The Blackstone River Bikeway is a planned recreational path that will
extend 48 miles from Providence,
Although mostly paved, we have included the Blackstone River Bike and Canal Heritage Trail for it's exceptional historic value and scenery. With the opening of a new 1-mile section at the southern end of the bike path in the Spring of 2008, the bikeway now runs for a continuous 10.3 miles between Valley Falls Heritage Park in Cumberland, RI to the south and the Woonsocket Water Treatment Plant on Manville Hill Road in Woonsocket to the north. Greenway spurs in Central Falls, Lincoln, & Cumberland, RI provide another 1.2 miles.
The mostly flat and smooth terrain makes this an ideal family-friendly, educational bike trip. It's fun for just about everyone. The bikeway travels along a path carved out from a very special place in American History. Every mile tells a story with the historic, natural and cultural resources found all along the Blackstone River -- the river that powered the first successful textile mill that sparked the Industrial Revolution.
Trail highlights include sections of the restored Blackstone Canal Towpath, historic mill villages including Ashton, Quinnville and Slater Mill Historic Sites, colonial era houses, the dramatic Ashton Viaduct, the Manville Dam and Waterfall and the new 540-foot long elevated boardwalk through the Lonsdale Marsh. The path travels past meadows and farm fields, through forests and urban areas. Cyclists are treated to constant, scenic views and birds eye perspectives as the bike path crisscrosses both the Blackstone River and the Blackstone Canal several times over historic bridges. Bicyclists have many opportunities for further exploration. The bikeway provides easy access to several State and Historic Heritage Parks including Lincoln Woods State Park a popular mountain biking destination, the Valley Falls Heritage Park and it also connects to Blackstone River State Park at the heart of the bike path in Ashton.
Where to start your bike ride on the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage Trail?
It depends on how much time you have and how many miles you want to bike. There are many ride options and several trailheads to choose from. Stone mile markers at every half-mile along the bikeway indicate how far you've traveled and guide you along the route. There is something for everyone in the Blackstone River Valley as each segment of the bike path has its own distinctive "flavor". Most tourists opt to begin their bicycle journey into the past around the midpoint of the bikeway from the trail head at the Blackstone River Bikeway State Park Visitor Center. From here you can explore the Blackstone River State Park, ride south to Valley Falls Heritage Park or ride North to explore the upper reaches of the bikeway.
Parking Areas are listed with each section below. Miles are approximate.
Park in the Manville Parking Area on New River Road and ride north to explore the northernmost reaches of the bike path.
The current northern terminus of the bikeway is located in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, home of the Museum of Work and Culture. A 2-mile section of the bike path completed in the Fall of 2007, stretches from the Woonsocket Water Treatment Plant on Manville Hill Road for two miles to Manville. From Manville the bike path follows the old Blackstone Canal corridor south and parallels an active rail line operated by the Providence and Worcester Railroad Company . At times the path travels very close to the water’s edge, providing close-up views of the canal, the Blackstone River and bordering wetlands.
A highlight along this section of the path is a wide overlook of the river at the Manville Dam, where a 160-foot wide waterfall drops 19 feet to the level of the river. Granite benches at this point offers cyclists the opportunity to take a break and admire the river views. Well placed interpretive signs inform trail users about the history of the area. A canoe launch is also available for those who wish to see the river north of the dam from a different perspective.
Albion to Ashton Mill Village: 1.5 miles
Park in the Albion Parking Area on School Street/Albion Road at Lincoln-Cumberland line.
Continuing south from Manville, the bike path continues to follow the river to the hamlet of Albion, located just to the north of Blackstone River State Park. The Albion Mill which once processed cotton has been converted to a condominium complex. The bikeway crosses the river into Cumberland over the Albion Bridge at around Mile Marker 12-5. Listed on the National Historic Register, it was originally a two span structure. In 1944 it was rehabilitated with a thought to maintaining its unique 19th century character. As you pedal over the bridge, note the exquisite bridge railing detail, consisting of beautiful diagonal steel bar arrangements with rosette castings placed at bar intersections.
The bike path now follows the west shore of the Blackstone River past mill villages framed by a backdrop of rolling hills. You'll pass under I-295 and cross the railroad tracks twice before arriving at historic Ashton Mill Village in about 1.5 miles. This is the heart of the Rhode Island portion of the Blackstone River bikeway and one of the largest nineteenth century mill villages that sprang up alongside it's banks.
Although the Blackstone Canal, begun in 1825, was certainly an engineering marvel, using a series of 49 granite locks to move barges up and down the 438-foot drop over its 46-mile length, another more recent engineering wonder, is the rehabilitated and impressive, arched Ashton Viaduct (George Washington Highway Bridge). It carries Route 116 over the Blackstone River, connecting the towns of Cumberland and Lincoln. Completed in 1945, the bridge was rehabilitated in 2000 and represents one of the state’s largest engineering projects.
From Ashton Mill Village, you'll pass under the Ashton Viaduct (Route 116) and cross the Blackstone River into Lincoln via the Ashton Mill Bridge. A spur to the right leads to the Blackstone River State Park Visitor Center.
The bikeway began in Ashton with the construction of the first 3.3 mile segment in the fall of 1977. The Ashton Mill and village complex was built by the Lonsdale Company in the 1860's during a period of frenzied development. Today, much of the village and the massive mill remains intact. The bike path runs on top of the historic, restored Blackstone Canal towpath for 3.5 miles from Front Street, near Lonsdale Avenue to a parking area near Route 116 (George Washington Highway). This is the best preserved section of the canal in Rhode Island. Along the towpath you can still see well-preserved remnants of the circa 1830 Blackstone Canal era, including locks, dams, bridges and mill ponds. It is an exceptionally beautiful wooded ride during the fall foliage season in early October.
To get familiar with all there is to see and do, stop in at the Blackstone River State Park Visitor Center, located on Interstate 295 North, in-between Exits 9 and 10. (Parking is also available at Bikeway lots off Rt. 116 in Lincoln, and Off Old Store Road in Ashton Village).
The Visitors Center is open twenty four hours a day. Along with tourist information, you'll find ample parking facilities, restrooms, picnic tables and concessions. The Visitor Center links to the Blackstone River Bikeway and provides access to the Blackstone River State Park which includes the Blackstone River, the historic Blackstone Canal and the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Transportation Museum via a half mile bikeway link.
Bike Path Spur to Captain Wilbur Kelly House Transportation Museum: 0.5 miles
Parking for the Kelley House is available at Northern end of Lower River Road, underneath the Rte. 116 Bridge, Lincoln, RI
From the Visitors Center, a short steep climb along a 0.5 mile bikeway spur leads to the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Transportation Museum, located within the park, at the end of Lower River Road in Quinnville, RI. Wilbur Kelly, captain of the clipper ship Ann and Hope, built the Kelly House and a mill at this site. Take a free tour of the museum and listen to the transportation stories of the Blackstone River Valley. Quinnville was the first mill village built in Lincoln, RI. Several clapboard mill houses and a clapboard farmhouse still stand at the site.
Heading south of Quinnville, the bike path veers away from the river as the distance between the river and canal widens. It narrows again and cyclists are funneled under the new Martin Street Bridge between the river and canal. The original Berkeley Bridge and the Martin Street Canal Bridge both dating back to 1900, were once two separate structures. There is now unobstructed access to the Blackstone River Bikeway at Martin Street now that the Berkeley Martin Bridge reconstruction project has been completed. A spur leads up and over this beautiful new bridge with wooden rails and walkways. However, a new ramp was constructed to provide access to the bikeway from Martin Street and the path now travels below the bridge, providing a much safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians.
The path hugs the canal before crossing the Blackstone River yet again at Pratt Dam via a wide sweeping arched bridge. Continue south along the river and cross over Route 122 at a cross walk. The bike path then winds though the property of the former Lonsdale Drive-In, now an open meadow.
Park either in the Front Street Blackstone Bikeway lot (Rte. 123) at the flashing yellow light where there is ample parking or at the former Lonsdale Drive-In Parking Lot (Rte 123) on John Street. Pedal south to experience the newest section of the Blackstone path, completed Spring of 2008. From the John Street lot, the path travels over the John Street Bridge (separated from traffic by a barrier) into Cumberland. After crossing the street, the path heads into the woods and winds along the marsh to the 14-foot wide, 540-foot long elevated boardwalk. Built upon a series of wooden stilts to leave minimum impact on the sensitive habitat, it traverses the Lonsdale Marsh, offering pedestrians and bicyclists up-close and personal views of the marsh wildlife and flora.
The freshwater marsh, a result of the flooding caused by the Valley Falls Dam is an ongoing wetland restoration project. Situated on the northeast flyway, it attracts a variety of birds including Osprey, Blue Heron, Virginia Rails, Swans, Red-winged blackbirds, and other birds that use the marsh as a rest stop on their Spring and Fall Migration paths. The Eastern Screech owl and several species of ducks also use the Marsh as nesting grounds in the spring.
Once across the boardwalk you can ride another mile to Valley Falls Heritage Park via a series of newly paved local neighborhood roads to Broad Street which leads to historic Cumberland Town Hall (circa 1894) opposite Valley Falls Heritage Park at the corner of Mill and Broad Streets. The SAMUEL SLATER, a canal boat, America's only floating British Bed & Breakfast, is docked nearby at the Blackstone River Bridge.
A little further down Broad you can turn onto Meeting Street which leads right into the park. The park, which marks the Blackstone River Bikeway's current southern Terminus is definitely worth exploring. The park tells the story of the Valley Falls Company Mill complex which operated there from 1839 to the 1930s. In 1991, the site was transformed into an historical park with walkways, ramps and bridges that allow you to tour the foundations of the mill complex. Picnic tables overlooking the Blackstone River makes the perfect spot for lunch.
Adventurous cyclists can continue on interim on-road routes which stretch south to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, home of the Slater Mill, the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center (www.slatermill.org). From here, you can follow the city streets into Providence to connect to the East Bay Bike Path that travels along Narragansett Bay for 14.5 miles to historic Bristol, RI.
New extensions of the bikeway to the north and south are expected to open in the near future.
The Industrial Revolution in America had its beginnings in the Blackstone River Valley. The river provided water power for the factories and mills that sprung up along its banks including the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI (circa 1790), America's first first successful textile mill. The Blackstone Canal was designed to provide quick and easy transportation for goods between Worcester, MA and Providence RI
For more information:
Blackstone River State Park Visitor Center
Blackstone Valley Visitor Center
Phone: (401) 724-2200
Lincoln Woods State Park
Phone: (401) 723-7892