Flatwater Paddling




Design courtesy of RICKA's, Chick Noreau


Self guided tours on the Blackstone

Note : Water conditions vary seasonally, what may be a calm section one season may have a strong current and difficult rapids in another. A major storm can even change the conditions significantly in a matter of hours. Therefore, caution is necessary at all times.. it is recommended that paddlers check the water level and river conditions prior to every trip. Historically, the water in the Blackstone River has suffered the effects of the industries that grew up along its banks. In more recent years, the river has been cleaned up significantly. However, paddlers are advised not to intentionally come in contact with the water.

 Check out the Blackstone River Watershed Association

Information gathered from the "Canoe Guide" for the Blackstone River, which was produced as a cooperative effort between the National Park Service, the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and the Blackstone River Watershed Association.

The story of the Blackstone River and Canal can be told from many vantage points. Perhaps the best way to experience its history and beauty is with a canoe or kayak beneath you and a paddle in your hand. The Blackstone is referred to " America's Hardest Working River".  It flows through urban developments, historic villages, farmland and forests for 46 miles from Worcester MA to Pawtucket RI. It drops an average of ten feet per mile, steeper than even the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

The river has been recognized as an early resource for Native Americans and an exploitable resource since the area's settlement by the Europeans in the 1640's.Various mills began to appear in the 1670's and the first successful cotton mill in the New World, Slater Mill was erected at the mouth of the river in 1793. The almost wholly-preserved 19th century landscapes, buildings and villages along the river give it national importance, recognized in 1986 when Congress created the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.

The Blackstone Canal was opened in 1828 and ferried passengers and freight  between Worcester and Providence for twenty years. The canal was replaced by the Providence and Worcester Railroad in 1848. While most of the canal locks were dismantled, evidence of the canal still exists in many locations.

Many sections of the river and canal, are navigable by canoe or kayak. However, some sections require greater skill than others, and difficult portages are sometimes necessary. The Blackstone River Canoe Guide provides the necessary information to canoe the river while learning about it varied natural and cultural history.


*River Classifications

Flatwater- There is little or no current, and the river's surface is smooth and unbroken. paddling upstream is easy.

Quickwater- The river moves fast. Its surface is nearly smooth at high water levels, but likely to be choppy at medium levels and shallow at low water levels.

Class I- Fast moving water with a riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training.  Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Class II- Straight forward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Rapids with waves up to three feet

Class III- Rapids with high, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid often capable of swamping an open canoe. Narrow passages that often require complex maneuvering in fast current. Good boat control required: large waves or strainers may be present. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers.  May require scouting from shore. Group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.

Class IV- Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water.  Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure.  A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids or rest.  Rapids may require "must" moves above dangerous  hazards.  Scouting is necessary the first time down.  Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self rescue difficult.

Class V- Extreme.  These runs often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability, and danger.  The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible.  For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions.

(*AMC River Guide descriptions)


Navigable Tributaries

Quinsigamond River

Approximately 4 miles of the Quinsigamond River are navigable from Rt. 122 in Grafton to its confluence with the Blackstone River at Fisherville Pond. From Route 122 paddlers can paddle upriver under the Massachusetts Turnpike and explore large marshy areas. The river offers pleasant scenery with one portage at Lake Ripple before entering the Blackstone.


Mumford River

For about 11 miles th Mumford River winds its way toward the Blackstone River from the village Manchaug in Sutton. Beginning at Manchaug Street, paddlers will enjoy the remote nature of the river and its lazy currant to Douglas. In Douglas are several stretches of quickwater before settling into the slackwater of Lackey Pond. From Lackey Pond the river cascades into Meadow Pond at Lackey Dam. After a long portage in Whitinsville, there is another small section of quickwater before settling into the slackwater of Linwood Pond. After portaging around the dam at Linwood Pond and two more dams in Uxbridge, the Mumford joins the Blackstone River.


West River

From Pleasant Street in Upton, the West River travels about 7.5 miles through undeveloped land to the Blackstone. After putting in, paddlers will encounter a meandering, sometimes narrow river to the West Hill Dam in Uxbridge. Portage around the dam and continue to the dam at Rt. 16 in Uxbridge. From here the river has several quickwater sections and sharp turn that make for an interesting ride. The native and stocked trout that are in the river, in addition to several areas hospitable to waterfowl make the West River a favorite of local sportsmen.


Mill River

The Mill river can be paddled for about 12 miles from Rt. 140 in Hopedale through Mendon and Blackstone to its confluence with the Blackstone River in Woonsocket.  The final several hundred yards, however are contained in a large flood control culvert and, thus, cannot be paddled.


The Branch River

13 miles of various river conditions, including Class I and Class II stretches, await paddles on the Branch River.  Beginning at the confluence of the Pascoag and Chepachet Rivers in Burriville, paddlers will enjoy its remote scenery and variety of conditions.  Whitewater conditions are primarily a factor of rainfall or scheduled dam releases, contact the RI Canoe and Kayak Association.