This is a sample story from Marie’s book. We hope it brings you more in touch with this season.

Springtime on the Pettaquamscutt

Here is a little bit of information about our beautiful river that separates the north end of Narragansett from South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

The Pettaquamscutt River has been called Rhode Island’s “secret” river in a story in this month’s “Yankee” magazine. Carol Dugan, a local realtor gave an intensive interview to the staff from “Yankee” that included a trip from one end of the five- mile river to the other checking out various sites and attractions along the way. There was even a description of a house for sale in my neighborhood, right on the water. (I believe that it was sold after that article!)

We who live along the river know what a special gem the river is. The river especially sparkles in spring. It comes back to life with the delicate colors of growth along its shores and the scattered activity of its wildlife. The water itself takes on different hues depending on the time of day and the light conditions. How I love to drive home from the “city”, Providence, cross over the Lacey Bridge and glance northward to see the open water flowing toward me. Sometimes the river is twinkling with stars dancing on the surface light. It always seems calm and welcoming to me. Even better is to take my morning walk with the birds twittering noisily overhead and the fresh smell of newly dewed grass under my nose. I can walk toward the river, cross the bridge and gaze at the peaceful water beneath me. It refreshes my soul, giving me a moment to lose myself in nature and escape the cluttering in my mind.

The Pettaquamscutt is a beautiful Indian name for a river that many know as the Narrow River. I prefer Pettaquamscutt, a name that flows like the river itself. The river begins above Gilbert Stuart’s birthplace in North Kingstown. (Can you imagine how serene it must have been in his day?) The river winds down for five miles through Saunderstown and Narragansett to the Atlantic Ocean. The river is only a few feet deep near the mouth and in the Pettaquamscutt Cove and it is around 60 feet deep in the ponds at the north end near Gilbert Stuart’s. In fact scientists have discovered some microscopic organisms in these deep waters of the river that have not been found anywhere else.


The best time to enjoy the river is in springtime. Taking a canoe or kayak ride on the river gives you a chance to observe from a different perspective. Birds and ducks can be seen among the marshes. The migratory birds and ducks such as the mergansers, bufflehead and goldeneyes are heading back to the Arctic. The kingfishers, blue herons, goldfinches, junco, orioles and even an occasional rose-breasted grosbeak are starting to come back now. Baby red foxes can be seen camouflaged in the marshes. There are plenty of deer and occasionally coyote can be seen near Pettaquamscutt Cove at the end of the river. When the river has been quiet one of my neighbors who lives on the water has seen an otter swimming. He says that the otter probably lives up beyond Gilbert Stuart’s place and comes down when things are calm.

As the water is starting to warm up the algae is starting to grow. The tall reed grass Phragmites australis grows along the river and provides shelter for birds. This invasive species is taking over the habitat of the wildlife along the river. Birds do not derive nourishment from the reed grass. The trees along the banks are flecked with the early red buds and light green tiny leaves of spring. Some rare species of flora and fauna in the river watershed include sea pinks or salt marsh sedges, a sea cucumber and a luminescent moss. There is so much to enjoy about the river at this time of year while it is calm and peaceful before the noisy motorboats monopolize the environment in the summer.

From the air you can see the entire river in one view from start to finish. I always love to fly back to Rhode Island from Chicago or the West. As we approach and fly over the river and the bay, I can usually see my home nearby and I can see all the “nooks and crannies” of the river that are the ponds and lakes within the river itself. The river is bright blue on a clear day and as it winds lazily through the marshes and ponds it really does look like a “secret” river. We Rhode Islanders should make sure that we keep this “secret” a special place so that it can always be enjoyed in the spring and at any other time of the year.

Marie Younkin-Waldman
Simply South County

Simply South County