1. Kayaking the Taunton River
(see Jonathan Stone's letter from the summer 2010 edition of Tides)
2. Rose Island “Keeper of the Light”
|With its rich history, protected beaches and colorful flora, Rose
Island unfolds with sustainable, picturesque beauty at every turn.
Experience “living green” the old-fashioned way, without running
water and electricity, as you spend the night as a New England
lighthouse keeper: raise the flag, greet visitors, manage weather
stations and rainwater systems, paddle around the island and feast on
panoramic views from the tower. The historic lighthouse was built in
1870 and has been lovingly maintained since 1993 by working vacationers
who sign on for a week at a time as part of an environmental education
The 18.5-acre patch of land includes a wildlife refuge for thousands of nesting birds and is beautifully framed by Newport Harbor to the east, Conanicut Island to the west, with the Pell Bridge as a spectacular backdrop. On a hot summer day, the East Passage is saturated with sailboats and fishing vessels of every shape and size. In winter, Save The Bay’s Alletta Morris offers guided seal watches of the migratory marine mammals who haul out on nearby Citing Rock.
Come for the day: pack a picnic, comb the tide pools or enjoy an island tour as part of Save The Bay’s Ultimate Lighthouse Tours.
Rose Island is a gem, symbolizing the Bay’s place in our culture and history. The elevated panoramic views are an inspiration to fight for clean water, open space and public access — the foundation of Save The Bay’s advocacy efforts spanning the past 40 years.
How to get there: Via the Newport-Jamestown ferry from July 1- Labor Day.
3. Seal Watching at Rome Point
||Tucked away off Route 1A in North Kingstown you’ll find a pristine
230-acre nature preserve, one of the few, large undeveloped parcels of
land along the Bay. Less than two minutes into the half-mile wooded
trek, traffic noises are replaced by croaking bullfrogs and twittering
birds. A glimpse of shimmering blue eases into the horizon, and you
emerge onto the crescent-shaped, rock-lined beach with magnificent
views of the Jamestown Bridge and Fox Island.
While this isn’t a sandy, bring-a-picnic beach, chances are good that,
on any given day, you’ll find yourself the sole human inhabitant, and
you’ll realize why Rhode Islanders insisted on preserving this
In winter, a crisp wooded walk crunching through snow and dried leaves
leads you to the point where, under cover of the evergreens, you’ll
stumble upon a small group brought together by thermoses of coffee and
powerful binoculars to view the seals offshore. It’s a prime gathering
spot for these marine creatures that sun themselves on the rocks (it’s
not unusual to see upwards of 80 seals) just north of the peninsula. Providence Journal photo.
In summer, laughter and shouts spring through the trees as kids
exclaim over a crab and snorkel in Bissell Cove. It’s BayCamp season,
and Rome Point is an explorer’s paradise.
Yet 39 years ago, Narragansett Electric Co. had been moving swiftly and quietly to push through a proposal for twin nuclear power plants to be sited at Rome Point. The plants would discharge over 1,000,000 gallons of hot water per minute into Narragansett Bay, raising the temperature 20 degrees and permanently changing the seascape. The proposal was defeated in 1972 after opposition from many, including Save The Bay and a vociferous public. Ultimately — facing continued pressure to keep the area wild — Narragansett Electric donated the land to the state in 2001 in memory of U.S. Senator John Chafee.
How to get there: The John H. Chafee Nature Preserve is off Boston Neck Rd. (Rt 1A), south of Wickford. Open year-round, sunrise to sunset.
4. Rhode Island Clam Shacks
Almost any Rhode Islander can tell you about the gastronomic joy of indulging in fresh clamcakes, stuffies or some ‘chowda’ by the Bay. Regardless of your favorite spot, visits to the summer clam shack are embedded in our local culture. Across the state you’ll find snaking lines of food lovers waiting to bite into those hot and delicious fried concoctions. The meals are always steaming hot — many a mouth has been burned by an overanxious eater who couldn’t wait to enjoy his greasy treasure — and packed to go. So while you can take the clamcakes home, eating them Bayside is de rigueur.
It’s no wonder Rhode Islanders take so much pride in their clam
shacks. Shellfish were once so abundant here that Narragansett Bay
provided 25% of the nation’s hard-shell clams and was a top supplier of
scallops to New York. Poor water quality has taken its toll, though — a
sad irony for a mollusk that can filter up to 3.9 gallons of water per
hour while feeding.
Save The Bay has been working to change this. For the past decade
we’ve been restoring eelgrass (transplanting 681,000 shoots) in an
effort to restore essential shellfish habitat and nursery. Now we’re
turning our attention to the shellfish, having just recently deployed
over 20,000 scallops into new summer homes.
While our fisheries may never return to that abundance of the 1880s, making sure our waters can maintain a healthy supply of shellfish is a goal all Rhode Islanders can get behind.
5. Biking the East Bay Bike Path
Come early on a Sunday morning and you’ll find those who have already
been here for hours: biking, rollerblading and jogging. They’ll smile
and greet you as they whizz by. Join them. Feel the sun on your face
and Bay breezes cooling your body. Spot an egret feeding in the coastal
salt marsh. Stop in for a treat at Sip ‘n Dip. Most of all, enjoy the
spectacular waterfront views along the state’s oldest major bike path,
arguably the most scenic as well, passing for most of its 14.5 miles
along or near the shore of Narragansett Bay.
The East Bay Bike Path winds through two salt marshes – Jacobs Point in Warren (photo) and Silver Creek in Bristol — both recently completed community restorations coordinated by Save The Bay and project partners.
While they do make for nice scenery along the path, salt marshes are also vital habitat for numerous plant and animal species. The purpose of these two projects was to restore tidal flow and biodiversity to the marshes; reduce invasive reeds and mosquito breeding areas; and, for the Silver Creek community, reduce the risk of flooding on area properties.
What else is restored here? Faith that people do make a difference in the Bay’s health and future.
How to get there: The East Bay Bike Path extends from Providence to Bristol. Find parking locations and trail maps.
Watch surfers glide across the ocean. Listen to the crashing waves and the cry of the gull. Wander through scenic villages, tasting fresh produce and local seafood from roadside vendors. Comb wide stretches of sand for smooth shells. This is Rhode Island’s southern coast — 100 miles of stunning shoreline that has attracted vacationers, both locals and tourists, for generations.
6. South County Beaches
On summer days, beaches from Narragansett to Westerly attract sun-worshipping teens, families lugging coolers and kids building sand castles. When the sun starts to dip, the beach scene changes to accommodate dog walkers, college kids playing football and couples with a bottle of wine ready to toast the sunset. And the beaches of South County play host to some of the most spectacular sunsets. Witnessing one melts away the stress of your day until all that’s left is the fading light and the waves gently lapping on the shore.
The scene is picture-perfect, thanks in part to Save The Bay volunteers
who participate in cleanups along the southern shore.
||Since our 2007
launch of the South County Coastkeeper program, we have worked with
partners in the community to protect, restore and promote stewardship
of the area’s unique and magnificent waterways. While the beaches
receive the most fanfare, some of Rhode Island’s most ecologically
important and threatened habitats exist along the southern coast,
including nine salt ponds and Little Narragansett Bay. Unique in their
history and natural diversity, they play an integral part in the
Head to South County. Pick your beach. Dip your feet in the water, and let the sunset wash over you. These are the experiences that Save The Bay works to protect.
They show up non-stop: Hard-bodied joggers and cyclists, parents unleashing housebound kids, senior citizens out for a sunset stroll, Hemi-tough guys with fishing tackle, khaki-vested photographers, and birders with field glasses.
7. Fields Point
Fields Point in Providence used to be the end of the earth, frequented by more illegal dumpers than astonished sightseers. But that all changed in 2005 with restoration of the abandoned site and construction of the green-designed Save The Bay education center. The transformation has become a model for environmentally friendly shoreline development and brownfields restoration. There is no comparable access to the Bay this close to downtown, and Save The Bay welcomes visitors, including wildlife, from dawn to dusk.
Today, Fields Point emits a glimmer of its heyday at the turn of the 20th century when locals flocked to the island for shore dinners and weekend recreation. Whether you choose to relax with a picnic on the terrace, stroll our coastal buffer or fish from the rocky shoreline, it’s a place where urban blues fade into blue skies and sparkling water. Sparkling water in Providence? Yes indeed, thanks to the Narragansett Bay Commission’s $400 million Combined Sewer Overflow project that we spent 20 years lobbying for. Take a bow, Save The Bay donors and supporters. This is your success story.
How to get there.
Go to the shore of Jamestown’s Potter Cove at sunrise, and you will witness a very scenic view of the East Passage. Watch the sun rise slowly over Newport, bathing the water, the beach and the shale rock outcrops of Taylor Point with a gentle light. With not a boat in sight, you’ll feel like you have the Bay all to yourself. Potter Cove is the finish line, and all marine traffic ceases in preparation for the annual Citizens Bank / Save The Bay Swim.
8. Finish Line at the Save The Bay Swim
It’s peaceful now, but soon over 400 swimmers and a few hundred kayakers will surge into the water, slicing and gliding the 1.7 miles from the Newport Naval Station to the shores of Potter Cove. Then quiet anticipation becomes charged excitement as family and friends of the participants arrive, jockeying for the best view. They crowd onto the beach and search the water for signs of their loved ones: a handmade flag, their swimmer number, a recognizable shout of joy.
Celebrations begin as the swimmers cross the finish line — cheering and embraces, photographs and interviews, then a leisurely procession up to the lawn and Party Tent. Here lies the post-Swim feast, from bagels, sandwiches and hot soup to Del’s lemonade, fresh fruit and Thai food. A local radio station plays music; Swim awards are presented; families lounge on picnic blankets to break bread and hear proud tales of their swimmer’s journey.
By now, the sun is nearly overhead, and boats are once again cruising the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. For the Bay is why everyone is here. Since 1977, the Swim has been an active demonstration of people who care about the Bay in extraordinary ways. Swimmers raise funds to support Save The Bay’s core efforts to protect and restore the Bay. This year’s Swim is an early one - 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 17. But the sunrise is sure to be spectacular.
Check out other articles, including follow-upon the Great Flood, in the summer 2010 issue of Tides.