West: Exit 97 off Interstate 395, onto Rte. 44 East. Travel approximately 14 miles, turn right at sign.
The George Washington Management Area was the first state forest created in Rhode Island. Within this 3,500 acre area in northwestern Rhode Island are woodlands, cedar swamps, hemlock forests, ponds, forestry demonstration and experimental areas. The unfragmented forest environment provides habitat for a variety of birds including hawks and owls. Waterfowl and other wetland-dependent birds and mammals make their home in and around the marshes and swamps. The Pulaski Wildlife Marsh covers about 10 acres and is a good spot for wildlife viewing.
There are campsites for tents and trailers. Two shelters in a wooded area overlooking Bowdish Reservoir are also available. The 225-acre Bowdish reservoir is a key recreational spot for activities such as boating, fishing, camping and swimming. An interesting feature of the Reservoir are the floating bog mats which at first glance look like islands. Atlantic white cedar, black spruce and rare plants usually found in northern climates grow on these mats. During the winter, it is not unusual to see an otter running over the ice of the Reservoir.
A network of multi-use trails and dirt roads wind through the management area providing a variety of great mountain biking opportunities from technical, rocky and rooty singletrack to rolling dirt roads. If you want an uncrowded place to ride, this is it.
A map can be found at the trailhead or at Headquarters during the weekdays. The area's trails are comprised of rough singletrack and a network of quiet dirt roads. For extended riding you can connect to more trails in the Pulaski Memorial State Forest and the Buck Hill Area.
Riders of all levels can enjoy easy cruising on the woods roads and the ADVANCED rider can opt for technical riding on the singletrack and Walkabout trails. Do both. Have your cake and eat it too. After your ride, cool off and go for a swim in the Reservoir or Peck Pond.
Walkabout Trail: (Advanced only)
In 1965, sailors from the Australian ship Perth constructed an 11-mile trail that they named the Walkabout Trail. It is named after the Australian aborigine who occasionally reverts to his Stone Age state and follows an impulsive urge to wander the bush with his family (in this case with his or her mountain bike and a few friends) and scant possessions. This urge to wander is called "going walkabout" and the places visited are usually connected with his tribal spirits of land and air from the "Dreamtime".
The main trail is well-marked with orange blazes. Two and six mile cut offs marked by blue and red blazes can be used to shorten the length of your ride or create interesting configurations. The beginning of the trail seems very "civilized". As you travel further, it becomes untamed like the Australian outback. You will encounter places with brush overhanging the sides, washboard ruts, roots, fun downhills, huge rock gardens and large mud puddles. This is tough and you may have to walk in places. What do you expect? It is called The Walkabout, after all.
Over 300 Australian soldiers were in the United States awaiting their ship H.M.A.S. "Perth", the first of three guided missile destroyers the Australian government bought. Six weeks interim before the ship was to be readied presented the problem of how the sailors could be usefully employed.
Division of Forests of Rhode Island had the answer. "Help develop George Washington and Pulaski Forests". One hundred sailors spent two weeks in camp, and then were replaced by another group. From 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the sailors worked alongside the forestry men building an 11 mile trail and picnic spots. Apart from the blisters, the sailors thoroughly enjoyed themselves, swimming in the Bowdish Reservoir and playing horseshoes, softball and football.
For more information:
R.I.DEM, Division of Forest Environment
Phone: (401) 647-1439 or 647-3367