Ipswich River Willowdale Dam Fish Ladder

Doug Aylward, clearing out the old fish pass channel at Willowdale Dam.

Howlett Brook Hood Pond Culvert

TU Nor’East is a key partner with the Ipswich River Watershed Assoc. in the restoration of Howlett Brook by addressing habitat destruction.  There are two major blockages along the stream up to Hood Pond, a natural pond and historic spawning ground for alewives.  For details please click this link.


Fish Ladder Restoration & Maintenance

Harbored within a protected Essex County Greenbelt property along the Ipswich River near the intersection of Topsfield Road and Winthrop Street lies an antiquated concrete fish ladder that had fallen into disrepair. With the blessing of MA Marine Fisheries in 2015, the Chapter undertook the task of revitalizing the ladder so that fish passage by herring, shad and coldwater species might be restored. Utilizing the engineering and design genius of Chett Walsh, boards were fashioned and fitted into the existing slots of each chamber for an even, controlled flow. After installation the boards were “tuned” on a regular basis to ensure that the increase in water elevation of each slot was manageable by migrating fish. The success of this effort was witnessed by members of the Chapter as they observed American eel and herring easily navigating the improved passage. While the long-term goal of this effort is to have the state install a modern, permanent fish ladder on the main stem of the River, the Chapter will continue to keep the existing ladder in a functional status with regular maintenance and oversight.

Alex and Chett Walsh, knee deep in positive action.


“Dougie Aylward is a high school student from Rowley who has been keeping the fish ladder chambers cleared during the late fall & winter months.  Dougie is the son of Charlie Aylward, a good friend of Chett Walsh and an active participant in many of our TU field activities.  He was actually 11 when he helped with the initial install of the stay-frame board system.

Dougie is active in his school’s environmental science classes and is happy to help keep up with debris clearing until springtime. His father Charlie has also participated in several TU ventures, assisting Chett and others with consulting advice on our larger projects as he is an expert on safety, rigging planning for the culvert at Crooked Pond Brook, fabricating the new heavy-duty stay-frames that are submerged in the fish ladder chambers.

It’s great to see other like-minded outdoors folks pitching in, small acts add up over time and our TU group and IRWA are both grateful for the help of anyone out there.  As it was explained to Doug, often the best deeds can happen quietly in solitude.

Dougie has been clearing the chambers sporadically for years when on hikes, this fall he had approached me about doing it steadily every 3 weeks or so. 

This spring (2022) we will be replacing the batter boards and hopefully our aquatic friends will use the fish ladder system to migrate upstream beyond the dam to the many miles of the Ipswich River.” Chett Walsh, project leader.


Gravelly Brook

One of the few remaining cold water fisheries in eastern Massachusetts, Gravelly Brook originates in the protected 1200 acre Willowdale Forest, discharging into the Ipswich River near Bradley Palmer Park. While it has been established that native brook trout reside in the Brook, increasingly warm summers and periodic droughts threatened this delicate habitat. The Chapter’s 2015-2016 investigation of this Brook confirmed that much of its waters are springfed and that fish passage in certain locations is impaired due to failing culverts. Two small culverts are under review for possible replacement with structures that would meet the Massachusetts River and Stream Crossing Standards.


Gravelly Brook in Winter