The Connecticut National
Estuarine Research Reserve

A partnership of NOAA, UConn, and DEEP
Long Island Sound is one of Connecticut's greatest natural treasures, providing numerous recreational opportunities, serving as a critical habitat for fish and other marine wildlife, and improving quality of life. Preserving its health and productivity, therefore, requires sustainable management of its resources. Connecticut's Coastal Management Program and the EPA Long Island Sound Study are two organizations that have provided long-standing efforts in these regards. However, issues impacting our coasts and estuaries will continue to emerge making support from additional partners vitally important. One such partnership is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). The NERRS is a network of coastal areas designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Created by the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves are a formal partnership between NOAA and coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners. Beginning in 2016 DEEP led a process, with partners from CT Sea Grant, the University of Connecticut, the CT Audubon Society and NOAA, and numerous other federal, state, local, non-governmental, and public stake holders to evaluate, nominate, and designate a NERR in CT. On January 14, 2022, the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve (CT NERR) was officially designated as the nation’s 30th such site. In July 2022, the University of Connecticut transitioned into the lead management role, and a formal partnership was established with DEEP and NOAA to advance the following Vision and Mission:
  • The vision of the CT NERR is a resilient, healthy Long Island Sound Estuary and watershed where human and natural communities thrive.
  • The CT NERR’s mission is to collaboratively integrate science with conservation, learning, recreation, and economic viability using ecologically diverse sites in southeastern Connecticut.
The CT NERR encompasses several protected locations along with a large tract of riverine and estuarine waters that connect them. The properties (listed below) are owned and managed by DEEP and UConn, and the Reserve’s role is to help protect these places to ensure long-term sustainability, and to responsibly leverage them to support place-based programs and efforts that focus on Research and Monitoring, Resource Stewardship, Training, and Education.
  • The DEEP Lord Cove Natural Area Preserve (formerly Lord Cove Wildlife Management Area) in Lyme along the Connecticut River encompasses about 200 acres of brackish reed marsh and floodplain forest. It’s also adjacent to intertidal flats and submerged aquatic vegetation beds.
  • The DEEP Marine District Headquarters in Old Lyme provide opportunities to support NERR functions and activities. This site includes DEEP’s Fisheries and Boating divisions, a boat launch for small vessels, and a public access boardwalk along the Great Island marshes.
  • The University of Connecticut (UConn) Avery Point campus in Groton is the headquarters for the Reserve and houses the primary administrative, research, and education offices. UConn also owns Pine Island in Groton, a State Archaeological Preserve with rich history.
  • The DEEP Roger Tory Peterson Natural Area Preserve in Old Lyme (formerly Great Island Wildlife Management Area) consists of an extensive system of salt and brackish meadow marshes. It is located at the mouth of the Connecticut River, the only principal river in the northeastern United States without a major port or urban area there.
  • DEEP’s Bluff Point State Park, Coastal Reserve, and Natural Area Preserve in Groton offers a variety of habitats – coastal woodlands, beach and dune grasslands, coastal ponds, coastal bluffs, tidal wetlands, intertidal mud flats, and offshore eelgrass beds.
  • DEEP’s Haley Farm State Park in Groton is a mosaic of upland and wetland vegetation types. As a former working farm dating to the colonial era, remnants of numerous stone walls dot the landscape. Haley Farm is one of the more accessible State parks, providing handicap access to parking and trails.


For more information about the CT NERR and its specific activities and efforts, or to find out more in general about the NERRS, please visit the following:

Content Last Updated August 7, 2023