The natural habitat of the Saw Mill River has been compromised by centuries of development throughout the watershed. The Saw Mill River Parkway, which stretches alongside more than two thirds of the river, exposes much of its floodplain to direct sunlight, accelerating the spread of invasive species which have taken over much of the floodplain and pushed out native riparian vegetation, insect communities and aquatic animals. Sewer leaks throughout the watershed have led to poor water quality and with it a decline of native aquatic habitat. In the lower watershed, a rapid process of urbanization turned entire sections of the river into a concrete channel, which in much of Downtown Yonkers runs under the city streets. These channelized sections, a man-made dam in Great Hunger Memorial Park and rapid flow rates at some sections of the river due to mismanagement of stormwater create an obstacle for species that have been migrating up and down the Saw Mill River throughout history.
Together with its partners, The Saw Mill River Coalition completes hundreds of community led efforts to protect and restore a river that was once referred to by a 19th century poet as “a snake-like yellow scrawl of scum”.