The Sawmill

Acushnet River Reserve

Acushnet River at the Sawmill
Bird's-eye view of the Acushnet River at The Sawmill.

At the edge of New Bedford’s urban North End sits The Sawmill, a 19-acre former lumber yard on the Acushnet River. The Sawmill has been transformed into a public park that protects the river’s health and offers local residents a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors.

Why did the Coalition restore the Sawmill?

The land and water at The Sawmill are a wonderful natural resource – but you wouldn’t know it if you drove past the site in recent years. Decaying buildings sat on acres of cracked, vacant pavement, sending polluted runoff into the Acushnet River with every rain storm.

Autumn view of the Acushnet River from the Sawmill
Enjoy this autumn view of the Acushnet River at The Sawmill.

Now, all of that has changed.

The Coalition restored The Sawmill to bring back the natural, healthy ecosystems that once thrived here along the river. The Sawmill now protects the Acushnet River’s health, provides better habitat for wildlife, and gives local residents a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors.

Improving the Acushnet River’s health

Restoring The Sawmill will improve and protect the health of the Acushnet River, consistently ranked in the Coalition’s Bay Health Index as one of the most polluted waterways in all of Buzzards Bay.

Acushnet River at the Sawmill
The banks of the Acushnet River were once lined with concrete and granite slabs.

In place of acres of pavement, the Coalition replanted a red maple swamp and wildflower meadows. Along the river bank, plants and trees replaced broken concrete and granite slabs that once sat at the water’s edge. These natural areas filter and absorb pollution instead of sending it into the river, whic over time will help improve the river's health.

This restoration was funded primarily by the New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council (NBHTC), following decades of PCB pollution in New Bedford Harbor.

Providing habitat for wildlife

The restored Sawmill is a haven for wildlife in this urbanized area. Healthy, restored meadows, wetlands, and forests provide habitat for birds, foxes, turtles, and many other species.

Fishway on the Acushnet River at the Sawmill
This nature-like fishway allows river herring to migrate upriver to spawn.

Habitat restoration at The Sawmill began in 2007, when the Coalition worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to lower a dam and build a nature-like fishway on the river. This innovative fishway uses carefully placed boulders to create a step-pool system, which mimics the river’s natural form and allows river herring to migrate upstream to their spawning areas.

This project has already achieved positive results: Since 2007, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has recorded a sixteen-fold increase in the number of herring in the Acushnet River.

Quick Facts


canoeing and kayaking

Canoeing and Kayaking



hiking and walking

Hiking and Walking





wildlife observation

Wildlife Observation


  • Parking: Parking lot across Mill Road from entrance. Additional street parking available nearby.
  • Trash: No
  • Restrooms: Yes (limited hours)
  • Visitors Center: Yes (limited hours)

Prohibited Activities

  • No fishing or entry into Acushnet River at the fishway or downriver from the fishway.
  • No motorized vehicles or boats.
  • No camping.
  • No littering/dumping. Please remove all trash you bring into the park.


Volunteer as a reserve steward at The Sawmill and help monitor the trails. Contact Matt Spinner to learn how you can help.

Saturdays at The Sawmill

Join us for Saturdays at The Sawmill every Saturday morning this winter. Explore inside the Hawes Family Learning Center from 9am-noon. At 10am, take part in a free family-friendly activity that you and your kids will love.

Check our Upcoming Events calendar for specific dates and programs.

Giving local residents a place to explore the outdoors

Visitors walking along the Sawmill trail
You can take a walk through the woods at The Sawmill.

If you live in Acushnet or New Bedford’s North End, you can enjoy a beautiful natural park just minutes from your front door. Whether you enjoy walking, fishing, paddling, or birdwatching, The Sawmill is a place where you can experience a special outdoor place that was once at risk of being forgotten forever.

For visitors who want to learn about The Sawmill’s history and ecology, visit the Hawes Family Learning Center, which welcomes people at The Sawmill’s entrance on Mill Road. (The learning center is open during select hours; please check back soon for a schedule.)

How do I get there?

The Sawmill is located at 32 Mill Rd., Acushnet. Visitors can park in the parking area across the street from the entrance.