The Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center is an environmental education center located in Manchester, NH on the beautiful Merrimack River. The center is open year round Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm. During fish migration season in May and June, the center is open seven days a week. During the winter, from December 1st – March 1st, the Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm.
The center houses an impressive interactive exhibit hall that allows visitors to explore the Merrimack River. The exhibits focus on the Merrimack River watershed, historical use of the Amoskeag area, and river wildlife. Visitors can view live turtles, frogs and salmon, play a salmon migration game, generate electricity, and more. In May and June, visitors can experience the unique opportunity to view migrating shad, herring and sea lamprey in our underwater viewing windows. These windows look into a 54-step fish ladder that allows migrating fish to swim around the Amoskeag Dam and continue on their way up the river to reproduce.
The Amoskeag Fishways offers a variety of programs for all ages, including family programs, school field trips and teacher workshops. Program topics include: river wildlife, river ecology, electricity, hydro and solar power, fish biology, urban wildlife, survival skills, Native Americans, and more. Your family or school group will enjoy these fun and interactive programs. Click for more information about our public programs or school programs.
The Amoskeag Fishways Mission: The Amoskeag Fishways provides cooperative environmental education programs fostering cultural and ecological stewardship of watersheds and riparian systems.
History of the Fishways
Anadromous fish are born and grow in the fresh water of rivers and streams, but live as adults in the salt water of oceans. Each spring in the northeastern United States, many anadromous fish – including the Atlantic salmon, sea lamprey, American shad, and river herring – migrate from their ocean homes to the Merrimack River to breed, or spawn.
During the 1800’s, dams were constructed along the Merrimack River to harness the water’s power for use in textile manufacturing. Anadromous fish populations began to decline during that time since the fish were unable to pass the dams to reach their traditional spawning grounds. Overfishing and increasing levels of water pollution also reduced anadromous fish populations.
The Amoskeag Dam, named with a Native American word meaning “Great Fishing Place,” was built in 1836.
A fish ladder was built at Amoskeag due to legislation passed in Massachusetts and New Hampshire requiring fish ladders to be built when constructing dams. Sadly, this ladder did not work correctly and the anadromous fish population in the Merrimack River collapsed by 1850.
In 1921, the current hydro station was constructed and the dam was rebuilt to facilitate the generation of electricity.
In 1989, Public Service of New Hampshire (now Eversource), in cooperation with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHFG) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), constructed the current fish ladder. The ladder is comprised of 54 pools, each one a foot higher than the preceding one. The pools act as steps, allowing the fish to safely “climb” to the top of the falls, bypassing the hydro station. This ladder was built as part of an effort to restore anadromous fish populations to the Merrimack River.
In 1990, a visitor center with an underwater viewing window was built adjacent to the fish ladder to allow visitors to see and learn about anadromous fish. One year later, a learning center was added to provide field trips and science education opportunities to school children. In 1995, the Amoskeag Fishways Partnership, consisting of Public Service of New Hampshire (now Eversource), New Hampshire Audubon, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was formed to increase environmental education opportunities at the Fishways.
Today, the center hosts an interactive exhibit hall and offers a wide variety of programs to school children, families and adults that focus on the history and ecology of the Merrimack River watershed.
And we have new owners!
On August 26, 2018 the sale of the Amoskeag Hydro Station was finalized and Central Rivers Power became the new owners of not only the Amoskeag Dam/Station and eight other hydro plants in NH, but of the Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center. We are their first and only Learning Center and are pleased to be able to continue our mission, teaching cooperative environmental and science education programs for all ages. We will do what we do best, connect people to their nearby nature, both here in Manchester next to the Merrimack River and throughout New Hampshire.
Central Rivers Power owns and operates 14 hydroelectric power plants with a combined installed capacity of 86 MW in central New England. The facilities are located on the Androscoggin, Chicopee, Connecticut, Deerfield, Merrimack, North Branch, and Pemigewasset Rivers. Central Rivers provides reliable, low-carbon energy to the regional power grid.
On March 8th our riverside year round environmental education center that we know and love as the Amoskeag Fishways will close. We have had an amazing run as partners, science interpreters, educators and creators of meaningful programs and exhibits that “Celebrate the Magic of the Merrimack”. Since we began teaching in 1991 and became a partnership in 1995, we have had 660,000 visitors and 180,000 program participants! 5,350 school programs were taught reaching 127,000 Manchester area school children! EPIC! We are so grateful to all of our original partners PSNH (Eversource), NH Audubon, US Fish and Wildlife and NH Fish and Game and especially to our colleagues at NH Audubon. To past and present Fishways staff members we truly made a difference, every day, for the city of Manchester, for river wildlife, for our urban wildlife classrooms and for the unique diadromous fish migration that occurs at Amoskeag every spring. As one student once wrote to us in a thank you note after we taught urban wildlife for his class, “If the only way to save the earth was to eat broccoli, he would” so get out there and eat broccoli! And please, continue to visit the fish ladder each spring, continue to care for each other and our beautiful world and continue to support conservation and science education in New Hampshire and beyond.