Lets Go Paddling!
For a unique perspective on Woonsocket, why not take a canoe trip on the Blackstone River. Two of Woonsocket's parks have canoe ramps for easy access.
Cold Spring Park (map) (directions)For an easy paddle on flat water (approximately 3 miles), put in at the Cold Spring Park canoe launch. This stretch of the Blackstone River was widened and straightened as part of the 1955 Flood Control Project. All four bridges which cross the river in this area (Singleton Street, River Street, Fairmount Street, and Sayles Street) were also replaced at that time after being seriously damaged in Hurricane Diane.
The water in this area is generally quiet. Upstream is the historic Nyanza Mill complex and the Waterford Mill Village in Blackstone, MA. Downstream is the Alice Mill, once part of the Woonsocket Rubber Company and the largest rubber footwear manufacturing facility in the world; Jules Desurmonte's Riverside Worsted Company mill; and the Woonsocket Falls.
As you approach the falls, you will see the Sayles Street Bridge and the historic Glenark Mill. A sign on the Sayles Street Bridge reads "Danger Spillway Falls Ahead". Resist the urge to paddle up to the falls - its a 30 foot drop down the other side, and current close to the falls can be unpredictable! In the 19th century, this dam was the main power source for the Woonsocket Falls Mill Village.
River Island Park (map) (directions)For a longer paddle (4.2 miles), put in at the canoe launch at River Island Park near Market Square and paddle to the Manville Dam on Main Street in Manville. The water near River Island Park can be quick and you may encounter some rapids when the river is high. The take-out point in Manville was recently restored by the Friends of the Blackstone River. A description of this tour is also available from the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
Just downstream from the canoe ramp is the Bernon Street Bridge and the remnants of the old Bernon Dam. The Narragansett Knitting Mill is to the left. The mills of the Woonsocket Mill Company in the Bernon Mill Village are on the right.
As you enter the Social District, you will see the results of the 1963 Flood Control Project. The river was widened and deepened and earthen embankments and concrete flood walls were constructed. The Mill and Peters Rivers enter the Blackstone River in this area through underground conduits which flow under the Social District. The Mill River was the main power source for the Social Mill Village. The Peters River was the main power source for the Jenckesville Mill Village. At one time, the Blackstone Canal ran through this area on its way from Providence to Worcester. When complete, the Blackstone River Bikeway will also follow this route. After you pass the Hamlet Avenue Bridge, the scenery becomes more rural.
See a video of me paddling at River Island Park: