A Canoe Camping River
Waterways is a canoe trip for ages 12-15. Two trained expedition
leaders will lead ten to twelve participants on
an adventure through some of the most pristine wetlands
in Rhode Island. It is an experience that integrates knowledge
about the environment with outdoor skills and small group living
designed to challenge the participants. Waterways participants
paddle downriver to a new backcountry riverside campsite each
night. It is a chance to live
and learn with nature and with other people.
You will be canoeing on the Pawcatuck River, which is the primary
drainage for the 194,000-acre Pawcatuck Watershed. This watershed,
located in southwestern Rhode Island and portions of southeastern
Connecticut, contains the highest concentration of rare plant
and animal species in Rhode Island. In fact, 71 percent of the
rarest species and natural communities in Rhode Island reside
within this watershed. The river is also rich in Native American
and colonial history. The Native American tradition is reflected
in many of the place names such as Shannock (“Morning
Star”), Ashaway (“Fork of the River”) and
Pawcatuck (“At the Falls”). Colonial heritage is
reflected in the 19th century mill villages of Burdickville,
Bradford and Potter Hill, among others, where mills relied on
the river for waterpower. You will see some mills that still
use the power of the river.
The beginning of the week is spent at the W. Alton Jones Campus.
You will live in cabins or screen houses. You will get to know your trip-mates
as you prepare for the expedition. You will learn basic paddling
techniques as well as safe boating practices during a canoe
lesson at the W. Alton Jones Campus’ own Lake Eisenhower.
You will also learn and practice specific camping skills, as
well as review the waterway route that you will travel.
On Tuesday morning, your group will travel
to the river in a passenger van to begin your 3-day river trip. Your canoes, food and gear
will also be transported to the river. After helping
unload and distribute food and gear to the canoes your trip will begin. We
will spend 3 days and 2 nights canoeing and camping on the river, paddling approximately
20 miles from put-in to take-out. The river starts out narrow
and twisty, but as tributaries and other rivers join with the
Pawcatuck, it becomes wider and swifter. You will paddle down
river from backcountry campsite to campsite enjoying the scenery and the
wildlife, such as fish, turtles, osprey and kingfishers. At
a number of points along the river, you will come upon dams
and waterfalls around which you will portage the canoes. This
involves carrying the canoes and gear on land around the side
of the dam so that you can continue on your way. During lunch
breaks and at the campsites there are opportunities to take
a swim or relax with friends.
At the campsites, everyone will share in the duties of setting
up camp and preparing meals. Food will be cooked over small
camp stoves, and dishes washed with biodegradable soap far from
the water's edge. After dinner, the group might take a night
walk, play games, star gaze or just relax at the campsite. In
keeping with the principles of leave-no-trace camping, all garbage
will be carried out and not a trace will be left when we break
camp and continue canoeing the next morning. It is important
to be sensitive to the natural areas that we visit.
We will be picked up at the end of our journey and return to
the W. Alton Jones Campus to wrap up the experience. Check-out
is Friday afternoon.
Participants of Waterways should be in reasonably good physical
condition. You must be able to canoe for extended periods of
time, up to six hours a day (with adequate rest periods) and
be able to swim. If you are unsure of your physical condition,
do some exercising before the trip. Bike riding, jogging, swimming
and lots of brisk walking are some good ways to build stamina
and get muscles in shape. All participants are expected to cooperate
with fellow group members and leaders and abide by all safety
rules. In preparing for the expedition, you may want to spend
some time thinking about why you have chosen Waterways and what
you hope to learn from your river trip.
Experience is not a requirement, but a positive attitude and
a willingness to have fun while learning are!