Protecting and restoring the Rahway River and its ecosystem

About the Rahway River

Encompassing 130 square miles, the Rahway River watershed is one of the oldest urbanized areas of the State of New Jersey stretching from Edison Township in Middlesex County north to the Oranges of Essex County and westward to the Watchung Ridges. Despite the man made landscape that predominates the region, nature remains resilient with oases of wildlife and remarkable natural areas tucked in pockets along the various branches of the Rahway River. For these reasons, the Rahway River Association has been the region’s leading voice in championing the cause of preserving open space, improving water quality and protecting natural resources of the Rahway river watershed since 1992.

The Rahway River is 24 miles long and drains a land area of 41 square miles of Essex, Middlesex and Union counties.

There are 24 municipalities in the Rahway River watershed including Maplewood, Millburn, South Orange and West Orange in Essex County, Carteret and Edison in Middlesex County and Cranford, Mountainside, Springfield and Rahway in Union County.

The Rahway River consists of four distinct branches. The West Branch, begins in Verona and flows south through South Mountain Reservation and directly through downtown Millburn. The East Branch originates between West Orange and Montclair and travels South Orange and Maplewood. These two branches converge near Route 78 in Springfield and flow through Clark, Cranford and Union. In Rahway, the confluence of the Robinson’s and the South Branches of the river occurs. The river continues through Linden and Carteret forming the boundary between Middlesex and Union counties and drains into the Arthur Kill.

The Rahway River is the source of drinking water for the 26,500 people in the City of Rahway.
Portions of the Rahway River are part of the East Coast Greenway, a 2,600 mile trail between Maine and Florida.

There is close to 5,000 acres of county parkland in the Rahway River watershed. Much of the Rahway River corridor in Essex and Union counties is public open space.

The lower Rahway River is tidal. The tidal portion of the river extends up into the City of Rahway. The upper portion of river corridor consists of floodplains, woodlands and freshwater wetlands while the lower portion consists of salt marshes and tidal flats.

The Rahway River watershed was the site of several Revolutionary War battles and engagements. Most notable among them were the Battle of Short Hills 1777 and in 1780 the Battle of Connecticut Farms in Union and the Battle of Springfield. There are many National Historic Sites associated with the American Revolution in the Rahway River watershed.

The Rahway River is home to four anadromous fish species (fish that spawn in freshwater and live in saltwater) and one species of catadromous fish species (fish that spawn in salt water and live in freshwater). There are plans to install a fish ladder at the Rahway City Water Works to aid these fish during their spawning migrations.

Portions of the Rahway River are stocked with trout by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The Rahway River’s woodlands and wetlands provide much needed wildlife habitat in the region. Bio Blitzes (a 24 hour biological inventory) conducted in 2005 and 2006 each documented the presence of nearly 700 species of plants and animals.