The Merrimack Valley is a bi-state region along the Merrimack River in the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, United States. The Merrimack is one of the larger waterways in the New England region and has helped define the livelihood and culture of those living along it since native times.
Major cities in the Merrimack Valley include Concord, Manchester and Nashua in New Hampshire, as well as Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Newburyport in Massachusetts. The Merrimack Valley was a major center of the textile industry in America during the 19th century — Lowell in particular.
Geography and demographics
- North Andover
- West Newbury
Of these communities, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Methuen and Newburyport are cities. Amesbury is legally a city, but officially calls itself a town. The population of the region, in 2000, was 605,853 residents, or slightly more than the city of Boston, and over one tenth of the state.
The Merrimack Valley contains a mixture of 19th-century industrial cities and mill complexes built to take advantage of the river's waterpower, modern suburbs (many built over towns dating from the 17th century), and some relatively rural areas. The western region, including Greater Lowell and Haverhill/Lawrence/Methuen, is generally more urbanized than the eastern region. The entire Valley within Massachusetts, and particularly the western region, is a component of Greater Boston.
Automobile travel through the Massachusetts section of the Merrimack Valley is served primarily by Interstate 495. From Lowell and Lawrence, U.S. Route 3 and Interstate 93, respectively, head north along the valley, joining in Manchester, New Hampshire.
In New Hampshire, the Merrimack Valley Region is an area of south-central portion of the state, approximately 35 miles (56 km) wide, centered on the Merrimack River and running from Canterbury  south to the Massachusetts border. Henniker marks the western extent, and Nottingham the east. It includes portions of Hillsborough, Rockingham and Merrimack counties, namely the following towns and cities:
- Mont Vernon
- New Boston
The state capital of Concord, and the state's two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua are located within the valley. Manchester boasts a large regional airport, with scheduled commercial services. Other notable towns and cities in the region include Merrimack, Salem and Derry.
The original settlers of the Merrimack Valley were various tribes of the Pennacook Indians. The river provided an easy means of transportation, an exceptional source of salmon as well as other fish, and the land along the river banks was suitable for hunting and sometimes farming. However, much of the soil is full of granite, and the pine forests provide poor soil.
Colonization and the Early Federal Period
The earliest European records of the river date to a French expedition under Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts, in 1605. By 1629, the British were moving into the area, and a land grant delineated by the river was made to a Jonathan Wheelwright in 1629.
The city of Newburyport, first settled in 1635, at the river's mouth, became an important shipbuilding center during the colonial era, using lumber floated downriver from the White Mountains. Its prominence was diminished when the Middlesex Canal was completed in the first quarter of the 19th century, allowing lumber to be shipped directly downriver from the White Mountains to Charlestown, Massachusetts, and improving connections between Boston and the Merrimack Valley. Prior to this time, other small canals had been built around falls and rapids to make the Merrimack navigable, such as the Pawtucket Canal at East Chelmsford, which became Lowell.
The Industrial Revolution
While the Merrimack had been used for small manufacturing concerns for decades, in the early 1820s, a group of investors from Boston founded the city of Lowell, to take advantage of the 32-foot (9.8 m) drop of the Merrimack over the Pawtucket Falls. Lowell, the first large-scale planned textile center in America, remained the nation's largest into the 1850s. Textile production spread up and down the Merrimack Valley in both states for the next century, but eventually was eclipsed after the Second World War.
Manchester's Amoskeag Mills was once the largest cotton textile plant in the world. Other major textile companies based in the Merrimack Valley included the Merrimack Manufacturing Company in Lowell, the American Woolen Company in Lawrence (headquarters moved to Andover in 1919), Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, and the Nashua Manufacturing Company in its namesake city. Lawrence was the site of the Bread and Roses strike, a landmark event in the history of labor relations in the United States.
After World War II, the textile industry collapsed rapidly. After a few decades of stagnation, the "Massachusetts Miracle" came to the valley, bringing the headquarters of Wang Laboratories to Tewksbury, then Lowell. Apollo Computer located in Chelmsford and Nashua Corporation in Nashua moved beyond printing to computer products. The defense industry, for example, Raytheon in various sites and Sanders Associates in Nashua, became a major local employer. Increased development pressure from Greater Boston and the proliferation of the automobile pushed development outside of Massachusetts Route 128 to Interstate 495 and up Routes 3 and 93 into southern New Hampshire, greatly increasing the populations of these communities over the postwar years.
The Merrimack River Valley is considered the Valley of the Poets by some local artists and poets.
Anne Dudley Bradstreet was a founding mother of three towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: Boston, Cambridge (then Newtowne), and the original Andover Parish, known now as North Andover, where she lived and wrote for the last half of her life. The first published poet of the New World, she died in North Andover in 1672.
Lawrence is the birthplace of actress Thelma Todd, composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein and actor/singer Robert Goulet. Robert Frost spent his teenage years there, as did his future wife, Elinor Miriam White They were co-valedictorians (1892) at Lawrence High School. Actress Bette Davis and the writer Jack Kerouac were born in Lowell.
The Merrimack Valley is one of the few places in the United States where the card game Forty-fives is popular.
The Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts is divided into three New England city and town areas (NECTAs) by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget: Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH; Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH; and Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH. The largest employer in the region is Alcatel-Lucent, a global telecommunications corporation located in North Andover. Most other large employers are in the sectors of health care and higher education. Institutes of higher learning include Hockey East rivals UMass Lowell and Merrimack College.
- Bear Brook State Park
- Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park
- McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, a planetarium/air and space museum
- New Hampshire Historical Society Museum
- New Hampshire State House
- Pawtuckaway State Park
- Robert Frost Farm, a state historic park
- Silver Lake State Park
Institutions of higher education include:
- Daniel Webster College, Nashua
- New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester
- Rivier University, Nashua
- Saint Anselm College, Goffstown
- Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester and Hooksett
- University of New Hampshire at Manchester
- University of New Hampshire School of Law, Concord
- Though the river begins in Franklin, that city is part of the Lakes Region tourist area. 
- Pendergast, John. The Bend in the River. Pgs 35-36. Merrimack River Press, 1996. Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.
- Elinor Miriam White Frost (1873 - 1938) - Find A Grave Memorial. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
- [dead link]
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts. "Largest 100 Employers in Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH NECTA Division". Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Retrieved 2011-03-20.
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts. "Largest 100 Employers in Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH NECTA Division". Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Retrieved 2011-03-20.
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts. "Largest 100 Employers in Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH NECTA Division". Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Retrieved 2011-03-20.
- Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council (Massachusetts)
- Merrimack Valley Magazine
- Merrimack Valley Dining of Massachusetts
- Merrimack Valley region of New Hampshire (New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism)