Three watersheds, the Niantic River Watershed, the Deep River Watershed and Eightmile River Watershed, all drain the Town of Salem. The largest river in Salem is the East Branch of the Eightmile River. In 2007 the entire Eightmile River Watershed, involving the towns of Salem, Lyme and East Haddam, was declared a National Parks Service “Wild and Scenic” Watershed of which over 80% is forested.
The Eightmile River is a major tributary of the Connecticut River, flowing into it at Hamburg Cove. The mouth of the Connecticut, called the Tidelands Region, is a wetland of international significance as declared by the Ramsar Convention Treaty.
Salem has flat river lowlands, much of which is still farmland, and forested, rocky uplands. As you will see, the preserved lands of Salem provide a hiker with much to see, appreciate and enjoy, in addition to the many miles of trails to walk.
The recent designation by National Audubon of the Lyme Forest Important Bird Area, (IBA) which includes a good portion of Salem, highlights the important interior forest bird habitat found here.
Birds recorded in this forest IBA area include Cerulean and Worm-eating Warblers, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher, Saw Whet Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk and Common Raven. Forest and wetland mammals indicating a healthy ecosystem include beaver, gray fox, otter, weasel, fisher, and bobcat. Amphibians include Spotted Mud, Box, and Wood Turtles, Spotted and Marbled Salamanders, and Ribbon Snakes. Bridled Shiners and native Brook Trout persist in parts of the watershed.