your paddlesports destination

Pawcatuck River in Rhode Island

Trip Overview

Bradford Dam to Boat Launch, downtown Westerly

We put in at the Bradford boat launch just above the Bradford dam. Portage around the dam on the right, skirting the fish ladder (short but rocky portage). After the dam the river is quiet and scenic. After six and a half miles you come to the Potter Hill dam. Take out on the right before the bridge, on River Road. The portage is fairly long, about 500 feet. Go down River Road, take a right at the intersection, and put in below the dam at a gravelly parking area on the left, and go down the steep bank. At this point you are about 100 feet below the dam. Paddle back upstream a little to clear the rocks and then head back downstream. From this point there are about 200 yards of Class Two rapids, not a big deal. After this short stretch the river becomes slow and meandering. You'll pass through farmland and woodland, and the scenery is beautiful.

The next issue is the White Rock dam; no water flows over it, and there is a large tree sitting dead center on the dam, left by the flood this Spring. You can portage on the right above the dam; it's short but the put-in is very rocky, and the water below the dam is very shallow and rocky. You could also run the mill race at the left of the dam, about 400 yards of Class Two rapids. Before trying it, you must get out above the dam on the left and scout the entire length, as there can be obstructions in the race, and there are few places to get out once you're in there.

When the rapids rejoin the Pawcatuck the river is more "normal" again, with no major issues. About a mile further on you come to the broken down Stillmanville Dam. The water level was high enough, we ran the dam, but watch out for sunken rocks below the dam; "read" the river and look for possible submerged rocks. Alternatively, you can portage the dam on the right, take out by the willow tree, it's a short, easy portage. There is also another mill race around the left of the dam, but again, scout first for obstructions before entering. It's about 2oo yards long, with Class Two rapids.

The last stretch through downtown Westerly is quiet and uneventful. The Westerly boat launch is about 300 yards below the Pawcatuck River bridge in downtown Westerly on the left.

Total trip is around 13 miles, it took us about five and a half hours at a moderate pace.


Bradford boat launch, parking for about 20-30 cars, some with boat trailers.

Westerly boat launch, parking for four cars without boat trailers, rest of spaces are for cars with trailers.


Parking is free at both locations, no fees or permits needed.


Rt. 95 to exit 1 to Rt. 3 south. In two miles take a left on Rt. 216. Go right on Rt. 91, the Bradford boat launch is about a quarter mile on the left.

To Westerly boat launch, 95 south to Rt. 3 south into Westerly. Over the RR bridge, thru light, bear left at fork, go to next light. Right at light, right again in about 100 yards by Episcopal church. Get in left lane, go left on Main Street, get in right lane. Immediately after next intersection boat launch is on right.


I just scanned and printed topographical maps from my collection for an enlargement of the route.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip