The effects of flow releases (daily during spring and four times weekly during summer) from a small impoundment on macroinvertebrate assemblages in the lower Indian River and upper Hudson River of northern New York were assessed during the summers of 2005 and 2006. Community indices, feeding guilds, dominant species and Bray–Curtis similarities at three sites on the Indian River, below a regulated impoundment, were compared with those at four control sites on the Cedar River, below a run-of-the-river impoundment of comparable size. The same indices at four less-likely affected sites on the Hudson River, below the mouth of the Indian River, were compared with those at an upstream control site on the Hudson River. Results show that the function and apparent health of macroinvertebrate communities were generally unaffected by atypical flow regimes and/or altered water quality at study reaches downstream from both dams in the Indian, Cedar and Hudson Rivers. The lentic nature of releases from both impoundments, however, produced significant changes in the structure of assemblages at Indian and Cedar River sites immediately downstream from both dams, moderate effects at two Indian River sites 2.4 and 4.0 km downstream from its dam, little or no effect at three Cedar River sites 7.2–34.2 km downstream from its dam, and no effect at any Hudson River site. Bray–Curtis similarities indicate that assemblages did not differ significantly among sites within similar impact categories. The paucity of scrapers at all Indian River sites, and the predominance of filter-feeding Simulium gouldingi and Pisidium compressum immediately below Abanakee dam, show that only minor differences in dominant species and trophic structure of macroinvertebrate communities occurred at affected sites in the Indian River compared to the Cedar River. Thus, flow releases had only a small, localized effect on macroinvertebrate communities in the Indian River. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.