Bicycle through the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Massachusetts and absorb the history of the Canal Era in the Blackstone River Valley. The Slater Mill, the first cotton mill to use mechanical spinning devices, launched the start of the industrial revolution when it opened in 1793 along the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. By 1800, mill villages like Woonsocket, Blackstone, Millville, Uxbridge, and Millbury blossomed along the river. The Blackstone Canal was built (1824-1828) to transport cargo between the mills on the river and the port of Providence, RI.
The multi-use, hard-packed dirt Blackstone Canal Heritage Park Trail follows the towpath of the Blackstone River Canal in a scenic, 1000 acre natural area straddling the town line between Uxbridge and Northbridge, MA. It's an easy, bike ride along a level grade. Grassy, muddy and rooty sections make this trail more suitable for mountain bikes. The path travels through urban areas, historic mill villages past woodlands, open fields and farmland. It's an exceptionally pretty bicycle ride amidst the splashes of autumn color during fall foliage season in early October. The park, operated in conjunction with Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, became the second National Designated Heritage Area in the nation when it was created in 1986.
Before your bike ride or hike, stop in at the Riverbend Farm Visitor Center, a converted red barn that was originally part of a farm that was established before the Revolutionary War. The Riverbend Farm became one of the region’s largest dairy farms and operated until 1974. You can get information about recreational programs and find out about access to cycling, mountain biking, walking and canoe trails, picnic areas as well as historical park features such as the Stanley Woolen Mill, Stone Arch Bridge, Goat Hill Lock and Plummers Landing. The park also features a wide part of the Blackstone River known as Rice City Pond. It's a great place for wildlife viewing and bird watching.
In October 2010, it was announced that plans are currently underway for the design and construction of segment 1of the Blackstone River Bike Path (which includes 11 bridges), in Blackstone, MA. It's an exciting step towards fullfilling the promise of a fully constructed bikeway from the RI border to the River Bend Farm.
Plummer’s Landing is the name given to the area around Church Street Bridge. It is named for a general store and warehouse owner who catered to the bustling trade along the Blackstone Canal. Today we can walk through the foundation stones of Plummer’s buildings and picture a time when this was a bustling stop on the canal. The area is still a busy hub of activity for history lovers, bicyclists and canoers.
Straddling the Blackstone Canal, the mill is an important part of local history. It was first established in 1883 and produced wool fabric for over 100 years. After the canal became defunct in 1838, the owners purchased the water-rights and the last hundred yards of the canal were converted into a trench to divert water to a dam and turbine that powered the mill.
This scenic stone arch bridge over the Blackstone Canal is still in use today. It is partially constructed out of a canal lock.
One of forty-eight locks built by the Blackstone Canal Company and the second best preserved on the canal. The upper sill wall is still visible. The Goat Hill Trail follows the path of the Blackstone Canal along the west side of the the Blackstone River.
While in the area, also visit:
The best preserved lock along the canal. Located in the town of Millville. To get there, follow Rte. 122 south from Uxbridge to Millville Center. Turn right at the intersection of Rte. 122 and Central Street. Parking is available at the corner of Hope and Central Streets. Follow the old railroad bed to the lock, which is about 3/4 mile away.
Blackstone Gorge & The Rolling Dam
From Uxbridge the river flows through the heart of Millville to the scenic Blackstone Gorge at the Rhode Island and Massachusetts border. This is also a popular canoe and kayak route. Here the Blackstone River casts off its shackles and goes wild. It cascades over Rolling Dam before crashing through a narrow, boulder studded channel and dropping 80-ft into a deep ravine. The heavily forested banks shelter trails that wind through eastern hemlock and mountain laurel.
Follow Rte. 122 south through Millville into Blackstone. Turn right on County Road, following signs to the Gorge. There is limited parking at the end of the street.You can access the trails to the left of the Rolling Dam.
The Industrial Revolution in America had its beginnings right here in the Blackstone River Valley. The river provided water power for the developing industrial activity. The canal was built to link central Massachusetts with the Atlantic Seaboard at Providence and became an important means of transporting raw materials and manufactured goods between industrial centers. By 1847 the canal became obsolete with the introduction of the railroad. Along the canal towpath you can still see remnants of the canal era, including mill villages, locks, dams, bridges, mill ponds and other structures.
Riverbend Farm Visitors Center:
Uxbridge is located at the junction of routes 122 and 16. Exit 11 off I-90 (Massachusetts Turnpike). Take Rt.122 south to N. Uxbridge. At the traffic lights turn left onto East Hartford Ave. Follow signs to the trail. The Visitor Center is located in the large red barn at River Bend Farm.
For more information:
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park
Phone: (508) 278-7604