The Riverway

Established in 1890

When you walk along the Muddy River, it is easy to mistake it for a natural remnant of the New England landscape. It isn't. It is wholly man-made. Or should we say, Olmsted-made.

Under his bold direction, the river was rerouted, its banks carefully sculpted and planted. Park walks, bridle paths and carriage roads were laid out to best advantage, and ponds were created where only marsh existed. Although the Fens was the beginning of Frederick Law Olmsted's park system, this is the first landscape along the linear green ribbon where today we can see the original vision of the designer.

And what was that? According to Olmsted's stepson and associate John Charles Olmsted, "a stranger, looking into the valley, might suppose that it bore a natural growth slightly refined by art . . ." Steep banks and wooded edges preserve a pastoral feeling, screening out the carriageways - now busy parkways - beyond.

Originally, Olmsted was not asked to design a park for this area. He suggested it to the Park Commission as a continuation of the public health improvements accomplished by changes to the Fens.

Today the Riverway provides scenic relief for commuter on foot, on bicycles and on the parkways. It is a tranquil, yet active linear park, making it a perfect model for today's greenways movement, which aims to reclaim and connect parcels of land for use as recreational corridors.

The Muddy River and Leverett Pond form the boundary between the City of Boston and the Town of Brookline.

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy is a non-profit citizen's advocacy group whose mission is to protect, restore, maintain and promote the landscape, waterways and parkways of the Emerald Necklace park system as special places for people to visit and enjoy. The organization focuses on the six parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.