TheÂ Piscataqua River, in the northeasternÂ United States, is a 12 mile (19 km) longtidal estuaryÂ formed by the confluence of theÂ Salmon FallsÂ andÂ CochechoÂ rivers. The drainage basin of the river is approximately 1,495 square miles. The river runs southeastward, determining part of the boundary between the states ofÂ New HampshireÂ andÂ Maine, and empties into theÂ Atlantic OceanÂ east ofÂ Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The last six miles before the sea form one of the finestÂ harborsÂ in the northeastern United States, despite a tidal current rated as one of the fastest in North America (at Nobles Island across from downtown Portsmouth).
Named by the area's originalÂ AbenakiÂ inhabitants, "Piscataqua" combines "peske" (branch) with "tegwe" (a river with a strong current, possibly tidal). "Peske-tegwe", then, describes a place where a river separates into two or three parts, or literally, "a place where boats orÂ canoesÂ ascending the river together from its mouth were compelled to separate according to their several destinations" -- for example, at Dover Point.
The first knownÂ EuropeanÂ to explore the river wasÂ Martin PringÂ inÂ 1603. CaptainJohn SmithÂ placed a spelling similar to "Piscataqua" for the region on his map of1614. The river was site of the firstÂ sawmillÂ in the colonies inÂ 1623, the same year the contemporary spelling "Piscataqua" was first recorded.
TheÂ Portsmouth Naval ShipyardÂ is located onÂ Seavey's IslandÂ inÂ Kittery, Mainenear the Piscataqua's mouth. TheÂ dispute between New Hampshire and MaineÂ over ownership of Seaveyâ€™s Island was settled by theÂ U.S. Supreme CourtÂ in 2001, locating the state border at the center of the river's navigable channel