Bedford has two major riverine systems associated with the Concord and Shawsheen Rivers. Forming the western boundary of the town, the Concord is bordered by extensive wetland and floodplain areas, approximately 700 acres lying within the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The Concord River in Bedford is approximately 400 feet wide and flows for a distance of approximately 3 miles from the Concord to Billerica boundaries. It has a low velocity and flat downstream slope, and retains a fairly constant elevation at approximately 112 feet above mean sea level. The embankments of the river are very low, and are bordered by extensive shrub swamp, red and silver maple floodplain forest, and open marshes. The shoreline in Bedford is undeveloped, and few signs of human habitation are visible.
The Concord River is ideal for small boats, and the Bedford boat landing at the Carlisle Road bridge is a popular launching spot for canoes, rowboats, kayaks and small motorboats. Many of the boats are used for fishing, primarily bass, perch and bluegill.
Two major streams drain the Concord River watershed in Bedford. Tributaries to Mill Brook originate in wetlands lying along the northern section of Springs Road, crossing North Road in two locations to the extensive wetlands between North and Dudley Roads, and joining Mill Brook at the Billerica boundary. Peppergrass Brook rises south of Carlisle Road, receiving flows from a tributary stream east of North Road and from a pond on the Harvard University property off Old Causeway Road. Both brooks are low gradient perennial streams bordered by extensive wooded swamp.
Of significant historical importance, the attractions of the Concord River have been well documented, from Henry David Thoreau to Edwin Way Teale. The stretch of the river in Bedford includes wide and far vistas, significant wildlife habitat, and virtually no development along the banks due to the presence of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. In recognition of the many values associated with the Concord River, Bedford was one of several towns in the watershed of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord (SuAsCo) Rivers that jointly sought and obtained federal Wild and Scenic River designation for these waterways.