Public float landings for small craft are at Summer Street, Northern Avenue, on Charles River, and several other places along the waterfront. Small-craft facilities at Boston and Charlestown can provide berths with electricity, water, ice, marine supplies, wet storage, and sewage pump-out; complete hull, engine, and electronic repairs are available.
The river above the dams is used by many yachts and small craft. No toll is charged for passage through the locks. There are four yacht clubs on the river, some college sailing and rowing clubs, a large marina below the dams and two public float landings above the dams. Pumpout facilities are available at Cambridge and Watertown.
Click the “Map View” button above to see a chart of this harbor.
The Charles River, on the western side of the harbor between Boston proper and Charlestown, is the approach by water to Cambridge and Watertown. The entrance of the river to the Charlestown Bridge, the first bridge, has a controlling depth of 25.9 feet. A wreck, covered 32 feet, is near the middle of the entrance and an obstruction, covered 13 feet, is near the southern limit of the channel, 240 yards east of the bridge.
Charles River Dam is about 0.55 mile above the entrance to the river. The dam has three locks; the large north lock has a usable length of 300 feet and width of 40 feet with 14 feet over the sill; the other two locks have usable lengths of 200 feet with widths of 25 feet and 6 feet over the sills. An overhead walkway with a monorail beneath it across the downstream end of the locks has a least clearance of 26 feet. A second dam is about 1 mile above the entrance. The dam has a single lock with usable dimensions of 350 feet length and 45 feet width with 17 feet over the sill. The lock is no longer in use and is maintained in the open position. The controlling depth between the two dams is 15 feet.
A no wake speed limit is enforced between the entrance to Charles River and the Charles River Dam.
Charles River above the dams is maintained at a height of 7.2 feet above mean low water. In 1964, it was reported that there was a controlling depth of 15 feet to Arsenal Street Bridge, thence 3 feet for 2 miles to the head of navigation at Galen Street Bridge in Watertown. In 1976, shoaling to 1 foot was reported about 0.5 mile upstream from the Arsenal Street Bridge. In 1979, it was reported that 5 feet could be carried by favoring the north bank.
The Charlestown Bridge crosses the river just below the lower Charles River Dam and has a fixed span with a clearance of 23 feet. Use the south span. The Interstate 93 highway bridge about 100 yards upstream of the lower dam has a fixed span with a clearance of 48 feet due to an overhead pipeline being suspended from below the bridge. In 1997-1999, two bridges were being built close west of the Interstate 93 highway bridge and east of the MBTA bascule bridge. The Mainline Bridge, west of the Interstate 93 bridge, has a fixed span with a design clearance of 23 feet and the Storrow Drive Bridge, about 100 feet west of the Mainline Bridge, has a fixed span with a design clearance of 36 feet. Both bridges will replace the Interstate 93 highway bridge when completed. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) bridge has a bascule span with a clearance of 3 feet. The MBTA and Monsignor O’Brien bascule bridges at the upper Charles River Dam have a clearance of 5 feet.