Navigable Merrimack River Channel Between Haverhill, Newburyport a Tourism Boost

Aerial view of the Merrimack River. (File photograph.)

Officials hope tourism will get a boost following a study that confirms the Merrimack River is navigable between downtown Haverhill and Newburyport.

The Greater Haverhill Foundation, one of the developers of downtown’s Harbor Place, said Tuesday it commissioned the study with support from local legislators. As a result, buoys have been repositioned, GPS charts updated and a new brochure is in the works.

“The communities of the lower Merrimack River, ‘The River Cities,’ all have hidden gems and a wide variety of recreational opportunities,” said former state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey in a statement. He added, “Current businesses will benefit and new economic tourism businesses will launch.”

A statement said, “The Greater Haverhill Foundation has accomplished what no one said could be done with the creation and publishing of a new nautical chart by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which provides safe travel on the Merrimack from the Atlantic to Harbor Place in downtown Haverhill.”

The study paid for an eight-mile sonar bathymetric exploration of the Merrimack River which found there is a navigable channel from Newburyport to Downtown Haverhill and the river has a tidal change of four to five feet at Haverhill GPS charts have also been upgraded by NOAA on both ENC and RNC formats for navigating the Merrimack River to downtown Haverhill.

Besides Dempsey, the Foundation said it received support from Sen. Kathleen O’Connor-Ives, U.S. Congresswomen Nicki Tsongas and Rep. Andy X. Vargas. The River Access working committee has a dozen members, including city representatives Andrew Herlihy and Nate Robertson and federal agencies NOAA, the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

“Providing safe and secure navigation up and down the Merrimack River will have a major positive economic impact on Haverhill, Amesbury, Merrimac, Groveland, West Newbury and Newburyport,” said Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

The Foundation said it plans to update and distribute a “River Cities” brochure to highlight the recreational and tourist venues along the Merrimack River. It will be sent out to all of the marinas along the river to encourage safe travel to downtown Haverhill. A boat parade later this season is also being discussed.

The river currently is being used by crew teams from Haverhill High School and St. John’s Prep. The annual Lou Marcel Canoe Race takes place Saturday, June 2, beginning at 7 a.m. Team Haverhill’s Annual River Ruckus also takes place Sept. 22.