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West Hill Dam – Uxbridge/Northbridge

  • West Hill Dam
  • Hartford Avenue East, Uxbridge, MA
  • Trailhead:  42° 6’12.84″N, 71°36’30.60″W
  • Last Time Hiked: December 19, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 2.7 miles
  • Fairly easy with some slight elevation.

 

In 1955, Hurricane Diane caused extensive flooding particularly along the Blackstone River including the city of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. In 1960, the West Hill Dam was completed and almost immediately tested by Hurricane Donna. The cities and towns downstream did not flood. The dam and the property around the dam is owned and maintained by the United States Corp of Army Engineers. The property is open to passive recreation such as swimming, picnicking, and hiking. There are three blazed trails on the property. The orange blazed Woodland Trail encompasses almost the entire property. A yellow blazed Grassland Trail meanders through the southwestern section of the property. Lastly the green blazed West River Trail loops in the center of the property. For this hike we started from the parking lot at the southern Access Road off of Hartford Avenue East. Walking north along the road we soon came to a kiosk warning of hunting season. Blaze orange is required here from October to January when hiking. Turning left we started to follow the gravel road that is blazed with orange diamond markers. The road is slightly raised above the surrounding terrain for a bit. At the intersection, turn to the right and continue to follow the orange blazes. The trail, still following a road, winds through a grove of hemlocks and is flanked by small ponds. Soon you will start seeing stone walls and a large granite bollard with a “N” carved in one side and an “U” carved in the other. This is the town line marker between Uxbridge and Northbridge. Shortly thereafter the orange blazed trail meets with the yellow blazed trail. For this short stretch follow the yellow blazes. The orange blazed trail runs parallel on the other side of the wall but the views are better along the yellow trail. To your right is a sweeping view of a small valley and the grasslands that the West River passes through. The yellow blazed trail soon splits to the right, stay left and pick up the orange blazed trail once again. Next there is a fairly large cellar hole on the left. Soon after that you will come to a road. Stay to the right here and follow the road to a parking lot on the left. By the kiosk is the beginning of the green blazed trail. This trail is about a half mile long and winds up and down hills as it loops through the forest of pines between a pond and the West River. There are several spur trails in this area, however, the green blazes are abundant and easy to follow. At the top of one of the hills is a bench to take a break. There are several bird feeders below that attract birds such as titmouse, nuthatch, and chickadees. Taking a moment to take in the sights we could also hear woodpeckers in the distance. Continuing along the green trail we soon came to the road once again. Turning left, we crossed a bridge over the West River. Along the road on the right is the Harrington Pool Picnic Area. There is a fee in the summer to swim and picnic here. After passing through the parking lot stay to the right of the information kiosk and follow the orange blazes once again. At the next split, stay to the right again following the orange blazes. The trail soon turns to the south and slowly climbs uphill as it winds through more forest. There is an occasional seasonal brook along the way and several large boulders. Soon the trail comes to the massive earthen dam. The walk across the top of the dam offers another sweeping view of the valley below. At the other end of the dam a small bridge crosses the West River nearly fifty feet below in a gorge. From here follow the access road back to the parking area.

 

Map can be found at: West Hill Dam.

TWRI-WHD08

View From Upon The Dam

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