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Wood River in Rhode Island

Trip Overview

Alton Dam to Bradford boat launch - Wood/Pawcatuck River

We entered the Wood River just below the Alton dam; the water was unusually high due to some rain earlier in the week. The first mile or so is fairly swift moving, and the recent floods have left the river a little different. One section about one-half mile down the river is a little tricky by canoe; you must avoid going too far left and getting caught up in a downed tree branch, as the swift current will bring you into it if you're not careful. About three-fourths of a mile into the trip there is a large downed tree spanning the entire river. You could choose to go left and under; we chose to go right and over because the river level is higher than normal for this time of year.

Two miles into the trip is the Burdickville dam; this can be run at high water by kayak just to the right of the center "island". Since we had a canoe, we chose to portage by exiting to the left at a small gravel patch and re-enter below. After that the last four to four and one-half miles is flat, slow-moving, and uneventful. There are resident Canada Geese nesting along the river and every so often you would see a "family" paddling along and feeding.

It's a nice, quiet ride through the woods of southern RI, just beware of funny currents in the first mile if the water is high. The trip can be done in two hours, but take your time and enjoy the scenery.


Free parking at the boat launch in Alton, no permit or fee needed.


Rt. 95 S or N to Exit 2, follow the sign to Woodville and Alton. Go straight at the four-way stop and continue another couple of miles to Alton. The public (and free) parking and boat launch is on the left, fifty yards from the next stop sign. Unload and cross Rt. 91 on river right and enter below the dam.


I have topographical maps of all of southern Rhode Island; I just scanned and enlarged the section I needed.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip