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The Nashua River, 37.5 miles (60.4 km) long, is a tributary of the Merrimack River in Massachusettsmarker and New Hampshiremarker in the United Statesmarker. It is formed in eastern Worcester County, Massachusettsmarker, by junction of its north and south branches near Lancastermarker, and flows generally north-northeast past Grotonmarker to join the Merrimack at Nashua, New Hampshiremarker. The Nashua River Watershed occupies a major portion of north-central Massachusetts and a much smaller portion of southern New Hampshire.

The north branch rises west of Fitchburgmarker, flows about 30 miles (48 kilometers) generally southeast past Fitchburg, and joins the south branch about 5 miles (8 kilometers) below its issuance from the Wachusett Reservoirmarker.

History

The Nashua River was heavily used for industry during the colonial period and the early United States. During the late 18th century and early 19th century, the heavy concentration of dye manufacturing near Fitchburgmarker resulted in pollution that notoriously turned the river various colors downstream from the factories.

In the mid-1960s, Marion Stoddart started a campaign to restore the Nashua River and its tributaries. She built coalitions with labor leaders and business leaders, in particular the paper companies who were the worst polluters of the river. With federal help, eight treatment plants were built or upgraded along the river. A broad conservation buffer was created along about half the river and its two main tributaries. By the early-1990s, most of the industry was still located along the river, but many parts of the river were once again safe for swimming.

Recovery has sparked recreational use of the river at places like Mine Falls Parkmarker in Nashua.

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