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Quinnipiac River
The Quinnipiac River, as seen looking west (upstream) from "Red Bridge" in Meriden, Connecticut
Other name(s) Dragon River, East River, New Haven River
Country United States
State Connecticut
Region New Haven, Hartford
District North Haven, Wallingford, Cheshire, Southington, Plainville
Cities New Haven, Meriden
Physical characteristics
Main source Deadwood Swamp
Farmington, Connecticut, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States
335 ft (102 m)
41°41′42″N 072°48′55″W / 41.69500°N 72.81528°W / 41.69500; -72.81528
River mouth New Haven Harbor, New Haven, Connecticut
Long Island Sound, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States
0 ft (0 m)
41°17′58″N 072°54′14″W / 41.29944°N 72.90389°W / 41.29944; -72.90389
Length 45.5 mi (73.2 km)

The Quinnipiac River is a 45.5-mile (73.2 km) long river in the New England region of the United States, located entirely in the state of Connecticut.

The river rises in West Central Connecticut from Dead Wood Swamp near the city of New Britain. It flows roughly southward to Plainville, Southington, and Cheshire, west of the city of Meriden, through Wallingford and Yalesville, North Haven, and flows into New Haven Harbor, an inlet of Long Island Sound, east of downtown New Haven.


Map showing the Quinnipiac River watershed.
Bridge in Wallingford, 1907

The name "Quinnipiac" comes from an Algonquian phrase meaning "long water land", and historically referred both to the river and the area around its mouth at Long Island Sound. Europeans found the river in 1614. By the early 18th century, early settlers called the Quinnipiac River the Dragon River after the seals, then referred to as “sea dragons,” that were once abundant there. Although these seals were likely harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), archaeological evidence confirms that gray seals (Halichoerus grypus), which are over twice the size of a harbor seal, also lived near the mouth of the Quinnipiac River as recently as the sixteenth century.

Watershed and course

The Quinnipiac River watershed drains an area of approximately 165 square miles (430 km2). There are four dams, most of which are old remnants, that impede boat travel. The first dam is about 1/2 mile south of Plantsville, the second dam is at the southeast corner of Hanover Pond in South Meriden, the third dam is in northeast Yalesville, and the fourth dam is at the south end of Community Lake in Wallingford.

In April 2017, a small hydroelectric plant using a screw turbine was installed at Hannover Pond.

Paddling is a frequent recreational activity along the Quinnipiac River, especially within the tidal marsh in North Haven. Additionally, the tidal variation extends approximately 14 miles (23 km) upriver from its mouth.

Ecology and conservation

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the river suffered from severe pollution problems because of the presence of heavy industry and population centers in its watershed. The Quinnipiac was the subject of the first ever pollution control measure in the state of Connecticut. In 1886, the state legislature passed a measure prohibiting the City of Meriden from discharging raw sewage into the river. In 1891, the act resulted in the building of state's second sewage treatment plant.

Nevertheless, by 1914, the State Board of Health reported that the major fish life had largely disappeared from its mouth. The pollution has been somewhat abated by the passage of the Connecticut Clean Water Act of 1967, and by the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, which provided the legal authority to take measures to clean up the river's watershed. The measures included the construction of advanced waste management facilities for sewage and industrial waste. Levels of copper in the river have decreased 70% since the 1980s and are now comparable to other reference streams in Connecticut. Combined sewer overflows from the City of New Haven are still regarded as a major problem for the estuary.


Paralleling the west bank of the Quinnipiac River through the entire length of Quinnipiac River State Park in North Haven is the Quinnipiac Trail.


County Town Carrying
Hartford Plainville Connecticut Highway 72.svg Route 72
Crooked Street (SSR 536)
Woodford Avenue (SSR 536)
Tomlinson Avenue
Stillwell Drive
Shuttlemeadow Road
Southington Route 10
Newell Street
West Queen Street
Spring Street
I-84.svg I-84
Lazy Lane
Curtiss Street
Hart Street
Mill Street
Center Street
West Center Street
West Main Street
Atwater Street
I-84.svg Exit 29 ramps
Route 10
Old Turnpike Road.
Connecticut Highway 322.svg Route 322
New Haven Cheshire I-691.svg I-691
East Johnson Avenue
Blacks Road
Cheshire Street
Meriden Oregon Road
Main Street
Wallingford Oak Street
Connecticut Highway 150.svg Route 150
Connecticut Highway 68.svg Route 68
Connecticut Highway 15.svg Route 15/Wilbur Cross Parkway
Connecticut Highway 150.svg Route 150
Quinnipiac Street
Toelles Road
North Haven US 5 (1961).svg US 5
Connecticut Highway 40.svg Route 40
Sackett Point Road
New Haven Middletown Avenue
I-91.svg I-91
Grand Avenue
Ferry Street
I-95.svg I-95
US 1 (1961).svg US 1
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