By Beth Sullivan
Many of Avalonia’s preserves include a water feature. There are ponds, marshes, streams, even rivers. You can walk along or around or even through many of these, but along the shoreline there is a better way to enjoy the view: by kayak. With the end of summer very near, crowds are diminishing, colors are intensifying, migrating birds move along the shore on their way south, and some butterflies and dragonflies stage migrations over water along the coast.
|Monarch Butterflies will find Seaside Goldenrod, then migrate over open water.|
Many of our coastal preserves are marsh lands, and it is difficult and unwise to walk on the fragile salt marsh. Usually the closest you can get is a glimpse from the road. You can peek at lovely Cottrell Marsh from Latimer Point Road. Woolworth Porter Preserve has a small path through the woods, in from Wamphaussuc Road to view the marsh. But to really appreciate the expanse of grasses, the wildlife along the inlets and over the land, it is ever so much better to view from the water.
|A quiet overlook of Woolworth Porter Preserve.|
Sandy Point is an island, so of course you need a boat. Put in from Barn Island boat launch and paddle across little Narragansett Bay, and you can pull up close to shore and either paddle or wade, towing your boat along the North Shore. Now you can observe the staging of migrating shore birds, sandpipers, plovers and terns. Some of them are protected species, so avoid undue disturbance. Also from the Barn Island boat launch you can head far east to find the Continental Marsh Preserve, or go west and up the cove to see the Wequetequock Cove Preserve and meadows.
|Sandpipers flock on Sandy Point.|
|The grassy fields of Wequetequock Cove Preserve.|
Another launch spot is a small access area on the side of Wilcox Road, off Rt 1 in Stonington. From there you have some choices. Paddle under Rt 1, up the Quiambaug cove, and on the east shore look for Avalonia Land Conservancy signs. The Knox Family Farm runs along the cove for quite a ways and includes a small inlet area. We hope to make an official landing spot there so visitors can get out and walk the trails as they wish.
|You might encounter a Snowy Egret along the Quiambaug Cove.|
Back at the launch, nearly the entire west shore, except the Cemetery edge, is the Knox Preserve: a totally different vantage point. The rocky shores are so different than the mowed trails. When the tide is low you can get onto a small beach that is hard to reach from the trail, due to massive poison ivy patches.
|The rocky shoreline of Knox Preserve.|
Paddle under the Rail Road Bridge and head east, around Lord’s Point, and the next big marshland area is the Woolworth-Porter Preserve. From this angle you can see the beautiful greens of the marsh grasses and can head up a little inlet or creek and wind deeper into the preserve which actually extends quite a ways north, to the rail Road Tracks, but the water way doesn't extend very far.
|The channels can be navigable when the tide is high|
For a longer trip, from the same launch site you can head west along the shore and out and around Latimer’s point, remembering that the Knox preserve is just on the other side of the tracks. Look for the osprey nest high on a pole. West around Latimer Point, you will come to another large marshland area. This is a big expanse of Cottrell Marsh which extends all the way over to Mason’s Island Road. This area has some interesting high islands with trees and shrubs where Herons and Egrets love to roost at this time of year.
|Off shore from Knox Preserve you can see Osprey nests and other waterfowl.|
|Fall colors are outstanding along the Cottrell Marsh.|
Go through the gate at the Simmons Preserve, on North Main Street in Stonington, to a little access area onto Quanaduck Cove. You can paddle under Rt 1 and find yourself at the marshy southern tip of Paffard Woods.
|Through the gate at Simmons Preserve is access to the Quanaduck cove.|
Getting out on any of the marsh areas is really not encouraged. The ground can be quite unstable and habitat fragile, and there are several species of birds that are in need of protection during nesting season.
Take note of what a wonderful buffer the marshlands are, protecting the upland from storm surges and tides and providing a sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife. Avalonia is dedicated to protecting and preserving the marshlands along the coast line. Enjoy the view from the water.
Photographs by Beth Sullivan.