|EXPLORING THE BLACKSTONE RIVER: A GUIDE by Jeff Hickson|
|Blackstone MA to Woonsocket, R.I.|
|Start: Blackstone Gorge Trail Head, County Road, Blackstone, MA
NW 42 degrees 00.930
W 071 degrees 33.188
End: River St, Woonsocket, R.I.
N 42 degrees 00.105
W 071 degrees 31.076
Access: Public at River Island Park, Woonsocket
Length: 5.5 miles
Duration: 3-4 hours
Experience Level: Intermediate
Special Conditions: Caution: (3) difficult portages at dams, Caution required before all!
GUIDE: (In Blackstone, look for signs off Rte 122 for the Blackstone Gorge. Follow signs to public parking lot. Parking at head of the gorge)
This trip on the Blackstone is just downright odd and interesting. It combines fairly strenuous walking portages, rural paddling and inner city paddling. This wraps almost every experience you can have on the Blackstone into one trip. You start your trip at the South side trail entrance off of public parking at the Blackstone Gorge in Blackstone, MA.
Be prepared for a strenuous 3/4 mile portage with gear through a gorgeous young hardwood forest. The trails parallels the river on the east side following a rising cliff till it peaks about 150’ above the river. Pay attention and you will find a scenic overlook on the right. This overlook gives you a perfect view of the rapids and rocks that are causing you to portage. Caution here as slipping rocks and loose soil on the edge could cause a fall. The rapids you are portaging around are runnable at certain times of the year.
In high spring waters or storm flows, this is a nice Class III section of rapids suitable for experienced white water paddlers. For anyone else or low flow conditions, you should use this portage to save the bottom of your boat and your ankles.
Stories abound regarding the use of this area by Native Americans. One story tells of the use of this cliff to drive deer over during hunting. Possible, but it is unconfirmed.
If you are down on the west side of the river below the cliffs, you will find circular depressions in the rock which are bowl shaped and smooth. Small pebbles are usually found in the bottom of these depressions. Local mythology would have you believe that these are the remnants of food preparation areas used by the Native Americans. These depressions were thought to be used to pound corn into flour. Although an attractive local legend, the real truth is that they are caused by small stones getting trapped in a crevice of the rock. Rising waters during high flows cause these small stones to start swirling about. Over hundreds and thousands of years, they carve small bowl shaped depressions. They look smooth and manmade, but water is powerful and patient creating these bowls over time.
At the end of your long portage, you reach a meadow. The river entrance is immediately to your right and about 150 yards away. Location: N42 00.646 / W 071 degrees 33.103
This is a sheltered location, I sometimes come here just to picnic and relax. This is a fairly easy entrance into the river. Take the time to paddle upstream a little and you will be rewarded with scenic views of the cliffs you just walked past. At this point, paddle south. The paddling is easy and relaxed. The scenery is beautiful. Take note of the old Tupperware mill on the left. The rise and fall of this company and its presence in the Blackstone Valley affected thousands. Continue paddling south about two miles. You will see three bridges close togther. Approach with caution on the right side. Your exit to the portage is located under the third bridge at the right. Use extra caution as you are approaching within 75-100 feet of a low head wall dam. Location: N42 degrees 00.977 W 071 degrees 32.311
You DO NOT want to go over this dam! This is a difficult portage requiring you to lift your boat up and over a set of steps and a 4 foot high wall and then carry back down to the river over another wall. It is not a long portage (about 100 yards) , but it does require physical strength and caution.
You enter into the water below the dam. There is a quick flow here with a short section of Class II white water with exposed rocks at low flow conditions. Use strength and ferry to mid river position before starting downstream. The paddling of this section is easy. The river changes its texture here. You are starting to enter the most developed areas of Woonsocket, R.I. As you do so, more mills, factories and warehouses appear on the side of the river. The river banks are more cluttered and the river changes its feel.
About two miles down from the last portage, you have an alternative exit at Cold Spring Park, located just 1/3 mile south of the MA & RI border on Rte 122. This picturesque park is located on the southbound side of Rte 122. drive down the long access road to the river.
Continue just about 3/4 miles downstream from this point to your portage Location: N42 00.105 W 071 degrees 31.076. You will carry your boats up and to the public parking at the corner of River St. and S. Main in Woonsocket, R.I. This is the end of this trip.
Stop and enjoy the historic downtown and get a real wiener or fish and chips. If you are continuing on the river, cross over to River Island Park. As always, PADDLE SAFE!