Posts Tagged ‘ Big River Management Area ’

Capwell Mill Pond – West Greenwich

  • Capwell Mill Pond – Big River Management Area
  • Burnt Sawmill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead:  41°38’39.57″N, 71°36’27.08″W
  • Last Time Hiked: April 17, 2018
  • Approximate distance hiked: 2.7 miles
  • Fairly easy with some difficult navigation.


This is yet another beautiful hike in the Big River Management Area. The trails here are numerous, unmarked, and can be difficult to navigate. With that being said, it is not advisable to do this hike without a reliable map, an understanding how to read it, a sense of direction, and absolutely be sure to use GPS tracking in the case you need to back track. This hike starts from a small parking area along Burnt Swamp Road before the gate by the Capwell Mill Pond Dam. It is about three tenths of a mile from Nooseneck Hill Road. After passing the gate you will see the dam on the left. Shortly after the dam follow the narrow trail to the left. It climbs slightly uphill into a grass field before winding into the tall pines. Soon a trail comes in from the right. Stay to the left here and you will cross a bridge. The view, overlooking a tributary of the pond is quite pleasant. After the bridge the trail splits, continue straight. The trail slowly climbs uphill through a lush forest of pines. Be aware of your trail intersections for this walk. At the next trail intersection continue straight again following the main trail. You will continue to climb slightly uphill. This section of trail can be quite wet after a heavy rain. You will soon pass a stone wall. Just after the wall is a narrow path to the left. Ignore it for this hike and continue ahead. You will soon pass a second stone wall and then the trail winds a bit before coming to a large boulder at a trail intersection. This is about the one mile mark. Ignore the trail to left and continue straight on the main trail as it starts to bend to the right. Slow down and start looking for the next trail intersection about one tenth of a mile after the large boulder. As the trail starts to turn to the right by a mossy rock with a tree growing on it there is a trail on the left. It is narrow, but defined enough to be noticed. Turn left here and follow the trail as it starts downhill. Soon the trail ends at another well defined trail. There will be a white blaze on the tree at the intersection. Turn left here. In a few yards you will come to another intersection with a tree blazed white. You will want to continue straight, but first follow the trail to the right to the bridge crossing the stream called Mud Bottom Brook. The slight detour is well worth it. Take a moment here. The babbling brook drowns out all other nearby sounds and you are out in the middle of nowhere nearly a mile from any civilization. Return up the hill to the tree with the white blazes and turn right. After making the turn and following the trail you will pass a stone wall on the left. The stone wall then flanks the trail to the right for a bit before the trail starts to descend downhill leaving the stone wall behind. The trail then starts its slight bend to the left passing a boulder in the middle of the trail. The boulder is a good reference point and is just the right height to sit for a moment and take in the nature around you. From here the trail continues downhill and bending to the left. You will start getting your first glimpses of the pond through the trees on the right. Passing another stone wall the trail splits. They rejoin in a few yards where the trail splits yet again. At this split stay to the right. There is also some mountain laurel scattered around in the area. Continuing ahead the pond is still to the right through the trees and there is another stone wall on the left. The trail turns to the left crossing the stone wall and then to the right meandering to and from the pond. A trail soon comes in from the left, stay to the right and continue to the end of the trail. Turn right and you will cross the bridge overlooking the tributary of the pond once again. Just after the bridge turn right onto the trail that will lead you back to the dam and parking area. Blaze orange is required during hunting season.


Map can be found at: Capwell Mill Pond (Map 1), (Map 2).


Pines, Stone Walls, And The Pond.

Hell’s Half Acre – West Greenwich

  • Hell’s Half Acre – Big River Management Area
  • Congdon Mill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°36’42.98″N, 71°37’20.15″W
  • Last Time Hiked: October 29, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 4.3 miles
  • Moderate, some hills, can be difficult to navigate.


The New London Turnpike was once the main thoroughfare between Providence and New London. The road, nearly straight for miles, was scattered with small villages along its route. At the intersection of Congdon Mill Road was one of these small villages. As railroads and public roads were built, the once very heavily traveled toll road became nearly obsolete. Now off the beaten path, this one in particular village became a haven for gambling, prostitution, and an occasional murder earning its name Hell’s Half Acre. Today nothing remains of it except an old cellar hole here and there, if you can find them in the growth of young pine trees. For this hike, covering a large portion of the southern parts of the Big River Management Area, we started at the parking area along Congdon Mill Road just east of the Congdon River. The old dirt road leaves the parking area in a northeasterly direction. Immediately we saw a great blue heron fly overhead as we were starting our hike. After going downhill a bit the road splits. Here we turned right following a rocky trail uphill. Soon there is a spur trail to the left that leads downhill to a small pond. We checked it out and then returned to the trail we were on, continuing uphill, soon overlooking valleys below. Along the way you will come to a property marker to your left. It appears to read “RA 1885”. Ahead is a dip in the trail as it descends quickly down before climbing rapidly back uphill. There is a split in the trail here as well. Stay to the left and at the top of the hill turn to the left following the most defined trail. You will soon come to a “faint” trail intersection. Continue to follow the well defined trail here. A little further ahead is yet another trail intersection. Turn left here and stay to the left as the path widens into another well defined trail. The hardest part of the navigation is now behind you. If you have taken all the proper turns you will soon be following the top of a hill with a deep valley to your left. It was around this area we caught a glimpse of a deer leaping through the woods. At the next trail intersection we stayed to the right making our way to another intersection where we stayed to the left as the trail descends downhill towards  Hells Half Acre. You will notice that the forest floor is now covered with a dense growth of young pines. When you approach the next intersection stay to the left again. Here the trail loops near the intersection. The growth of the pine trees covers what cellar holes may be here. There is no evidence of the village whatsoever along the trail. But when the late October wind kicked up every so gently, we could here the laughter of young women, drunk men, and a tavern piano playing. The trail then winds to the north soon crossing a rickety old bridge that spans a small brook. The trail then comes to another intersection. Look over your left shoulder, there should be a sign that says “Buck Run”. At the intersection stay to the left. Ahead, and unfortunely, there is evidence of humans. There is a small section of trail that is littered with trash from yesteryear. The remainder of this trail offers stone walls and an occasional boulder. Continue straight passing a trail coming in from the right and a trail that is on the left. Soon you will come to a intersection of old dirt roads. Turn left here, onto Sweet Sawmill Road, a well defined trail that you will follow straight back to the parking area. The old dirt road soon becomes flanked by stone walls and passes open fields where pheasant hunters can be found. Continuing straight you will pass an old wooden “Regulations” sign and cross a small stream once again before ending the hike at the parking area. Big River is notoriously known for its web and mazes of unmarked trails. It is highly recommended to not only obtain a map of the property but use a GPS tracking device while hiking here. This hike is fairly easy with some hills, but navigation can be difficult and one could easily get lost here. Also, this area is used by hunters. Be sure to wear blaze orange during hunting season.


Map can be found at: Hell’s Half Acre (courtesy of Auntie Beak).


Pine Grove by Hell’s Half Acre


Big River – West Greenwich

  • Big River – Big River Management Area
  • Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°38’53.88″N, 71°36’25.88″W
  • Last Time Hiked: May 27, 2017
  • Approximate distance hiked: 5.4 miles
  • Moderate, Difficult navigation without map or GPS.

In the 1960’s several local residents were forced to leave their homes here in the area of Big River. The State took the land by eminent domain to build a reservoir. The reservoir, first planned in the 1920’s, was never built and today the large and sprawling property is considered open space with a maze of trails, small streams, ponds, and cellar holes. With that being said, as with all of the Big River property, it is suggested not to wander here without a map, GPS device, or someone who knows the property well. For today’s hike we were led by Sandi of the Appalachian Mountain Club who guided us through the heart of Big River on a nearly five and a half mile trek. Her knowledge of not just the trails, but the history of the property is astounding. I would highly suggest keeping an eye out for any future hikes she may lead here. We started from the main parking area along Nooseneck Hill Road (a quarter mile south of Route 95). From here we followed Burnt Sawmill Road into the Management Area along the paved road until we reached a gate. The pond, with dam and waterfall, on the left is Capwell Mill Pond, fed by both the Carr River and Mud Bottom Brook. Continuing along Burnt Sawmill Road, we were flanked by old trees and telephone poles. At pole 24 a trail, an old cart path, veers to the left. We took it following the old cart path through pine groves and maples before crossing a stream at a wooden bridge that has seen better days. The trails continues, climbing a small hill, passing a couple of stone walls, and a few young pines on the forest floor below the towering ones. The trail splits and narrows, here we stayed to the right and soon came to another trail intersection where we stayed to the right once again. At the next intersection we stayed to the left slightly and then continued straight. The trail to the right would lead you back to Burnt Sawmill Road. Continuing ahead we came to a cellar hole and well on the left. It is not easy to see from the trail and if you do find it, be sure to use caution by the well. The next highlight of the hike comes up on the right. It is the Sweet Family Cemetery with graves dating back to the 1750’s. The trail then passes through another pine grove. This one is quite noticeable as the trees have grown very densely close to each other. Soon after there is a spur trail on the right that leads to the dam on the north end of Sweet Pond. The dam is now breached, intentionally, and Sweet Pond is no more. It is now just a stream through a grass filled basin. Retracing steps back along the spur trail we then turned right, southerly, along the trail we were previously on. Next we came to Sweet Sawmill Road, another old road. Here we turned right and soon passed the south side of the remnants of Sweet Pond. This stretch is flanked by some stone walls and ferns. At the next intersection, a four way, continue straight ahead. A few hundred feet ahead at the next intersection turn right. This is Burnt Sawmill Road once again. Following this road to its end will lead you back to the parking area. Along the way we would come across another cemetery and a former homestead with the only evidence left being a tire swing. Before concluding our hike we did explore a trail to the right that led to a stream that flows between the former Sweet Pond and Capwell Mill Pond. Wildlife is abundant here as it is not uncommon to see deer, coyote, squirrels, chipmunks, and turtles. The property also is carpeted by ferns and wildflowers with birdfoot violet and wild geranium being in bloom at the time of this hike. This is a popular hunting location as well. Orange is mandatory during hunting season.

Trail map can be found at: Big River (courtesy of Auntie Beak)


Sweet Sawmill Road


Dam and Waterfall at Capwell Mill Pond

Reynolds Pond – West Greenwich

  • Reynolds Pond – Big River Management Area
  • Fish Hill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°39’35.06″N, 71°37’41.94″W
  • Last Time Hiked: June 16, 2016
  • Approximate distance hiked: 2.6 miles
  • Fairly easy.


I have been exploring lesser known areas of the State Management Areas the last couple of hikes and I am convinced that the wildlife are quite content with being in these areas. Being mid to late afternoon I was surprised to run into deer. Not just one, but several. And furthermore, they didn’t seem to concerned of my presence. For this hike I followed a trail into the Big River Management Area from the bend on Fish Hill Road. Following the trail south I passed a sandy area to the left while making my way to the first split in the road. Here I turned left and then continued straight passing a cart path to the right. With a map in hand I intended to loop the pond, but soon found that the pond had overflowed onto the trail. At the time of this hike it was impassable. So after a quick peak at both Reynolds Pond and Big River I retraced my steps back to the last intersection. Here I turned left and followed the cartpath for a bit before making another left. This trail leads down to the southern side of Reynolds Pond via a trail that runs along Big River. Soon I was just shy of the spot I was before that was overflowed. From here I retraced my steps back to the car. Besides deer, I saw turtles, chipmunks, various birds, and kayakers!! It is highly suggestible to obtain a copy of the Great Swamp Press map of Big River before making your way into the area.


Reynolds Pond

Tarbox Pond – West Greenwich

  • Tarbox Pond – Big River Management Area
  • Hopkins Hill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°37’51.32″N, 71°34’16.41″W
  • Last Time Hiked: April 17, 2014
  • Approximate distance hiked: 4.4 miles
  • Moderate with some elevation.


This would be my third excursion into the Big River Management Area. Last summer I had hiked Carr Pond and Hungry Hill on this property. As with all of Big River a map is a must and GPS is highly recommended as there is a tremendous maze of unmarked trails here. With that being said I began this hike with my Great Swamp Press map in hand from a parking area on Hopkins Hill Road. Two trails lead away from the parking area. I took the one to the left. (The one to the right will take you to Carr Pond). I followed this trail downhill first overshooting the turn I should’ve taken at the first major intersection. You should turn right at the first major intersection (currently marked with orange flagging). I then followed this trail and it veered left to a stream crossing followed by a small hill with another stream crossing on the opposite side before reaching a very large rock outcrop. At the outcrop there was a very large “camping” area with makeshift benches and fire pit. A marking in a tree called off the stop as Indian Rock. I then followed a narrow path off to the left that followed the edge of a peninsula before winding back to a wider dirt road. At the road I turned left and followed it nearly to its end. I then turned right at what appeared to be a T intersection with a trail leading off to the right and uphill. After crossing the top of the hill the trail descended to its end onto the abandoned portion of the New London Turnpike. At the turnpike I turned left crossing an overflowing area of marsh before turning left at the next trail. Along this trail I came across an old brick building with some very positive graffiti scrolled across the facade. At the end of this trail I turned left onto the next trail keeping the marsh in sight. Toward the end of this trail a vast network of minor trails meander in and out of the area. I found myself following the trails closest to the marsh and pond while heading in a westerly direction. There were many great sights in this area including some handy work by beavers as well as their dams. There were also some spots with wide open views of the pond and marsh. I also came across a pair of ducks in flight (who apparently knew I was trying to capture a photo of them… I failed!). This area is well worth exploring but be sure to keep your bearings. I eventually made my way back to Hopkins Hill Road via small trails following the edge of the pond. At the road I turned left over a small dam and then left again onto a trail that led back into the woods. I followed this trail to the second intersection (after a stone wall). At this point I turned right and uphill back to the parking area. Keep in mind this area is open to hunting and orange should be worn during hunting season.


Trail map can be found at: Tarbox Pond.

Flooded Marsh

Flooded Marsh

Carr Pond – West Greenwich

  • Carr Pond – Big River Management Area
  • Hopkins Hill Road, West Greenwich, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°37’51.32″N, 71°34’16.41″W
  • Last Time Hiked: August 2, 2013
  • Approximate distance hiked: 3.7 miles
  • Easy with slight elevation


This hike was my second venture into the Big River Management Area. It was a perfect summer day and this was a perfect hike for the day. Starting from a parking area on Hopkins Hill Road I took the trail to the right into the woods. The path descended down toward the pond passing an old rusty car and an area of swamp before reaching the main loop trail. The path generally goes straight following red blazes (there are several other color blazes along the way and side paths, be sure to follow the red). When I reached the main loop trail I decided to follow it to the left. The loop, an old dirt road, is well traveled and quite wide. You will want to follow this around the pond. There are several paths and trails leading away from the pond to the left of the main trail. I would advise not to wander too far without a map or a GPS device on these trails. Big River has an immense network of unmarked trails. The paths leading to the right of the main trail lead to areas overlooking and along the shores of the pond. Some even lead to small beaches. (No swimming allowed here). The views of the pond at these trails are spectacular. After checking some of these trails I continued along the main trail, passing some old stone structures and pipelines, until I reached the trail I entered the area on. It is marked with a large boulder on each side of it and at the time of this hike marked with several orange arrows. I then followed this trail back to the car. (Remember to follow the red blazes) I came along several butterflies on this hike as well as birds and squirrels.

Trail map can be found at: Carr Pond

Along The Ponds Edge

Along The Ponds Edge

On The Trail

On The Trail

Hungry Hill – Coventry/West Greenwich

  • Hungry Hill – Big River Management Area
  • Harkney Hill Road, Coventry, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°39’54.21″N, 71°37’7.17″W
  • Last Time Hiked: July 12, 2013
  • Approximate distance hiked: 2.9 miles
  • Easy with slight elevation.


This was my first venture into the Big River Management Area. I had bought a Great Swamp Press map of the management area a while back and found several potential hikes. Hungry Hill seemed to be a good start. Starting from the parking lot at Zeke’s Bridge Fishing Area I crossed Harkney Hill Road to the beginning of the trail next to utility pole #36. Following the trail into the woods I took a left at the first split and started the climb up the hill. The trail to the right I would return on. Continuing up the hill there are a couple trails to each side. I continued straight until the trail ended at a “T” intersection. At this point you are about a half mile in and most of the significant climb is done. I then followed the trail to the right heading in a southerly direction. This is the higher trail of the two main trails. This is a long and peaceful wooded section of trail with the summit of Hungry Hill to your left. (There is no actual trail to the top of the hill.) As you approach the end of the trail you can start to hear the buzz of traffic. Interstate 95 is ahead. At the end of the trail is another “T” intersection. I turned right going downhill for a rather short distance, then right at the bottom of the hill heading now in a northerly direction along the lower trail. This trail continues downhill and toward Big River. There are some rather low and muddy spots along the way after a rainy day and can be buggy. There are a couple of loop trails to the left off the main trail that bring you to the rivers edge. Unfortunately, I did come across some areas of trash and litter on the lower trail, but that aside, this was a nice walk. Continuing north along the lower trail I came to the first split and then retraced my steps along the entrance trail and back to the car. I did come across several frogs here. I did not see the bear that was spotted in this area last week.

Trail map can be found at: Hungry Hill

A Trail At Hungry Hill

A Trail At Hungry Hill

Big River

Big River