The Charles River

Charles River Bridges

About the Charles River

One of the busiest recreational rivers in the world, the Charles River runs for 80 miles.

Starting at Echo Lake in Hopkinton, “the Charles,” as it is affectionately called by greater Boston’s residents, empties into the Atlantic Ocean in Boston Harbor.

Charles River

Charles River

The Charles River was originally named the Massachusetts River by John Smith when he was exploring the newly discovered area, but King Charles of England renamed the river after himself.

CLICK HERE if you’re looking for a hotel near to or on the Charles River.

Today, the Charles is best known as a recreational and natural resource for hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors to Greater Boston.

History of the Charles River

Years ago, though, the Charles was utilized by industry.

Charles River Cambridge

Photo by Jared Kofsky

Early settlers to the area used the Charles to power mills located in Dedham, and in 1639, a canal was dug from the Charles River to a nearby brook in Dedham.

This Canal is regarded as the first industrial canal in North America. For years, many businesses and factories located along the river utilized the Charles to provide them with power.

Providing the border between Boston and Cambridge, the Charles has been transformed and modified by construction over the years.

The damming of the river’s mouth at what is today the Museum of Science in Cambridge helped to stabilize the water levels of the river.

Public docks have been constructed throughout the years, and in the 1950’s Storrow Drive, which runs along the river in Boston, was constructed. James Jackson Storrow, a Boston investment banker, donated $1 million dollars towards the creation of more landscaping along the river’s banks.

Charles River and Locks Cruise, CambridgeToday, there are many jogging paths, boat houses, sports fields and various performance facilities along the Charles, all representations of the river’s many and varied uses.

The high volume of human traffic, though, has had many negative impacts on the river, which has high levels of human-produced pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency has many initiatives aimed at reducing this contamination.

Click here to learn more about all the Charles has to offer in Cambridge – its Boat Houses and Bridges.

The Head of the Charles Regatta

The Head of the Charles is the world’s largest two-day rowing event.

Taking place on the Charles River every year during the month of October, the Head of the Charles sees more than 9,000 participants in 55 events.

This international event is reflective of the rowing and boating culture that has developed over the years on the Charles River, as its banks are dotted with boathouses regarded as some of the city’s most important architectural gems.

Watch a video of the Regatta below!