles long and includes portions of Boston and Brookline. The watershed of the Muddy River encompasses 5.6 square miles and includes a portion of the City of Newton.

The river’s headwaters stem from Jamaica Pond and flow downstream through Wards Pond, Willow Pond and Leverett Pond in Olmsted Park. Crossing under Route 9 in a large conduit, the river flows through a long, narrow park section know as the Riverway. At the former Sears parking lot, now the Justine Mee Liff Park, the river flows through pipes underground to a gatehouse at Brookline Avenue. In the late 1890’s this gatehouse separated the fresh water Muddy River from the salt-water marsh known as the Back Bay Fens.

From the gatehouse, a portion of the river’s flow passes through a large underground pipe – known as the Muddy River Conduit – under Brookline Avenue to the Charles River near Kenmore Square. The other portion of the flow passes under Brookline Avenue into the Back Bay Fens. Beyond Brookline Avenue, the watercourse continues through the Fens, and under the Richardson Bridge at Boylston Street, where it enters the Charlesgate Area. In this area, there are numerous bridges: Ipswich Street, CSX Railroad (formerly Conrail), Massachusetts Turnpike (I- 90), Commonwealth Avenue, Beacon Street and, above the entire Charlesgate area, the Bowker Overpass. From the Charlesgate area, the watercourse passes through conduits under Storrow Drive and empties into the Charles River.

Franklin Law Olmsted and his firm were responsible for the parks and parkways from the Charles River to Roxbury and Dorchester, as shown on this 1894 plan. The parks include the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park. (Plan of Portion of Park System from Common to Franklin Park, 1884, Collection of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Brookline, Massachusetts)

Franklin Law Olmsted and his firm were responsible for the parks and parkways from the Charles River to Roxbury and Dorchester, as shown on this 1894 plan. The parks include the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park. (Plan of Portion of Park System from Common to Franklin Park, 1884, Collection of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Brookline, Massachusetts)

Project Phase 1

(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photos)