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Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge




  • Protects biological diverse wetland flora, fauna and/or their habitat
  • Supports significant numbers of wetland-dependent fauna, such as water birds or fish

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
  • Education


Conservation status: National Government Protection

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.

Partial non-federal ownership; however majority within National Wildlife Refuge



Approximate size: 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):


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)


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


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)

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

Rare fauna: American Bittern, Common Moorhen, Least Bittern, Umber Shadowdragon, Pied-billed Grebe



Concord NHSESP Report

Great Meadows USFWS Brochure

Eastern MA USFWS Brochure


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