Tag Archives: Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed

A River Runs Free in Rhode Island

Not so long ago, mills were the lifeblood of their communities, harnessing the currents of the Northeast’s rivers to produce lumber, flour, and cotton and woolen goods. Rhode Island was home to many of the early textile mills that brought the Industrial Revolution to New England, with dozens of dams built in the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed alone.

Only a few generations have passed since the mills were in use. But today many of these dams are no longer gateways to prosperity; they have aged into perilous barriers, blocking migratory fish runs and presenting potential liabilities to the communities they once served.

Suzanne Paton at WR copy

“We’re really trying to step back and look at a landscape scale,” says Service biologist Suzanne Paton. “Everything is connected.”

Supported in part by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and other partners are removing these dams to restore a natural flow to the Pawcatuck River. Opening and connecting the river helps improve fish habitat and reduces the risk of flooding in towns along the river’s banks. It also helps enhance recreational opportunities like fishing and kayaking and supports local economies.

Follow the story of the river’s restoration as conservation leaders like Service biologist Suzanne Paton work to bring the Pawcatuck back to life.