Dear Friend of the Charles River,

Happy Fourth of July weekend! Though we won't be celebrating with fireworks over the Charles River this year, we hope you enjoy extra time outside.

The parks make great places to beat the heat and practice safe physical distancing this summer. If you visit, please continue to adhere to MassDCR guidelines for safe park use.

This is our sixth Bringing the Parks to You newsletter. We hope you enjoy it!
Bringing the parks to you...
While not technically its own park, we are excited to feature a new section of greenery in the Charles River Reservation: the Charles River Floating Wetland! The 700 square-foot human-made island is installed in the Charles just downriver of the Longfellow Bridge. You can view the wetland while walking over the Longfellow Bridge, from the Paul Dudley White multi-use path along Cambridge Parkway, or via kayak! People are not permitted on the floating wetland, though you may occasionally spy one of our researchers on it.

In addition to bringing visual interest to the river, the floating wetland is part of a research project exploring an ecological approach to reducing harmful cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae) blooms. The root system of the wetland will provide additional wetland habitat and hopefully bolster populations of zooplankton, tiny aquatic animals that feed on cyanobacteria. Learn more about the ecological concepts behind the project by watching our introductory video.
The Charles River Floating Wetland project builds on two summers of water quality testing in the river. With the goal of returning swimming to the Charles, the CRC partnered with Northeastern PhD student Max Rome in 2017 to better understand threats to the river's health. Max tested daily for E. coli and cyanobacteria at North Point Park in Cambridge and found that E. coli levels generally meet safe swimming standards, but cyanobacteria blooms are a major obstacle.

Continuing our partnership with Max and joining forces with interpretive materials professional Penelope Taylor, our team pitched an idea for a floating wetland to the Sasaki Foundation and earned a spot in their 2018-2019 design grant cohort. Inspired by research indicating that cyanobacteria blooms can be a sign of a broken food chain, we sought to boost the missing link--zooplankton populations--by providing increased habitat. As a grantee, we spent a nine-month residency in the foundation's Incubator at Sasaki space, where we launched our design process.
After two years of planning and obtaining permits, we installed the Charles River Floating Wetland on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020. Our final design employed a modular product manufactured by Biomatrix Water, who defrayed a portion of the cost with a grant, and relied on the marine engineering expertise of Foth, who provided their services in-kind. The structure's 24 self-buoyant modules were planted at Magazine Beach in Cambridge and then moved into the river for assembly. Once complete, a motorboat towed the island down the Charles River to its final location past the Longfellow Bridge. View pictures from the installation and watch a time-lapse of the planting and assembly.

Additional financial support for the Charles River Floating Wetland was provided by the Heather and Robert Keane Family Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Carol and Paul Fremont-Smith, and the BSA Foundation. If you'd like to support future engagement and research on the floating wetland, contact
In total, the floating wetland is home to 19 wetland species. The plants were selected for suitability to the growing conditions, maximal root habitat, and visual appeal throughout the seasons.

The plants of the floating wetland still have quite a bit of growing to do, as they were planted only last week. But if you look closely, you can already find the blue-violet blooms of monkey flower, or Mimulus ringens. The flower's unique shape, with a two-lobed upper petal and three-lobed lower lower petal, is said to resemble a monkey's face, for which it gets its name. It is native to North America and typically thrives in the moist soils of marshes, stream banks, and wet meadows.
"Assembling the island and watching it be towed into place after two years of planning was so exciting. But it is just the start. The installation opens the door for important research and engagement about the health of the river."

Vanessa Nason
Associate Director
We've shared some fun behind-the-scenes footage of our floating wetland installation on our social media, including in our Instagram Story ! Stay tuned for more content on the wetland in the coming weeks and months.

During the pandemic, we have used our channels to keep you connected to the parks and to each other. We hope you will join us on Instagram , Twitter , and Facebook .
We appreciate your ongoing support so that we can continue to steward the Charles River and its parks, a resource that is more important than ever.