Natural Features & Ecosystems
The Blackstone River
The Blackstone River drops an astounding 438 feet in just 46 miles - an average of over 9.5 feet per mile. This drop in elevation - along with the river's relatively narrow width and its naturally meandering path - provided a resource that could be easily harnessed for generating water power beginning in the 17th Century.
The Blackstone River was the engine that powered the beginnings of the American Industrial Revolution. Today structures related to waterpower and early transportation- dams, ponds, mills, canals, locks and the related mill villages, towns and cities are all integral parts of the Blackstone Valley riverscape.
Today, the Blackstone River is used more for recreation than for industry. Traveling down the Blackstone River provides a unique opportunity to experience the valley’s diverse cultural and natural landscapes - the mills, associated mill villages, canals, locks and dams - in a way not possible on foot or by car.
In three stretches of the river, canoeists can paddle in watered canal segments and at a handful of places they can walk to remaining canal lock structures.
The industrial heritage of the Blackstone River left behind a fascinating but challenging river to paddle. Impoundments of the river, both for power production and for flood control, have transformed it into a series of ponds connected by short stretches of free-flowing river.
You can enjoy the Blackstone River and/or get involved with its renaissance in many ways…
You can Get Involved with bringing back the Blackstone and find out about the Blackstone River Coalition and current activities along the River that are part of our ZAP! the Blackstone river recovery efforts.
Did You Know?
The top speed on the Blackstone Canal was 3 mph? The canal barges, pulled by a team of two horses, usually took two days to make the 44 mile journey from Providence, RI to Worcester, MA.