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The Wood & Pawcatuck Rivers, RI

Fig: The Wood & Pawcatuck RiversThe Wood and Pawcatuck river system, which may be accessed from starting points in Exeter, South Kingstown, and several midpoints in between, offers 53 miles of accessible, canoeable river corridor.

Touted as Rhode Island’s most pristine river system, the Wood and Pawcatuck rivers annually host thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and hiking.

Even the novice can enjoy a paddle along the Wood River, and access is available at the Route 165 check station in Exeter, the Pines access in Arcadia, at the Barberville Dam on Arcadia Road in Hope Valley where the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) campus is also located, the Hope Valley baseball field, Switch Road in Hope Valley just south of the I-95 overpass, and Woodville Dam in Woodville. There are a few smaller, lesserknown put-ins as well. The major challenges faced on the Wood River include those caused by blow downs, or large trees that have fallen across the river. The impact of blow downs varies with the level of the water. High water in the spring could bury the tree trunks, or cause them to emerge slightly from the surface. If the water is low enough, as it can be in the summer, it can be possible to pass beneath the trees—or be completely blocked from passage. The WPWA monitors river corridor passage and removes blow downs on a fairly regular basis.

The Pawcatuck River, though also suitable for the novice in general, does have areas where whitewater can present a bit of a challenge in high-water conditions. The Pawcatuck emerges from the Great Swamp at Wordens Pond in South Kingstown. Though a challenge, you can put in on the east side of Wordens Pond and canoe across to the Pawcatuck. A strong head wind makes this a workout! Once crossed, however, you will encounter the most pristine, and wild, section of the river—wonderful for exploration. The Pawcatuck, from its origination at Wordens Pond to its confluence with the Queen-Usquepaug River, is also known to some as the Charles River. There are public access points to the Pawcatuck in Charlestown, Richmond, and Westerly, in Rhode Island, and in Pawcatuck, Conn., as well. In the village of Carolina there is an access to the Pawcatuck River just before the Route 112 bridge. Those who enter there in springtime enjoy the rapid ride to Richmond. In addition, the historic villages of Burdickville, Potter Hill, and White Rock can be found along the Pawcatuck route.

The Wood and Pawcatuck rivers offer numerous opportunities for outdoor enjoyment and scenic experiences for individuals, families, or organized groups. Canoe rentals are available in the area, and some businesses offer transportation of boats for convenience. More information on canoeing and kayaking the Wood and Pawcatuck rivers can be located in the Wood-Pawcatuck River Guide map, produced by the WPWA and available at retail stores throughout the region.

—By Lori Urso, Executive Director, Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association