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The Assabet River is a small river about 20 miles (30 km) west of Boston, Massachusettsmarker. The Organization for the Assabet River, headquartered in West Concord, Massachusetts, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, protection, and enhancement of the natural and recreational features of the Assabet River and its watershed.

Name

The river has had many variations of the same name over the centuries, without anyone knowing what it means. Some traditional meanings are associated with the place. Assabet is said to come from the Algonquin word for "the place where materials for making fish nets comes from." Other traditional meanings are "at the miry place" or "it is miry." The English imagination has also gone to work on the spelling of the name, rendering it into the Assabeth, Asabet, Elizbeth, Elizabet, and perhaps a dozen variations.

It is possible to decode this name in the southern New England branch of Algonquian, spoken by the Pawtucket tribe, which once fished there. The name is segmented
assa-pe-t
from assa, "turn back", pe, a short form of nippe, "water", used in compounds, and a locative suffix, -t, a shorter form of -et after the vowel. The meaning would be "at the place where the river turns back." At high water the Assabet does not flow downstream with the Sudbury but turns it into the Sudbury marshes. Presumably that would be the best time to set nets made of river reeds and catch fish; moreover, marshes are muddy.

Geography

The Assabet arises at a swampy area in Westboroughmarker and flows northeast 31 miles, falling 320 feet through the towns of Northboroughmarker, Marlboroughmarker, Berlinmarker, Hudsonmarker, Stowmarker, Maynardmarker, Actonmarker, and finally Concordmarker where it merges with the Sudbury River at Egg Rock to form the Concord River. There are 9 dams along the Assabet, and over 40 bridges cross or once crossed the river. Its watershed covers 177 square miles (458 km²). The Assabet Marshes (in Stow) total about 900 acres (3.6 km²), and the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge and environs (in Stow, Maynard, Sudbury, and Marlborough) totals about 2600 acres (11 km²).

Description

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in its praise: "Rowing our boat against the current, between wide meadows, we turn aside into the Assabeth. A more lovely stream than this, for a mile [2 km] above its junction with the Concord, has never flowed on earth."

Undoubtedly stretches of the river are just as lovely now as they were in Hawthorne's time. However, the industrial age put it to work as well. At various times the Assabet has powered such industries as an early iron works (1658), numerous mills, several tanneries, a distillery that made brandy from apples, and a number of shoe factories.

The portion of the river flowing through Maynard is rated as class I-II whitewater, suitable for beginning whitewater canoeists.

Beginning in 2008, a group of local flyfishermen began stocking the river with German Brown trout in order to drum up local interest in the river and provide themselves with a place to fish. Thus far it has been a success.

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