There are a lot of lakes in Northern RI and many of them are excellent for paddleboarding. A few of our favorites are…
Stump Pond (Woonasquatucket or Stillwater Reservoir) in Smithfield
Flatwater suitable for beginners
The launch we use is located at approximately 71 Log Rd, in Smithfield. It is the lot just past the boat ramp. There is ample parking and several options for sandy, walk in access. There is some glass in the parking lot, so footwear to at least get to the water is recommended. The pond is approximately 1.25 miles long and paddling the perimeter will clock in at just over 3 miles.
It is usually a pretty quiet spot aside from some street traffic on either side (and a bar with live music on the weekends). You can park at the boat launch lot too, but it can get busy with boat launching and people fishing from the shore. There is also a boat ramp on Rte 104. It’s a fairly steep ramp that gets slippery. The sandy, walk in access on the other side is easier and safer.
The pond runs pretty much N-S so the winds often run the length of it, but there are some sheltered spots so even if you are a beginner you can usually get out of the wind. There is a 10 hp maximum on boats, so aside from fishing boats and kayaks, you will have your run of the place.
There are some fallen trees around the edges of the pond so be careful, and some shallow spots around both islands. In spring and fall if the water isn’t too high, you can lie down on your board and paddle under the bridge near the police station. That opens up into another good sized section of water to explore. In the summer it is very choked with weeds in there. And please…watch your head. If the water level is too high, you will not have enough clearance to make it through even if you are lying down.
There are hiking trails around Stump Pond, and Wolf Hill Forest Preserve is across the street (trailheads are near the police station). You can find a variety of hikes in there including one that will take you to a lookout from which you can see Providence, a portion of Narragansett Bay, and beyond.
Olney Pond-Lincoln Woods State Park
Flatwater suitable for beginners.
Just outside of Providence you will find Lincoln Woods State Park. There is a monitored beach at Lincoln Woods, so in the summer you are far from alone on the water. There is kayak and paddleboard rental shack there, and there is a sandy spot near it that you can launch from. Stay away from the swim zone if you choose to launch from the beach area. There are also facilities here which is nice. It’s a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the water, but it’s easy passage.
Numbers 1 and 2 on the map mark water access and number 3 is the beach and facilities that tend to get very busy in the summer.
The walking trail that loops it is 3.1 miles. There are some nooks, crannies, and little islands to putter around. And it doesn’t tend to get blown out as much as the bigger lakes in the area, so if you have to pick a spot for a windy day, this isn’t a bad option. And you can explore some of the trails while you are visiting the park. It’s a great spot for mountain biking, trail running, and bouldering. But it might not be a bad idea to have locking straps if you are going to be leaving your boards for a while.
Only electric motors are allowed on the pond so there’s little worry about getting run over by a boat. The area around the pond is undeveloped so it is peaceful (other than the beach) with many different types of trees and wildflowers. And there is a variety of migratory birds to see during migration season.
Wallum Lake- Burrillville
Flatwater suitable for beginners
There is a canoe launch on South Shore Rd. This is an easy way to gain access. Wallum lake is half in RI and half in Douglas, MA. It is surrounded by Buck Hill Management area and Douglas State Forest on the west and north sides of the lake. The other half is pretty residential.
It is about 2 miles long and up to ½ mile wide. Running N-S It can definitely funnel wind, and you can sometimes find little baby waves out there. Be careful for shallow rocks along the shoreline (especially when heading out from the launch area).
It’s easy to let your guard down particularly when exploring some of the little nooks on the forest side of the lake so take care not to catch your fin on anything. Boats are allowed on this lake so it’s best to get out early before they do. If you don’t happen to make it out early, just stick to the sides and they shouldn’t bother you other than the occasional wake.
The forested sides are beautiful and very peaceful. There are fees for parking in the Douglas State Forest area. But you can find hiking, horseback riding, pavilions, facilities, and swimming there.
If you are in northern RI with a hankering to paddle, these three spots are worth checking out. It’s never a bad idea to bring some locking straps if you want to do some exploring off of the water while you’re there. And if you are looking for more spots, exploreri.org is a great resource.
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