What Lives at the Bottom of the Boston Harbor?

Written by Patrick MacFarland
Updated: September 29, 2023
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Boston is considered the “Athens of America.” The city is steeped in the rich history that has transcended for many centuries. You could say that the history of America was established in Boston. It was in Boston when Paul Revere alerted fellow colonists that the British were coming. Key battles in the American Revolution took place in Boston and its surrounding areas. It was in Boston when colonists protested the tea tax and dumped tea all over Boston Harbor.

But the question remains, where is Boston Harbor located? What lives at the bottom of Boston Harbor? There is an abundance of animals that live in Boston Harbor. There are also many trinkets and treasures located at the bottom of those waters. Let’s take a look at what lives at the bottom of the Boston Harbor and other fun facts.

Where Is Boston Harbor Located?

Boston skyline in sunny summer day, view from harbor on downtown, Massachusetts, USA

When Long Wharf was built in Boston Harbor, it was the longest wharf in the United States.


Boston Harbor is located in the city of Boston on Massachusetts Bay. The Port of Boston makes its home in the harbor, as well. The harbor has been an important port in, not only Massachusetts history, but American history as well. Many islands around the harbor ensure the harbor is well protected from the Atlantic Ocean. Although Boston Harbor is not that deep (usually 20 feet in depth), there is regular dredging to have sea vessels that need depth to go in and out of the harbor.

Boston Harbor is also the site of the Boston Tea Party, which was a culmination of what led to the American Revolution. For years, the British Crown enacted taxes on the colonies. Then, the British Crown decided to tax the American colonists for tea, known as the tea tax. American colonists, angry that the British Crown did not properly represent them in Parliament, decided to protest and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor.

What Lives at the Bottom of the Boston Harbor?

beautiful Boat on ocean at Massachusetts bay  , Boston, massachusetts,USA

The Algonquin tribes that lived in the Boston area referred to the area as the Shawmut Peninsula.

©Benyapha soomhirun/iStock via Getty Images

There are so many things that live at the bottom of the Boston Harbor. There’s also a horde of aquamarine life that lives in the harbor. Let’s explore what’s down there.

Animals in Boston Harbor

Aquamarine life is abundant in Boston Harbor. If you went into the depths of the Boston Harbor, you would find crustaceans, shellfish, and other small marine animals like barnacles and mussels. Lobsters, crabs, and clams make their home at the bottom of the harbor around the nearby islands. You can also find jellyfish in the water.

When it comes to fish, there are several species of fish, like striped bass, tuna, bluefish, and flounder, that make Boston Harbor home. Some mammals inhabit the harbor and larger Massachusetts Bay. Porpoises and seals are the most common to find, but you can also spot humpback whales every once in a while. There have also been sightings of various species of sea turtles in Massachusetts waters.

As for the flora at the bottom of Boston Harbor, you will find a diverse amount of seaweed like Irish moss, rockweed, laminaria, and bull kelp. 

What’s Wrong with Boston Harbor?

Boston Harbor and Financial District at sunset and Tea Party Ships & Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

The television series


, starring Ted Danson and Shelley Long, was set in Boston.


Boston Harbor was famously called by a newspaper “The Harbor of Shame!” in the 1980s. Why? Well, it all started when colonists dumped tea into the harbor. Since then, it’s been a dumping ground for human waste. In the 19th century, authorities would tell people not to swim there. Although there were sewage stations built, there was still raw sewage going into the harbor. Upon the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, small improvements were made, but it was just not enough. 

The Boston Harbor issue was so bad that it was a big factor in the 1988 Presidential Election. George H.W. Bush captured nearly 47% of the vote in Massachusetts against the state’s governor, Michael Dukakis, who was the Democratic presidential candidate. The harbor was also the subject of ridicule from musicians with The Standells releasing their song “Dirty Water” about the nastiness of Boston Harbor’s water.

Clean-Up Efforts

Since the 1980s, the local and state governments have gotten involved, along with organizations to ensure the clean-up of the harbor. Over the past 35 years, the harbor has drastically improved. No longer do fish grow to have tumors because of the pollution secretion from the Logan Airport or other sewage plants. In fact, eelgrass has started to grow near Deer Island, becoming an indicator of the harbor’s health.

Work is still ongoing, however. In 2022, explosive shock tubing was found off the coasts of Rhode Island and Cape Cod, and authorities identified that it came from the regular dredging in the harbor. This has prompted the government to find other techniques to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Things to Do in Boston

Sunset at Public Garden Boston , cover by snow

The first subway built in the United States was in Boston.

©Cherdchai Chiengwong/Shutterstock.com

While visiting, there are many things you can do in Boston. Boston Harbor is just one famous historical landmark that has served an important purpose since the inception of the United States.

For the historical lovers out there, Boston is a perfect city for you. Follow the Freedom Trail to learn about historical happenings in the city while you walk. You can stop along the way to get some grub, like cannoli or Boston cream pie, for fuel. Of course, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum to learn all about the beginning of the American Revolution and the Boston Tea Party.

If you want to trek out of Boston for a few hours, you can go to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and learn about the 35th President, who was from Boston. And finally, at the end of the day, catch a ball game at Fenway Park. Just make sure you root for the Boston Red Sox!

Fun Facts About Boston

  • The Boston Tea Party is reenacted every December 16, highlighting the city and harbor’s history.
  • Thomas Crafts read the Declaration of Independence for the first time on July 18, 1776, from the Old State House.
  • Boston Common, the city’s main park built in 1634, was the first public park in the United States.
  • The Salem witch trials, which burned women accused of being witches, were held in Boston in the early 1690s.
  • Harvard, located in Boston, is the oldest university in the United States, established in 1636.
  • In another first for Boston, the oldest lighthouse in the US was constructed in the city.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, there are many animals and things down in the depths of the Boston Harbor. Although pollution has plagued the harbor, environmental groups have pushed for action and the government has enacted legislation to ensure the harbor is as environmentally friendly as it can. The harbor is still a work in progress, but the indicators of the harbor’s health lie in the marine life. Both the flora and fauna are now thriving in the harbor.

Today, you can swim and fish in Boston Harbor. So if you find yourself with some downtime while you visit all the sights in Boston, you can put on your bathing suit and dip your feet in the water. And if you really think about it, your feet touched the very same water that the brave colonists did when they began protesting taxation without representation.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © bwzenith/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Patrick Macfarland is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel, geography, and history. Patrick has been writing for more than 10 years. In the past, he has been a teacher and a political candidate. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from SDSU and a Master's Degree in European Union Studies from CIFE. From San Diego, California, Patrick loves to travel and try new recipes to cook.

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