Naugatuck River Habitat Improvement Projects

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Above is both a video and a schematic of the fishway. It does not show the Eel Passage/Capture device which was added after the fishway was constructed. The 18 inch wide metal trough with substrate covered bottom is on the river side (east side) of the fishway parallel to it. A water spray at the raceway end and the slower volume of water in the trough attracts the small eels. They move up the trough and get trapped in a holding tank that has moving water. The eels (were) netted out of the tank three times a week. Pertinent information (was) recorded and the eels released up river. 2,664 eels were netted out of the capture tank in 2004. 

Fish leaping into the impassable Tingue Dam in Seymour September 2013.
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(Video: Kevin Zak)

The Naugatuck River Restoration Project includes a wide variety of programs intended to restore the aquatic habitat and the fisheries of the river.  Shown above is a stretch of the river in Torrington, that was improved by the placement of large boulders for fish habitat (see details below).  Photo courtesy CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.

The Naugatuck River Restoration Project is an ongoing watershed-scale effort,led by CT DEEP, to reduce human impacts on water quality and revive anadromous fish runs to the river.  The project includes several large dam removal projects and installation of fish ladders on those dams not suitable for removal at this time (e.g. the Tingue Dam in Seymour.)  The efforts have led to noticeable improvements in the water quality and the health of the river's fish populations. 

Populations of trout, small mouth bass, osprey, blue heron, muskrat, beaver and other wildlife have already increased dramatically along the river corridor.  In 2002, the section of the river from Torrington to Seymour was designated as a Trophy Trout Stream.  State experts anticipate that annual runs of anadromous fish such as American Shad, alewife and blueback herring, sea-run brown trout, and Atlantic Salmon will also increase in response to ongoing habitat restoration and dam removal efforts in the watershed.  (Anadromous fish live the majority of their life in the ocean, but travel back to freshwaters, such as the Naugatuck River, to reproduce.)    

Below are just a few of the efforts underway to continue to improve the aquatic habitat and fishery of the Naugatuck River.

Torrington Boulder Placement Project

In 1955, a flood caused significant damage to a section of the Naugatuck River in Torrington. In response to the damage, town officials decided to implement flood control to avoid any future flood damage. One flood control action included making drastic changes to the natural course of the Naugatuck River. About one mile of the river was widened, deepened, and realigned, and high berms of rip-rap were constructed along both river banks. In-stream and riparian habitats were completely eliminated during these activities by the removal of large boulders that provide cover for fish, break up a uniform current which dislodges and relocates fine sediments, and increases food for fish.

In 1955, hurricane-generated flooding of the Naugatuck River destroyed a significant section of Torrington.  In an attempt to protect against future floods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized (widened, deepened, and realigned) nearly 1 mile of river and constructed rip-rap berms of rip-rap were constructed along both river banks.  These activities completely eliminated all instream and riparian habitat. Photo courtesy CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.

The river after the habitat restoration project was complete.  Boulders were placed in a random fashion either singly or in clusters of two or three.  The boulders provide protection for fish and improve their ability to feed by breaking up the current and creating resting stations where they can catch food drifting by. Photo courtesy CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.

Following the channelization of the river, restoration efforts were implemented in order to improve the riparian habitat that was lost. Efforts included the installation of large boulders, about four feet in diameter. Boulders break up the water current, slowing the velocity in the area where the boulder is place, and provide fish with shelter. Boulders were placed throughout the river as an in-stream habitat technique that would remain stable during a flood. Boundaries of the project were from the East Albert Street Bridge downstream to the John Toro Sports Complex in Torrington. In total, 450 boulders were placed randomly within the river channel.

Atlantic Salmon Restoration

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Historically, Atlantic Salmon traveled to the Naugatuck River each year from the Atlantic Ocean to reproduce.  Today, wild populations no longer exist north of Seymour due to a large dam which blocks fish passage  CTDEEP has been actively working to restore runs of Atlantic salmon to Connecticut waterbodies since the 1960’s. Long-term plans call for the removal and modification of dams to allow fish to access the full length of the river.

While the state works to restore wild populations of Atlantic Salmon through dam removal and modification, a population of hatchery-raised salmon are also held each year and released into the Naugatuck River for sport fishing. Fisherman on the Naugatuck River have reported great success in catching salmon and the participation in salmon fishing has increased annually. Eventually, through the removal or alteration of large dams on the river, the Naugatuck may be able to once again support a wild Atlantic salmon population.

Atlantic Salmon, such as the one shown above, are raised by the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) and released into the Naugatuck River each year.  (Photo courtesy CT DEEP)

Atlantic salmon broodstock stocked in the Naugatuck river are typically released into designated Atlantic Salmon Broodstock Areas: the “Campville Section” of the upper Naugatuck River from Route 118 downstream to the Thomaston Flood Control Dam (Litchfield- Thomaston); and the “Beacon Falls Section” of the lower Naugatuck from Prospect Street (Naugatuck) downstream to Pines Bridge Road (Route 42 bridge, Beacon Falls). Anglers are allowed to fish for salmon in the Naugatuck River from the confluence of the East and West Branches (Torrington) downstream to the Housatonic River (Derby). Anglers may fish for Atlantic salmon in the Housatonic River downstream of Derby Dam.

KinneytownFishLadder Dam Removal & Fish Passage

So far, five of the seven large dams that once spanned the river have been removed.  Only the Plume & Atwood Dam in Thomaston, and the Tingue Dam in Seymour remain standing. A fish bypass has been installed on the Kinneytown Dam in Seymour, and plans are underway to construct a bypass channel at the Tingue Dam, which would provide migratory fish access to an additional 24 miles of river, for a total of 32 miles upstream from Long Island Sound. For a more detailed Tingue Dam Bypass Update as of December 2013 Click Here.

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(Video: Kevin Zak)KinneytownFishway-CourtesyCTgov.jpg
Kinneytown Fishway on the Naugatuck River in Seymour, Connecticut
.  Photo courtesy CT DEEP.

While no plans are currently underway, the Plume and Atwood Dam is targeted for eventual removal, providing fish access once again to the full length of the Naugatuck River.

Sources of Information:

  • "Naugatuck River Habitat Restoration Project".  2000. Restoration Project Factsheet. CT Department of Environmental Fact Protection.  Hartford, CT.  Available online:
  • "The Naugatuck River Watershed" brochure/map.  Date Unknown.  The Naugatuck Valley Chapter, Trout Unlimited

Last updated 4/18/2012
Special thanks to our sponsors:
Naugatuck Savings Bank, Connecticut Community Foundation
Union Savings Bank, Wesson Energy, Inc., The United Illumination Company, Friends of Naugatuck River
The Platt Brothers & Company, Thomaston Savings Bank, Valley Community Foundation