Ninigret Pond, RI

Also known as Charlestown Pond, this 1,711-acre coastal lagoon is totally located within the town of Charlestown. A small channel under Creek Bridge connects Ninigret with Green Hill Pond in South Kingstown.

The pond is bounded on the south by barrier beaches, to the west by the village of Quonochontaug, and on the east by Charlestown Beach. The ocean breachway in the southeastern end connects with Block Island Sound, and fresh water flows into the pond from numerous small brooks and springs.

Fishing and shellfishing are very popular. Marine fisheries laws and regulations are available at Burlingame State Park and at all local marinas and bait shops. No licenses are needed for Rhode Island residents, but nonresidents must be licensed to harvest shellfish. Licenses are available at Ocean House Marina and Westerly Wal-Mart. Commercial shellfish licenses are available only to Rhode Island residents and nonresident property owners, and may be obtained at RIDEM headquarters in Providence; call (401) 222-3576. No license is required for rod-and-reel fishing, but maximum daily limits and minimum sizes must be obeyed.

Shellfishing is prohibited in two areas. One lies east of a line across Tockwotten Cove to a point on the south shore adjacent to Florence Street and is closed because of pollution. The second, a shellfish spawner sanctuary in the western end, is closed to protect shellfish brood stock; this forms a triangle, bounded by a flag pole at the Ninigret Conservation Area to the south, and to the north by an orange-and-white sign at the end of Kennedy Lane and a sign at Lavin’s Landing Marina.

The range of boating activity is dependent on the depth of the water. Ninigret is generally shallow, with an average depth of less than 6 feet. The southern areas have been shoaled to an even more shallow depth by storm surges and windblown sand.

The central basin is generally free of navigational obstructions. Rocks are located along the north side of “The Narrows,” located between Hall and Grassy points, south of the National Wildlife Refuge. Open fairway runs north through Fort Neck, but the channel leading to the ocean breachway is shallow and treacherous. The harbormaster marks the channel with stakes; however, the breachway itself is dangerous and requires experienced seamanship. Strict adherence to rules of the road and to the no-wake regulations are a must.

Fig: Charlestown BreachwayPublic access is available at several points. Four launching facilities provide parking for a fee. The state ramp is at the end of Charlestown Beach Road; the other three are owned by local marinas: Ocean House, Lavin’s Landing, and Shelter Cove. The three marinas offer restrooms, and Ocean House provides complete marina services.

Windsurfers, kayakers, and canoists find Ninigret a mecca for their enjoyment. Launching may take place from the Ninigret Conservation Area, all marinas, and at Creek Bridge, Charlestown Beach Road, where kayak rentals are available.

Recreational activities oceanside and pondside are plentiful. Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge is located off Route 1, bordering the northwestern side of the pond. There are two well-marked nature trails and plenty of parking at this federally maintained site. Walking access to the pond is provided at the refuge and at the conservation area.

Ninigret Park, a former naval air station, is north of the wildlife refuge and offers nature trails, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and baseball opportunities, BMX bike courses, freshwater swimming at Little Nini Pond, and the Frosty Drew Nature Center, which offers nature programs.

Ocean swimming is available at Blue Shutters Town Beach, Ninigret Conservation Area (state-owned) at the west end, and Charlestown Town Beach at the eastern end of the pond. East Beach barrier beach is undeveloped and owned by RIDEM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Vehicles may access the back dunes with a permit obtained at the Burlingame State Park facilities.

For further information:

  • Charlestown Harbormaster: (401) 364-6810
  • Burlingame State Park: (401) 322-8910
  • RIDEM Law Enforcement: (800) 498-1336

—By Arthur Ganz, Salt Ponds Coalition and RIDEM Supervising Biologist