There are a lot of lakes in Northern RI…some big-ish, some small, some accessible to the public, some…not so much. Here are a few of our picks for good paddling with easy access. Stump Pond, Pascoag Reservoir and Wallum Lake are the three we’ll take a look at here.
Paddleboarding doesn’t take much. It takes a board and paddle, a parking spot, walkway, and a place to put your board safely in the water. This is not always easy to come by in RI since many lakes do not provide public access. But these three gems do. So check them out.
Stump Pond, also known as Stillwater Reservoir and Woonasquatucket Reservoir, is located between Log Rd and Route 104 in Smithfield. There is parking on both sides and there is a boat ramp on each side. The parking lot just past the boat ramp lot on Log Rd, is our pick for where to put in. It has great walk-in access and usually plenty of parking. Stump Pond is our home base for lessons and demos and the parking and access are two big reasons for that. It is almost 1.5 miles long so it is big enough that you can get a workout, but not so big that it will take you forever to get back if you find yourself all the way at the end. There is also a 10 HP maximum on boats. Especially when you are starting out, you don’t want to be dodging fast boats, jet skis and their wake. There are a lot of people fishing in small boats and a lot of kayakers. It is a very friendly atmosphere.
There are a variety of birds that call the pond home from year to year. We have seen cormorants, a blue egret, a swan family that is tolerant of people, and two years ago there was an owl. When the water lilies are in bloom they are beautiful. There are a lot of non-native invasive plant species in the lake, so passing through some areas becomes challenging in the heat of the summer. But in the spring and fall, that is not an issue and you just get to enjoy a lovely paddle out there. The water level is typically adequate and other than a very shallow area near the big island, there are not a lot of shallow rocks to dodge. Other than those times when it is frozen, you can paddleboard there all year. It will likely take an hour to hour and a half to do the whole perimeter of the lake, depending on whether you linger over the views or paddle for time. There is a culvert under the road across from the police station. When the water level is low you can lie prone on your board and paddle under the road for another sliver of the reservoir (there is another access point on that side). This side is much smaller and in the summer passing through is very difficult because of the flora, but it is very quiet over there and much more sheltered.
Pascoag Reservoir aka Echo Lake is located in Pascoag…go figure. Having grown up on this lake it has a special place in my heart. It is 325 acres and runs north/south. It is much longer than it is wide. There are two coves and a few islands to explore. There are also some neat nooks and crannies to check out. If you paddle the whole perimeter of the lake you will definitely get in a good workout. End to end you could paddle in an hour to hour and a half. If you add exploring the coves and islands to that, you will probably double that estimate, so bring water. It can get pretty windy in the open part of the lake. Don’t be surprised if you spend the whole way out paddling into the wind and then magically the wind changes direction when you get to the end and you paddle into the wind the whole way back too. Just think of it in terms of getting an even better workout. And it is a beautiful lake so it will keep your mind off of the work. Most of the property on the islands is private so while you can paddle around them, I wouldn’t plan on packing a picnic to have out there.
The lake gets drained in the fall so the water level is very low throughout the winter. In the spring it fills up quickly when it rains and it usually only takes a couple of good rainstorms before it is a viable level. From the time when the lake starts to fill up to the time everyone gets their boats out and from Labor Day until they drain the lake are the best times to be out there, in my opinion. Fall is amazing out there with the changing leaves and it is not unusual to be the only person out there during the week in the fall. But during the summer it is still gorgeous. If possible, avoid paddleboarding there on the weekends when it is VERY crowded with boats. I highly recommend either going during the week or early morning on the weekends if possible. The boat ramp is on Maroney Rd., and you can get directions here.
Wallum Lake is another favorite destination. It is also located in Pascoag, though a good part of the lake is actually located in Douglas, MA. There is a canoe launch is off of South Shore Rd. And there is a public boat ramp located at the north end of Wallum Lake Rd in Douglas. We usually use the canoe launch. It is a very short walk to the water, and easy walk-in access. The area near the launch tends to be shallow with a lot of rocks so watch that fin! Rocks are one thing to be careful of in Wallum Lake. If the water level is low, don’t let down your guard around the perimeter. Generally the water is very clear so if you keep your eyes peeled you should spot rocks in enough time to get around them. Or you can just stay a little further from the shore and they will be much less of a concern. On one side of the lake is Buck Hill Management Area. It is peaceful, picturesque and uninhabited. There are some interesting little inlet areas to explore. The other side is pretty well built up so if you prefer to check out people’s houses and yards, you will not be bored. On the Douglas side there is a campground with a beach and picnic tables. Again, if you can get there during the week you will probably find it more enjoyable because it will be quieter. Wallum Lake is also big enough that you can get a good workout without having to retrace your steps. You will probably want to plan about 2 hours for a trip around the perimeter.
These are just a couple of our picks for places to paddle in Northern RI. If you have a favorite spot that you are willing to share…we would love to hear about it! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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