The Deerfield River

Last Updated: 11/2016
General Description
 
         Deerfield River is a river that runs for 76+ miles from southern Vermont hrough northwestern Massachusetts to the Connecticut River. The Deerfield was historically influential in the settlement of western Franklin County, Massachusetts, and its namesake to Deerfield. The Deerfield River is the Connecticut River's second longest tributary in Massachusetts, 2.1 miles shorter than the Metropolitan Springfield's Westfield River.
      The river's confluence with the Connecticut is in Greenfield, Massachusetts, downstream of Turners Falls. The Deerfield is one of the most heavily used rivers in the country with, on average, a dam every 7 miles or so for its entire length.
STATISTICS

Total Length: 58 + 13.5 + 9.8 + 20.4 = 101.7 miles 
North Branch:
Distance from the mouth: 71.5 miles
Length of Branch: 13.5 miles
West Branch:
Distance from the mouth: 73.2 miles
Length of Branch: 9.8 miles
East Branch:
Distance to the mouth: 78.4  miles
Length of Branch: 20.4 miles
 
         The miles are numbered from the mouth of the river where it meets the Connecticuit River to headwaters of the North, West, and East Branches.  You may find several other values given for the length of the Deerfield River but know that we carefully measured and re-measured the length of the river using the USGS Map tool TOPO developed by National Geographic and found the a length of the lower river exactly as reported above.  
      The upper branches are not easily paddled and have not been described below.  Anyone wanting to contribute or comment on this can use our contact page.

Access Points
        We have carefully cataloged each access point and significant location.  There are many more locations that can be used but the list matchs up with the usable reaches described below.
 

 
    
Deerfield River Dams
 
          There are 10 dams on the Deerfield, owned by three different electric utilities:​​
Mile

69.3
62.0
59.4
50.5
46.1
44.0
43.2
39.0
37.8
19.6
16.9
15.5
13.8
Name

Somerset
Searsburg

Harriman

Sherman
Deerfield 5

Fife Brook
Deerfield 4
Deerfield 3
Gardners Falls
Deerfield 2
Owner

TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
(Discharge from feed Pipe)
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
(Discharge and Surge Tower)
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
(Discharge from Canal feed)
Bear Swamp Power Company LLC
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
NAEA Energy MA LLC
TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc.,
MW



  5.0

41.1
  6.1

13.9
11.2
  6.3
  6.3
  3.8
  6.3
Access Points
Grout Pond
         
       Grout Pond is located just north of Somerset Reservoir in the National Forest.  It is an excellent place to camp and use as a base for paddles on Somerset Reservoir.  We have included it here for completeness and convience.
Making Electricity
         The hydroelectric development of the Deerfield River began in 1910 when the New England Power Company formed to acquire water rights on the Deerfield and construct dams. The largest dam, Harriman, was built in the early 1920s and has an unusual overflow structure known as the "Glory Hole." This structure is a funnel-like concrete tube that leads to a tunnel under the earthen dam and prevents high flows from overtopping the dam.
           The last dam built on the Deerfield was Fife Brook Dam, which was built in the early 1970s in conjunction with the development of the Bear Swamp Pumped Storage facility. This facility acts as a battery for power generated during times of low demand. By using excess electricity to pump water to the top of the mountain, where a reservoir was created by building levees around an existing high swamp, energy is stored. When electrical demand is higher (usually midday or afternoon/evening) the water from the upper reservoir can be released through the turbines (which act as pumps in reverse) to meet demand.
             The third commercial nuclear reactor in the United States was built in the town of Rowe, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Deerfield River by Sherman Reservoir. Known as "Yankee Rowe," it generated electricity for New England from 1960 to 1992.
Grout Pond
REACHES
        We have broken down the river into 15 reaches numbered from the headwaters to the mouth.  Each reach has a map with put-in and take-out positions, description, length, difficulty, and information as appropriate.
Reach
 
1
 
2
 

 
4
 
5
 

 
7
 


8
From
 
Headwaters North Branch
 
Headwaters East Branch
 

 
Somerset Reservoir Dam
 
Headwaters West Branch
 

 
Harriman Reservoir Dam
 


Sherman Dam
Mile
 
71.5
 
78.4
 
 
 
69.3
 
73.2
 
 
 
50.5
 


44.0
 

 

To
 
Rt 9 Bridge Wilmington
 
 E Branch Enter Somerset
 
 
 
East and West Split
 
East and West Split
 

 
Sherman Dam
 
 

Fife Brook Dam      
Mile
 
60.0
 
73.4
 
 
 
63.4
 
63.4
 
 
 
44.0
 


37.8
Distance
 
11.5
 
5.0
 

 
5.9
 
9.8
 

 
6.5
 


6.2
 3        Somerset Reservoir                            (Circumference)                          17.1
 6       Harriman Reservoir                          (Circumference)                             26.4
 F1      Sherman Reservoir                          (Circumference)                              5.9
   9       Fife Brook Dam                    37.8     ZOAR Picinic Area             31.9       5.9
  10       ZOAR Picinic Area              31.9     Shunpike Rest Area           28.7      3.2
  11       Shunpike Rest Area           28.7    Route 2 Power Dam No. 4    19.6    9.1
  12     Route 2 Power Dam No. 4    19.6        Gardner Falls Dam         15.5       4.1
13      Gardner Falls Dam              15.5      Bardwells Ferry Bridge       11.4     4.1
14      Bardwells Ferry Bridge        11.4         Sillwater Bridge                7.8      3.6
15     Sillwater Bridge                      7.8    Mouth of the Deerfield           0.0      7.8
Wikipedia
OTHER RESOURCES
 
The Deerfield River Watershed Association
       The Deerfield River Watershed Association is committed to the following goals for the benefit of the watershed:
Protect and monitor water quality- Our program includes annual macro-invertebrate sampling and river clean-ups.
  • Protect and monitor wildlife habitat and wetlands.  This work documents the diversity of little known wildlife communities in the watershed.
  • Protect green spaces to safeguard habitats, natural features, water quality and scenic beauty.
  • Be an active partner in the implementation of the Deerfield River Settlement Agreement. We meet with the other co-signers, participate in negotiations about threats to the river, and cultivate a working relationship with the power companies.
  • Improve public watershed stewardship through education and recreation. We teach interested community members about the watershed at the annual Riverfest celebration in Shelburne Falls and at occasional forums. We also maintain an eight-mile portion of the Mahican-Mohawk trail (Deerfield to Shelburne).
  • Encourage environmental education in local schools. We sponsor a mini-grant program for watershed schools.
 
For more information click on the button below:
 
 

 
 
Deerfield River Watershed Association
ZOAR OUTDOOR
         Since 1989, Zoar Outdoor has offered the best in New England white water rafting trips, kayaking clinics, zip line canopy tours, canoeing instruction, rock climbing classes and kayak rentals for adventurers of all abilities, from beginners to experts. 
 
Deerfield River Whitewater Release Schedule can be view at Zoar Outdoor Website.
Deerfield Release Schedule
River Release

Most of the dams on the river report their daily release forecasts through Waterline, an online and phone-based release reporting system:
  • Somerset Dam Class II section below the dam at a spill of 150 cfs. This section is seldom paddled.
  • Searsburg Dam Class III section below the dam at a spill of 800 cfs. Above 1400 cfs becomes class III-IV.
  • Harriman Dam Class III-IV section below the dam at a spill of 800 cfs.
  • #5 Dam Aka "The Dryway" or "The Monroe Bridge Section". Medium levels at a flow below the dam of 900 cfs; high from about 2000 cfs and up.
  • Fife Brook Dam Aka "The Zoar Gap Section". Medium levels at a flow below the dam of 700 cfs. Above about 2000 cfs Zoar Gap becomes class III+ to class IV.
  • #4 Dam Class II-III at a spill below the dam of 700 cfs.
  • #3 Dam This is the dam at the Potholes in Shelburne Falls.
  • #2 Dam This is the lowest dam on the river; #1 was planned, but never built. Class I-II at a flow below the dam of 600 cfs.
Water Line 
FIFE BROOK DAM, FLORIDA MA