By Marjorie Turner Hollman (courtesy of Bellingham Bulletin)
Winter weather should be no barrier to enjoying the outside; the right clothing (lots of layers, well-fitted boots, extra changes of clothes) and caution about icy conditions will take you a long way toward having a good time regardless of the weather.
We ventured out recently on a sunny, albeit brisk winter afternoon to visit the Blackstone River Bikeway, which presently reaches from Woonsocket to Valley Falls, RI. The fourteen miles of bike trail along the Blackstone River are almost completely uninterrupted by road crossings.The Bikeway, part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, ties in to River’s Edge Recreation Complex in Woonsocket, with parking adjacent to the Hamlet Street Bridge.
This time of year the gates to the complex are closed, but there is nothing to prevent walkers (and with more snow, skiers) from entering the area. We parked, bundled up and headed outside. The Blackstone River flows directly next to the Woonsocket-owned recreation area, which offers a small playground, modest putting greens, a building with a snack bar and rest rooms (in season—they were all closed when we visited), and an additional parking area adjacent to the putting greens. We saw a sign suggesting that kayaks were available for rental, but upon inquiring, we were pointed to Don Martin of Blackstone Valley Outfitters, http://www.bvori.com/ who has a business farther south quite near the trail in Lincoln. His company offers kayak tours of the Blackstone. We highly recommend that you not venture into the river on a lark in a friend’s canoe or kayak—there are snags and real waterfalls that pose serious dangers if you are caught unawares. Blackstone Valley Outfitters offers guided tours of the Blackstone River during warmer weather and winter snowshoeing tours as well.
Wherever we walked, the river was in sight. Cormorants, bufflehead ducks, a lone goose and loads of mallards populated the river. On past visits I’ve seen muskrats, ospreys and other birds as well. The bikeway is paved, with loads of trees, benches, pull-off spots and lovely views of the river along the length of the trail.
Open year round, the Bikeway welcomes dogs, which must be leashed. There were no “poop bag” stations, so please remember to bring your own plastic bags to clean up after your dog. Directions: From Bellingham, take Rt. 126 south (S. Main Street) to Pulaski Boulevard (still Rte. 126), bearing right at the Crooks Corner intersection. Continue on Rte. 126 past the Stop and Shop Plaza, bearing right to stay on Rt. 126 into Rhode Island line. At the intersection of Social and Clinton streets (the Social Street Flatlands), stay right on Social Street for one block; take the first left onto Cumberland Street and go past the Cass Avenue light. At the next light, turn right onto Hamlet Street and cross over the Hamlet Street Bridge. Take your immediate first left and the parking lot is immediately on your left. Look for the large blue sign “River’s Edge Recreation Complex.”
For more information on the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor,
visit http://www.nps.gov/blac. For general information and a map (not completely up
to date), visit http://www.blackstonebikeway. org. For information on the Blackstone
Volunteer Bikeway Patrol, visit http://www.blackstonebikewaypatrol.org. And for Blackstone Outfitters, call 401-312-0369 or visit http://www.BVORI.com.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.