Rhode Island, a small New England state known for its sandy shores and seaside Colonial towns, also has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country.
Some of these falls are man-made dams that date back to the industrial era; others are natural. Regardless of the type, they’re all worth visiting!
The Blackstone River is a 48-mile long river that flows from Worcester, MA, to Pawtucket Falls, RI. During its journey it drops 438 feet, about 9 1/2 feet every mile.
The steady drop made the Blackstone an ideal source of waterpower for mill owners. They built dams across the river to squeeze that drop into a waterfall at a single point, and run it through their waterwheels. The weight of the water dropped over the waterwheels provided power that allowed mills to operate almost all year round.
In addition to providing waterpower for mills, these dams were also important for maintaining the river's water quality. The contaminated sediments behind dozens of industrial-era dams remain a major problem, but efforts have been taken to reduce the levels of toxic sediment in the Blackstone River.
A new hydroelectric project on the Blackstone River could help Rhode Island reach its climate change goals. However, it would also have significant environmental impacts.
The waterfall behind Slater Mill Dam is a beautiful sight. Built in 1792, the dam slows down the flow of the Blackstone River, allowing it to be stored for use.
Slater Mill was America’s first water-powered cotton mill. It was built by Samuel Slater, who secretly emigrated from England and brought with him the industrial secrets of his homeland.
During the Industrial Revolution, Rhode Island became a major textile manufacturing center. Many mills grew up on the banks of the Blackstone River, and over time they began to pollute it with waste.
This caused a decline in the number of anadromous fish, such as shad and herring, which were native to this area. When these fish hatch, they migrate to the ocean and return to spawn in their native river.
Rhode Island is known for its coastlines and beaches, but don’t miss out on some of the state’s natural waterfalls. Some of these falls are incredibly scenic and have fascinating ties to local history.
Wolf Hill Quarry Falls is a stunning waterfall in Smithfield that guides rainwater over a rock ledge. It’s part of a preserve and is best visited in the spring season, after the melting of snow.
It’s a great place to hike with kids as it’s easy enough for young people to enjoy. It also has plenty of wildlife and beautiful views.
There’s even a seasonal bar here on weekends, serving mulled cider and more. This bar is open all through October and into November, so be sure to stop by for a taste of the good stuff!
While Rhode Island is best known for its beaches and coastline, the state also offers a variety of inland waterfalls to visit. Some of these are created by man, while others are naturally occurring.
While many Rhode Island waterfalls are smaller than those in other states, these quaint falls are still a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of the state. Plus, they often come with fascinating ties to local history!
Another one of the most beautiful Rhode Island waterfalls is Slater Mill Dam, located on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket. This was originally a textile mill, and the dam is now a museum, educational center, and music venue.
Located in the town of Lincoln, Albion Falls is another waterfall that's deeply connected to Rhode Island's history. During the Industrial Revolution, several dams were built in the area to provide power for mills and manufacturers.