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The Kennebecasis Watershed

Watershed: a word used to describe an area or ridge of land that contains waters flowing to one main river.

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The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee wants to acknowledge that the watershed resides on the traditional unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk (Maliseet), Wabanaki and Mi’kma’ki Peoples.

The name Kennebecasis is thought to be derived from the Mi'kmaq "Kenepekachiachk", meaning "little long bay place

The Kennebecasis Watershed is located in southern New Brunswick, Canada with the town of Sussex located nearly at its center. The Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee works with all the rivers, streams and lakes that flow into the Kennebecasis River.  From the head waters in Hamilton Lake, near Mechanic Settlement, to the head of tide at the Bloomfield Bridge above Hampton, the main stem of the Kennebecasis River wanders between its banks for approximately 95km while draining an area of 134,660 hectares or 1346 kilometers squared.

A map of New Brunswick showing where our watershed is located in the province.


The Kennebecasis Watershed has a high percentage of agricultural land use (19%).  The majority of agriculture land is directly adjacent to rivers within the watershed.  This fact has highly influenced the river and the way that the KWRC has tried to restore it.  It has also influenced the water classifications for the system.

The ecological and geological features also have a large impact on the conditions within the Kennebecasis Watershed.  The KWRC provided input into the development of a great resource book, “Our Landscape Heritage: The Story of Ecological Land Classification in New Brunswick” on these issues.  The Kennebecasis Watershed is predominantly classified as the Valley Lowlands Ecoregion with a small portion being classed as the Central Uplands Ecoregion.  The conditions within these ecosystems have played huge roles in the historical and ecological development of the Kennebecasis River.

To gain a better understanding of the conditions of our watershed it is best to break it down into smaller components called sub-watersheds.


By creating sub-watersheds the total land mass being considered becomes more manageable and provides strategic and planning benefits.  The KWRC manages the Kennebecasis Watershed as five sub-watersheds: The Upper Kennebecasis, the Lower Kennebecasis, Trout Creek, Millstream River, and Smith Creek.


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Upper Kennebecasis

The Upper Kennebecasis sub-watershed is the largest in the Kennebecasis with approximately 33,916 hectares.  The headwaters of the Upper Kennebecasis flow out of Hamilton Lake, southwest of Mechanic Settlement.  The waters flow approximately 70km.  From the deep and steep forested ravines around Goshen and Portage Vale it drops into the fertile agriculture land around Penobsquis and Plumweseep.  The area is likely one of the richest natural resources zones in our watershed and this fact creates challenges for the watershed.  Currently the Upper Kennebecasis Watershed is going through some large land use changes that are impacting the rivers habitat and water quality.  The KWRC and our partners in cooperation with the various stakeholders are working to mitigate these impacts when possible.

The land use in this sub-watershed is broken down as follows:

  - 86% Forestry

  - 8% Agriculture

  - 4% Occupied

  - 2% Water/Wetland

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Lower Kennebecasis

Low gradient flow creates many oxbows and turns in the Lower Kennebecasis as it flows past Sussex, through Apohaqui and Norton, and finally to the salt water influences near Bloomfield Bridge.  The largest influence on this Lower sub-watershed would be Moosehorn Brook, the biggest tributary below the confluence of the Millstream River in Apohaqui.  Many of the tributaries are modestly healthy, but the lowland areas are heavily impacted by the historical agriculture practices.  The riparian areas are the most impacted component of the system and thus bank erosion and stream temperatures are the prevalent issues within this Lower Kennebecasis sub-watershed.

The land use of Lower Kennebecasis River is as follows:

  - 77% Forestry

  - 15% Agriculture

  - 5% Occupied

  - 3% Water/wetlands

There are 7 main tributaries that feed the Lower Kennebecasis River.  The Musquash and Moosehorn systems drain the northwest side of Vinegar Hill while virtually wrapping around Thompson and Clements Brooks.  All four of these tributaries flow into the south side of the Kennebecasis River.  Almshouse and Bloomfield Brook are the only large tributaries draining the north side of the Lower Kennebecasis and this is due in large part to the Millstream River draining a good portion of the north bank.  The elevations of this sub-watershed typically are no more than 200m (660’), but the ridges that create Vinegar Hill reach over 350m (1155’) and Bloomfield Ridge is just over 300m (990’).

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Trout Creek

The Trout Creek is a very fluid system, rapidly moving not only water, but boulders, gravel, and fine sediments as well.  The lower portion of Trout Creek flows over deep deposits of gravel, which have historically been excavated to build highways and roads in and around Sussex. This fact has resulted in some negative impacts on the health of the Trout Creek, evident near Burton Park in Sussex. From its headwaters south of Waterford the Trout Creek flows due northwest through the small scenic hamlet towards first, Sussex Corner and then Sussex, where it empties into the Kennebecasis River.  The headwaters of Trout Creek are rugged forested hills with steep slopes while the lower reaches of Trout Creek are dominated by the agriculture and urban areas around Sussex.

The land use in this sub-watershed is broken down as follows:

  - 84% Forestry

  - 11% Agriculture

  - 4% Occupied

  - 1% Water/Wetland

The hills around the headwaters of Trout Creek are over 350m (1150’).  The valleys are often steep sided and many rock outcrops can easily be seen driving up the watershed.  Trout Creek might easily be considered the most dramatic watershed within the Kennebecasis system.  In its 29.1km length it drops from approximately 360m to just under 15m.

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Millstream River

The Millstream River is the third largest drainage area within the Kennebecasis Watershed. It does not possess some of the dramatic topographical relief seen in some of the other sub-watersheds but is still a very scenic area. It is a ribbon of rural settlement and agriculture farmland with forested uplands. From just south of Dubee Settlement it flows southwest toward Lower Millstream before turning due south on its last drop to the Kennebecasis River at Apohaqui, a distance of approximately 38.8km. The higher hills reach an elevation of about 230m (755 feet) while at the confluence the Millstream River is about 12m (38 feet) above sea level.

The land use of the Millstream River is as follows:

  - 75% Forestry

  - 21% Agriculture

  - 1% Occupied

  - 3% Water/Wetlands

There are 10 main tributaries that feed the Millstream River. Unlike the Smiths Creek, the tributaries for the Millstream flow in all directions which likely contribute to the large drainage area of all the Millstream. Like most of the Kennebecasis the largest visible impact on the habitat health of the Millstream River is agriculture. From Berwick Corner downstream the riparian area becomes highly degraded and the banks become increasingly eroded. The KWRC is working with land owners to improve these conditions.

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Smiths Creek

The Smiths Creek sub-watershed is a twisted maze of oxbows and turns as it makes it way southwest through a broad expanse of agriculture fields before entering into the Kennebecasis River just North of Sussex. The headwaters drain the hills west of Cornhill as they meander lazily 40 km to the confluence. The biggest topographical feature is the long ridge of hills (Mount Hebron, Jordan Mountain, and Whites Mountain) running on the north side of the creek. These hills reach an elevation of 220m (750 feet) and the elevation of its confluence is less than 30m (100 feet). On the south side of the creek there is the less sculpted Mount Pisgah and Anagance Ridge which reach elevations of over 250m (825 feet).

The land use of Smiths Creek is as follows:

  - 76% Forestry

  - 21% Agriculture

  - 1% Occupied

  - 2% Water/Watersheds

There are 8 main tributaries that feed the Smiths Creek. All but one of these King Brook, flows north to south into the north side of Smiths Creek. This is a result of the topography created by the hills mentioned above. King Brook drains the Mount Pisgah area of the sub-watershed while the Anagance Ridge is drained by a number of small unnamed streams.

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