Spring time is here and the snow is melting, the days are getting longer and the paddleboard bug is waking up. It’s still early in the season and some of our lakes and ponds have a stubborn layer ice left over from winter around shoreline making it challenging to get on the water. But fear not there are alternatives.The water is frigid right now here in the north and falling in it can put you at risk of hypothermia, at best, and cold shock, at worst. What you need is an ice-free spot to paddle that is sheltered and calm, and has plenty of spots to beach your board if you need to. So here are some great places for early Spring paddleboarding in Rhode Island.First, before you head out know how to dress- wear a wet suit or a dry suit with the appropriate layering underneath and a good water hat, preferably neoprene or heavy wool, plus some warm 7mm thick booties and gloves. I would also be remiss if I didn’t state the obvious and tell you a leash and pfd (personal flotation device) are 100 percent necessary.
A lot of the areas we are looking at here are parts of the bay, or waterways that enter the bay. Places where there’s enough movement of water from the tides and currents to prevent ice from forming, but are also relatively sheltered from the wind so you’re not paddling in excessive chop and waves.
Sabin Point Park
Sabin Point Park on the Providence in East Providence right off of Pawtucket Ave (take Shore Rd). It has easy access points with a beach and boat ramp. The water is pretty shallow if you stick close to shore you can usually stay out of the wind if there is any. There’s obviously a lot coastline to explore especially heading south toward Bullock Point and there are a lot of beaches along the way.
Once you round the point you can turn up into Bullock Cove or keep heading south to Nyatt and Conimicut points that face each other on either side of the river. The water can get really shallow there but the area also has some really strong tidal currents so be aware of that if you plan on crossing the river.
You can also head north from Sabin Point toward Providence. There’s Pomham lighthouse just a ways up that is fun to paddle around. Across the river there is Field’s Point and Field’s Point Cove where Save the Bay is headquartered. Further up from that you can paddle into the city or head east to India Point Park and up the Seekonk river. You have lots of options on this one.
Wilson Park (Wickford Harbor)
Wilson Park is located in Wickford right off Route 1 (take Intrepid Drive). I has a boat launch that can get pretty busy in the summer but should be clear of traffic this time of year. Most-often used though is the paddleboard and kayak put-in right along the grass field that skirts the parking area. This is actually a good go-to spot year round when the wind is high or there’s the threat of bad weather.
Once you put-in there are many options, all of which keep you within a manageable distance to get back where you started- except one of course, which is the entrance to the harbor that leads out to Narragansett Bay. If you head to the right past Rabbit Island and keep going there is fun tributary that snakes up through marshes all the way to the Camp Street dam. Heading to the left will send you past Cornelius Island and into Fishing Cove.
You can also paddle all through Wickford Shipyard, up to the Hussey Bridge, and to Wickford Village, a paddle that becomes more challenging once the boats are all back in the water.
Of course, you have the option of hugging the shoreline and following the jetty out to the entrance of the harbor where you will pass Poplar Point Light. North Kingstown Town Beach will be directly to the right. Remember, if you are leaving the harbor to stay out of the boating lane if there is traffic.
There are a couple of launch spots with lots of options that are good for early spring paddleboarding. We’ll take a look at a couple more for our next post so stay tuned!
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