By Beth Sullivan
There is often talk of creating greenways through the inland landscape, allowing connectivity and longer hikes. The difficulty with that is the need to acquire land or easements to allow the connections to succeed. However, a blue trail, by water, already exists. Over the last years I have truly enjoyed kayaking along the shoreline and experiencing Avalonia from a different point of view.
Many of our preserves include a water feature. There are ponds, marshes, streams, even rivers. You can walk along, around, or even through many of these. With the end of summer very near, crowds are diminishing, colors are intensifying, migrating birds move along the shore on their way south, and even some butterflies and dragonflies stage migrations over water along the coast.
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. To really appreciate the expanse of grasses, the wildlife along the inlets, channels and over the land, it is ever so much better to view from the water.
|From Simmons Preserve, it is a gentle paddle around Quanaduck Cove.|
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 with osprey nesting in both the trees and on a platform. Go west and up the cove to see the Wequetequock Cove Preserve and meadows full of milkweed and Monarchs.
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 north, 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. On the gravel bank of the cove, volunteers have created a kayak landing, with tie up rail and stairs up the slope. From there, you can do a nice loop hike on the preserve.
From the same roadside 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.
Paddle under the railroad 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 railroad tracks, but the water way doesn’t extend very far.
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.
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 up, under Rt 1 and find yourself at the marshy southern tip of Paffard Woods.
|From Dodge Paddock or Barn Island, Sandy Point is an easy paddle. Photograph by Roger Wolfe.|
|Paddle up Quiambaug Cove to get to the Knox Family Farm Preserve.|
|Land on a sandy stretch of Knox Preserve's shoreline and explore for snails and crabs.|
Watch your step
Getting out on any of the marsh areas is really not encouraged. The ground can be quite unstable, the habitat is fragile, and there are several species of birds that are in need of protection during nesting season. Best to bring your binoculars.
Take note of what a wonderful buffer the marshlands are, protecting the upland from storm surges and rising tides as well as providing a sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife. Avalonia is dedicated to protecting and preserving the marshlands along the coast line. As our shoreline is threatened by sea level rise, our marshes will be one of the casualties if there is no place for them to expand. They are vital to the health of the oceans and estuaries. Enjoy the views.
Maps and directions to all these preserves can be found on our website.
|You can pull up kayaks in several areas, just please avoid fragile marsh habitats.|
|Cottrell Marsh has wooded knolls and extensive salt marshes to explore.|
|Woolworth-Porter Preserve has channels that can lead deep into the marsh at high tide. Photograph by David Young.|
Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.