Discover what makes the Acushnet River special at The Sawmill, a popular park in Acushnet just steps from the city of New Bedford. Take a walk, go fishing, paddle a canoe upriver, or look for birds and wildlife. Explore inside the Hawes Family Learning Center, where informational exhibits tell the river’s story. Most important, relax and enjoy this natural paradise.
The Sawmill was once home to a large, bustling lumber yard owned by the Acushnet Saw Mills Company. In 2014, the Coalition restored The Sawmill to protect clean water and create a park where everyone can explore the outdoors. Today, The Sawmill is part of the growing Acushnet River Reserve, which also includes LaPalme Farm, Hamlin Crossing, and P.J. Keating Woods. These places protect clean water and preserve important habitats for future generations.
This video from Explore New England offers an excellent overview of the site’s transformation into one of the best places to enjoy nature right on the edge of the city.
Embark on a journey along the Acushnet River on the trails at The Sawmill. The main trail is about a half-mile long – perfect for a short jaunt through the woods and by the water. Many parts of the trail are ADA accessible, so explorers of all abilities can enjoy this special place. (Download trail map)
As you begin your walk along the main trail, you’ll cross a footbridge over the river. Peer over the bridge to see a nature-like “fishway”: a series of pools and boulders that helps fish migrate upstream each spring.
Across the bridge, you’ll meet a trail junction. Keep walking straight to cross boardwalks through a restored red maple swamp. Or turn left to make your way to the North River Overlook. This peaceful retreat looks out over the river’s quiet waters, where you’ll see ducks and geese float by. Both of these routes eventually connect in a loop through the woods and a meadow.
Habitats & Wildlife
The Sawmill sits at the head of the Acushnet River, where fresh water flowing downstream meets the tides of Buzzards Bay. The river here has many faces – it’s calm and still at the North River Overlook, but at the South River Overlook, the water ripples over rocks as it flows south toward New Bedford Harbor.
The Coalition restored The Sawmill to bring back the natural ecosystem that once thrived here. The Sawmill is now a haven for wildlife in this urbanized area. Healthy meadows, wetlands, and forests provide habitat for birds, foxes, turtles, fish, and countless other species. Look for frogs and ducks in the red maple swamp, or search for ospreys soaring over the river.
The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and sustainable use and enjoyment of our irreplaceable Bay and its watershed.