Walks & Paddles

on the

Blackstone Canal

Walks

Several walks are available along portions of the canal.  From north to south, these are

  1. Plummer's Landing (Northbridge, MA.) to Stanley Woolen Mill (Uxbridge,MA.).   3.71 miles.  This is the best preserved section of the canal in Massachusetts and is part of the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. The section begins at Church Street in Northbridge west of the bridge over the river.   Here there is parking and a cleared section of canal.  Proceeding south along the right side of the canal, follow a woods road along the berm bank.  After 0.69 miles, enter an overgrown field and continue parallel to the left hand tree line.  At the far side of the field cross a footbridge and then regain the berm edge of the canal.  A little further, turn left across the canal on a fill and then right on to the towpath.   Continue along the towpath until Goat Hill Lock, the second best preserved on the canal.  At the lock it is necessary to cross the canal (due to towpath gaps ahead in Rice City Pond) and climb the hill to a trail junction.  At the junction, go left and follow the woods road along the hillside with the canal below.  After the woods end, enter a field, beyond which cross Hartford Avenue.  On the far side, go left across the dam to regain the towpath.  Then continue south along the towpath with watered canal on the right.  At 0.26 miles from Hartford Ave., pass a bridge over the canal that leads to the Riverbend Farm visitors center on the west side.  Here is parking, toilets, and information.   Continuing along the towpath for another 0.97 miles brings you to the Stanley Woolen Mill where there is access across the canal and parking just off of Rte. 16.
                                                                                                                                                                    
  2. South Uxbridge.  On the south side of Uxbridge, the canal crosses Rte. 122 just before the highway crosses the river south of the intersection with Rte. 146A.  Just before reaching the river, the towpath and prism are visible to the left with the towpath used as a sewer line route to the crossing of the railroad.  This section is cleared.  To the right of the highway, the route is obscured at first, but soon apparent, but overgrown.  It continues along the river and then short cuts a loop to pass the abutments of a skew bridge and reach Skull Rock Lock which is an outlet lock to the river.   When the canal was in operation, the dam at Millville backed the river up to this point and the canal used the pool as its route with the towpath along the right bank. The section south of Rte. 122 to Skull Rock Lock is town owned, but rough walking due to overgrowth.    
                                                                                   
  3. Central Street (Millville, MA.) to Blackstone, MA.  This is not a walk along the towpath, but on a state owned rail trail that touches on the canal at several points.  This is the planned route of the Blackstone River Bikeway (from the Rhode Island border north to where this railroad grade crosses Rte 146A. To begin, find the state parking lot on the grade of the New York & New England Railroad on Central Street, Millville, three streets west of the river.  Here across from the Episcopal  church is a state parking lot.  From the parking lot, proceed south along the railroad grade.  After passing all of the houses to the left and crossing a fill, a trail leads left, downhill  to the Millville Lock, the best preserved on the canal. Millville Lock was an outlet lock at the downstream end of a canal section from the Millville Dam. Silting from a small stream entering the river just below the lock isolates the water in the lock from the river. But, the river level is still maintained at its original level by the Rolling Dam at Blackstone Gorge and the lock water is over six feet deep.
         Continuing south on the railroad grade, the Triad Bridges are soon reached.  Here the canal was in the river passing under the bridges.  The lowest bridge is the Providence & Worcester Railroad, still in use.   The second bridge vertically is for the New York & New England Railroad, now missing a deckThis bridge will be redecked for the bikeway. The other piers and abutments are for a higher, never completed bridge for the Southern New England Railroad.
         On the far side of the river, continue along the NY&NE grade and soon pass under Rte. 122.  The grade then passes behind houses and crosses the canal where it exits from the river above the Rolling Dam.  Shortly thereafter, the route again crosses the canal as the canal curves to the right.  As this bridge is undecked, it is best to follow the shore of the canal to the right to the guard gate and cross there.
         Beyond the canal crossing, the route through Blackstone is overgrown and awaits clearance for the planned bike path.
                                                      
  4. Ashton Dam to Lonsdale (Lincoln, RI).  1.78 miles.  This is the best preserved section of the canal in Rhode Island and is part of the Blackstone River State Park.  It is now open as the first section of the Blackstone Valley Bikeway.  Access is available at the west end of the Route 116 bridge over the river, at the state park at the north end of Old River Road, on the east side of the river via the bikeway bridge just downstream of the Rte. 116 bridge, at the crossing of Martin Road, and from Front Street (Rte. 123)
         Most of this section is paved and the canal watered. North of this piece, the bikeway crosses the river and follows the east shore to just south of Albion.

Paddles

In addition to the walks, several sections of the canal are available for travel by canoe.  With some effort, others could be added.

  1. Plummer's Landing (Northbridge, MA.) to farm crossing.  0.95 miles.  South of Church Street in Northbridge in the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park, the canal is cleared and watered 0.16 miles to a sewer line crossing.    At the crossing, the prism is crossed by a fill that must be portaged.   After that, the canal is watered, but silted in for some 0.33 miles until a breach in the towpath (to the left) allows the river to pour in.  The lower part of this section is not silted, but contains downed trees.  Beyond the breach, water flows in the canal to a farm crossing 0.46 miles further.  Here the water leaves the canal through a towpath breach and the prism continues dry.  This paddle is only recommended when river levels are high covering the downed wood.  It is hoped to remove the wood. 
         An alternative approach is to put into the river at the Church Street canoe landing and then cut into the canal at the breach.  This avoids the portage and silted section.                                                                                                                                                                                         
  2. Goat Hill Lock (Northbridge, MA.) to Stanley Woolen Mill (Uxbridge,MA.).  2.09 miles.  This section of clear and deeply watered canal extends from Goat Hill Lock to the Stanley Woolen Mill.  The lock is the second best preserved on the canal and can be entered by canoe.  The section is only crossed by one road, Hartford Ave.   Just below Hartford Ave is a control dike which must be portaged.  Access with parking is available at Hartford Ave., at the park Visitors Center just to the south, and behind the Stanley Woolen Mill on Rte. 16.      
                                                                  
  3. Skull Rock Lock (Uxbridge, MA) to Central St., (Millville, MA.).   3.17 miles.  North of Skull Rock, the canal is intact, but dry.  South of the lock, the canal used the river channel until Millville.  Since the Millville Dam no longer exists, this section is rather shallow in low water conditions.  It is best traveled downstream.  Access can be made at a power line crossing of the river on River Street in South Uxbridge near the Quaker U-Store.  Access is also available at Millville.  This trip can be combined with the next one by passing the rapids at Millville.  The now dry navigation canal left the river at the right (west) span of the Central Street Bridge.                                                                                                   
  4. Millville Lock (Millville, MA.)to Blackstone, MA.  1.18 miles.   At Millville Lock, the canal reentered the river which it used to reach Blackstone.   This section is maintained at operating level by the "Rolling Dam" at the upper end of the Blackstone Gorge in Blackstone.  The Millville Lock is on the right bank and is easy to reach by land, but more difficult with a canoe unless continuing from #3 above.  The lock is the best preserved on the canal and has deep water on the floor.  It can only be entered by canoe by portaging across the silt barrier at its lower end.  Downstream of the lock, the canal (now the river) passes under a Providence & Worcester Railroad Bridge and then reaches the Triad Bridges.  Here, the P&W recrosses the river with a second railroad bridge crossing the river above the first.  The second bridge is for the abandoned Southbridge and Blackstone (later New York & New England).  On a higher alignment are the abutments and piers for a third bridge for the never completed Southern New England Railroad.  Below the Triad Bridges, a side channel appears on the left while the main river goes right.  The side channel is part of the canal dug to bypass a loop in the river.  It has no locks and may be weedy, but is passable.  After the canal segment rejoins the river, the warning markers for the Rolling Dam will be seen ahead.  The best access point is at the left end of the dam where parking is available.  A little upstream of the dam, a side channel leaves the river on the left bank.  This is the navigation canal.   After passing under the Rte. 122 bridge and two railroad bridges it enters a large pond where it turns to the right.  At the far side of the pond, the channel passes under another railroad bridge and then is blocked by a control gate.  Stay away from this gate and do not enter the pool below as a hydroelectric generating station is just beyond producing severe intake currents.    
                                                                                                                                      
  5. Albion, RI. to Ashton, RI  1.34 miles.  The canal was in the river both above and below the bridge and dam at Albion.  The dam was skirted by a short canal which left the river on the right bank above the dam and reentered the river at the mill.  Upstream of the mill, this canal remains.  Putting in at the dam, one can pick up the canal route at the mill and follow it downstream to the Ashton Dam.    
                                                                                        
  6. Ashton, RI to Lonsdale, RI.  1.78 miles.  At Ashton Dam, the southbound canal leaves the Blackstone River for good on the right bank.  It then maintains its elevation to cross to the Moshassuck River watershed at Lonsdale.  At the dam, you can portage around a rock spillway and enter the canal, now in the Blackstone River State Park.  Continuing on you will pass under the Rte. 116 bridge, two park bridges, and the Martin Road Bridge.  Best parking is under the Rte. 116 bridge which is accessible from Old River Road, Lincoln, RI.  This section has occasional trees downed, so a saw may be useful.  At the south end of this section, the canal continues in water to a bikeway bridge just before. the Lonsdale Mill Yard. The bikeway parking lot is a short distance south of the west end of this bridge.   
                                                                                    
  7. Cranberry Pond & Scotts Pond (Lincoln, RI).  0.7 miles.   These two ponds are located just south of Front Street in Lincoln.   Originally, the ponds were much smaller than they are today. However, in the canal's operating period, they would have been larger than now as the surface of the ponds and the canal north to Ashton were at the same elevation as the pool above the Ashton Dam.  By use of these ponds, the canal crossed from the watershed of the Blackstone River to that of the Moshassuck River to reach downtown Providence.  These two ponds are connected. Access is available at the north end of Cranberry Pond and at the south end of Scotts Pond (just west of the fire station).  A few years ago, a breach in the canal to the north deprived these ponds of canal water and their surface dropped about twenty feet.  Repair of the breach returned them to their current level, except if lowered in winter.

Revised 7/11/11