In 1785, the town of Bristol hosted its first annual 4th of July parade, beginning what has become the longest-running unbroken series of Independence Day observances in the country. Bristol has several Federal-period homes in its historic downtown section of the parade route, rendering it an ideal place for the parade. Each celebration is planned a year in advance by a committee of volunteers. The parade on July 4th is actually the pinnacle of a five-week schedule of concerts, receptions, dances, athletic events, and exhibits.
1. Mill Pond Inlet
Located off the south side of Poppasquash Road, at the inlet to Mill Pond on Bristol Harbor, this site is a small pull-off parking area. There is a nice view of the upper end of the harbor, Mill Pond, and the East Bay Bicycle Path. The site is marked with a faded public coastal access sign. Very limited roadside parking is available.
CRMC ROW#: S-19
Hiking/walking, wildlife observation
2. Independence Park
This is a grassy town park on the shores of Bristol Harbor, off Thames Street, between the extensions of Franklin and Oliver streets. There is a wide concrete road parallel to the shoreline, with room for parking. The shoreline has a rock wall used for fishing and a wide cement slab boat ramp. Adjacent to the beach there is parking for vehicles with trailers. A town naval war monument is located on the lawn. This park marks the southern end of the East Bay Bicycle Path.
Picnic tables/benches, hiking/walking, trash receptacles
3. State Street Pier and Boat Launch
This pier is located off the end of State Street next to the Bristol town boat launch ramp. The single-width ramp provides access to the harbor via a narrow channel between two piers. There is plenty of parking for trailers near the ramp and on the State Street Pier, but parking is limited to town residents with stickers. Parking for vehicles without trailers is available on the street. There is a public coastal access sign at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-20
Fishing, trash receptacles
4. Rockwell Park
Located just north of the Prudence Island ferry dock on the Bristol Harbor waterfront, this area has been redeveloped as a waterfront park with benches, brick walkways, a small playground, and a wooden "T" dock extending into the water. This is a nice place to sit or walk out on the dock for a view of the harbor and boats. Two-hour parking is available along Thames Street.
5. Prudence Island Ferry
The passenger and vehicle ferry to Prudence Island leaves from the Church Street Wharf, off Thames Street. The ferry dock is located next to Rockwell Park, just north of the end of Church Street. Parking adjacent to the ferry dock is restricted to season ticket holders, but there is a parking lot down the street for those taking the ferry, and there is two-hour parking available on Thames Street.
6. Firefighters' Memorial Park
Next to a rug factory and the Prudence Island Ferry, this grassy town park offers a view of the urban waterfront of Bristol Harbor and several benches to rest on. No swimming or fishing is allowed from the pier next to the Prudence Island ferry dock. Two-hour parking is available on the street.
7. Constitution Street
An extension of Constitution Street, past Thames Street in downtown Bristol, this right-of-way provides access to a small beach via a ramp through the seawall at the end of the road. It is located between the Coast Guard station on the south and a carpet factory and Elks Lodge on the north. Two-hour parking is available on Thames Street.
CRMC ROW#: S-4
8. Union Street
Located at the end of Union Street, off Hope Street (Route 114), this is a 40-foot-wide right-of-way with a grassy area and benches. It leads down to a seawall and a ramp walkway to a sand and gravel beach. This site is ideal for wading and for viewing the harbor and boats.
CRMC ROW#: S-5
9. Walley Street
Located at the extension of Walley Street, off Hope Street (Route 114), this site is a 30-yard-wide lawn sloping down to a set of steps that leads to a cobble shoreline of Bristol Harbor. The grassy area is good for sunbathing, picnicking, or viewing the harbor and boats. There is a public coastal access sign at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-6
10. ASRI Environmental Education Center
The centerpiece of ASRI's educational endeavors, located on the 28-acre Claire McIntosh Wildlife Refuge, this site includes an exhibit hall, an auditorium, classrooms, a gift shop, walking paths, and a quarter-mile-long boardwalk that enables visitors to visit a freshwater marsh, a brackish marsh, and a salt marsh. At the boardwalk's terminus is a spectacular view of Narragansett Bay. There is an admission fee for entering the exhibit hall but no other fees for walking the trails or boardwalk. Parking is available near the exhibit hall at 1401 Hope Street (Route 114).
11. East Bay Bicycle PathBristol Leg
The southern end of this bike path in Bristol is at Independence Park. The path is a scenic, paved path following the old railroad bed. From the park, it runs along Narragansett Bay, passes just inland of Mill Pond, near Colt State Park, and winds north along the Bay into Warren. The path extends 14.5 miles from Bristol to Providence. Parking for the bike path in Bristol is at Independence Park and off Asylum Road (entrance road to Colt State Park). In addition to bicycling, the path offers opportunities for walking, scenic views of the shoreline, and bird watching. Motor vehicles are prohibited on the path.
Handicap access, picnic tables/benches, concessions, fishing, toilets, trash receptacles
12. Beach Road
Located at the end of Beach Road, off Hope Street (Route 114), this site is a narrow, paved right-of-way leading to a guardrail and two benches overlooking upper Narragansett Bay. Parking is limited on the narrow streets.
CRMC ROW#: S-1
13. Fales Road
An extension of the west end of Fales Road, off Hope Street (Route 114), this right-of-way is a concrete ramp leading down to a cobble beach on Narragansett Bay. Not suitable as a trailered boat launch, it offers a nice view of the Bay and is popular for shellfishing.
CRMC ROW#: S-3
14. Bristol Town Beach
Located off Asylum Road, adjacent to Colt State Park, this town facility features a sandy, gravelly beach fronting upper Narragansett Bay. There is a nice grassy area behind the beach, plenty of picnic tables/benches, a playground, and basketball, tennis, and softball facilities. A well-maintained skateboard park is available to those with experience. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer. Plenty of on-site parking is available. There is an admission fee during the summer.
Concessions, toilets, trash receptacles
15. Colt State Park
Located off Route 114 and fronting the upper part of Narragansett Bay and Mill Gut Pond and Salt Marsh, this is a large state park with expansive lawns gently sloping down toward the Bay. A two-mile promenade along the park's seawall is popular with strollers and joggers. From the promenade and other vantage points, Colt State Park offers sweeping views of the Bay, of Prudence Island to the west, and of Mill Gut Salt Marsh to the east. There is a loop road with numerous pull-offs and picnic areas as well as plenty of room for a wide variety of recreational activities. Ample parking is available.
Handicap access, boat ramp, dock, picnic tables/benches, concessions, swimming, fishing, historic interest, wildlife observation, toilets, trash receptacles
16. Coggeshall Farm Museum
Located on Colt Drive, between Poppasquash Road and the Colt State Park loop road, this area is leased from the park and run as a nonprofit organization. It is a working 18th -century farm-a restoration project centered around an 18th-century farmhouse and barnyard complex, complete with livestock and a blacksmith shop. The museum offers no direct access to the water, but there is a nice view across Mill Gut Pond to the old stone bridge at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; no admission fee, but reservations are necessary for group tours. Limited parking is available.
Hiking/walking, trash receptacles
17. Low Lane
At the end of Low Lane, off Ferry Road (Route 114), is a 150-foot-long overgrown dirt path leading down to a cobble beach and a small break- water on upper East Passage. This site offers a nice view of the Newport Bridge, Hog Island, and passing boats. It is possible to walk a short distance down the beach in either direction. "No Parking" signs are posted on both sides of the street.
CRMC ROW#: S-18
18. Ferry Road
Situated between the Mount Hope Bridge and Roger Williams University, this paved road leads to a cobble beach on Mount Hope Bay. "No Parking" signs are posted. This is a good place to launch a boat.
19. Mount Hope Farm
Mount Hope Farm, on Metacom Avenue, consists of 127 acres of fields, woods, lawns, and ponds, with approximately 1,500 feet of waterfront on Church Cove. The property includes stone walls, terraces, flowers, vegetable gardens, and indigenous trees, along with several historic buildings. Hours of operation vary by season and are posted at the entrance. Public access and parking are available south of the main entrance, on South Pasture Road. To accommodate handicapped individuals who are unable to walk around the farm, the Mount Hope Trust will occasionally open the farm to vehicle traffic only. Handicapped stickers are required. Such openings will be posted at the farm and announced in the newspaper. Fishing, shellfishing, and swimming are prohibited. Group outings must be scheduled in advance.
Picnicking, wildlife observation
20. Mount Hope Fishing Access
Located off Annawamscutt Drive, this access has a single-width concrete boat ramp into shallow water, with a breakwater fronting Mount Hope Bay. Adjacent to the boat ramp is a cobble beach and a fringing marsh. One can walk along the shoreline in either direction for fishing or for a view of Mount Hope Bay and Fall River. There is parking for about 10 vehicles with trailers or about 20 vehicles without trailers, with possible additional parking along the entrance road.
21. Annawamscutt Drive
Located at the east end of Annawamscutt Drive, off Metacom Avenue (Route 136), this site is a wide, paved right-of-way. Those who make the descent down a short stairway will find a cobble beach with a scenic view of Mount Hope Bay and Fall River. It is also possible to walk the shoreline to the south and connect with the Mount Hope Fishing Access.
CRMC ROW#: S-17
22. King Philip Avenue
Located off King Philip Avenue, between Leahy and Annawamscutt drives, a paved drive amongst trees leads to a wide, grassy right-of-way leading about 40 yards down to a cobble beach with a view of Mount Hope Bay and Fall River. Don't be fooled by "No Trespassing" signs; this is public access.
CRMC ROW#: S-28
23. Sunrise Drive
This site is a paved extension of Sunrise Drive leading to a rocky step-down and to a rocky beach with a nice view of Mount Hope Bay, the Bristol Narrows, and Fall River. There is a coastal access sign at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-16
24. Platt Street (Narrows Coastal Access)
This site is off King Philip Avenue near the junction with Platt Street. A set of concrete stairs and a path lead down to a grassy area with benches and a nice view of Mount Hope Bay, Bristol Narrows, and Fall River. A set of stairs leads from here to the cobble beach below. It is well marked with a large sign.
CRMC ROW#: S-27
25. Narrows Road
At the end of Narrows Road, at Pole 42, a tricky path down some rocks leads to a cobble beach on Mount Hope Bay. A road on the left leads to the Narrows Fishing Area.
CRMC ROW#: S-15
26. Narrows Fishing Area
This long, sandy peninsula is a great place to launch shallow-hulled boats or to cast a line. Shellfishing is prohibited.
CRMC ROW#: S-26
27. Kickemuit Avenue
This is a paved right-of-way at the extension of Kickemuit Avenue, leading to a narrow dirt path through the reeds and down the rocks to a marsh shoreline of the Kickemuit River. A coastal access sign is located at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-14
28. Smith Street
Located at the extension of Smith Street, off Kickemuit Avenue, this scenic right-of-way is a paved extension leading to the remnants of a rundown concrete boat ramp, to a gravel path, and on through a fringing marsh on the Bristol Narrows section of the Kickemuit River. There is a coastal access sign located at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-13
29. Sherman Avenue
This site is a paved extension of Sherman Avenue with a concrete boat ramp to a dirt beach on the Kickemuit River. Small boats can be launched here. There is a coastal access sign at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-12
30. San Miguel Drive
A paved extension of San Miguel Drive ends at a gentle dirt ramp and a fringing marsh on the Kickemuit River. Boats could possibly be hand launched here, but it would be a bit tricky. There is no parking in the right-of-way. A coastal access sign marks the site.
CRMC ROW#: S-11
31. Fatima Drive
This is a narrow right-of-way at the east end of Fatima Drive, off Everett Street. It leads between two fences to a seawall above a fringing salt marsh on the Kickemuit River. No parking is permitted in the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-10
32. Franca Drive
Located at the extension of Franca Drive, off Hawthorne Street, this is a paved right-of-way located in a residential area between two houses, leading to a steep concrete ramp to the Kickemuit River. It is possible to launch boats here, but it would be tricky, and there is no trailer parking. There is a coastal access sign at the right-of-way.
CRMC ROW#: S-9
33. North Street
A narrow extension of North Street off Slocum Road, this right-of-way is a dirt road leading about 30 yards to the shoreline of the Kickemuit River. There is a nice view of the river and boats, and the spot could be used for launching small boats. However, there is no on-site parking available. A coastal access sign marks the site.
CRMC ROW#: S-7
Blithwold Mansion and Gardens
This former summer estate, built in 1908, is now managed by the Heritage Trust of Rhode Island. Situated on 33 acres of landscaped grounds overlooking Bristol Harbor, Blithewold features gardens with a variety of native and exotic plants, including 200 blooming rose bushes, 50,000 naturalized daffodils, and a bamboo grove. Not to be missed is a giant sequoia, which, at a height of over 90 feet, is the largest east of the Rocky Mountains. It has been growing at a rate of approximately 1 foot per year since it was planted in 1911. The collections of Chinese and Japanese shrubs had only recently been introduced in the United States when they were planted at Blithewold. Today, mature specimens that can be seen include Chinese cedar, gingko, and the weeping pagoda tree. Guided and self-guided tours are available.
For more information, contact Blithewold Mansion and Gardens, (401) 253-2707.
From I-195, take exit for Rte. 114 south; follow 13 miles south through Bristol to 101 Ferry Rd., on right. For those coming south on Rte. 114, Blithewold is 0.5 mile north of Mount Hope Bridge, on left.
Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology/Mount Hope Reserve
Mount Hope, or Montaup, was the summer home of the Pokanoket people, who were named after the cleared fields found in the area. Before it was settled, an oak-hickory-chestnut forest grew on this site, but this was burned by native people to encourage the growth of grass to attract deer. Today, there are oak-hickory forests, swamps, and areas that have grown up from old pastures. The site offers great vegetative diversity, and is, perhaps, the best forest on the East Bay. A nature walk leads to King Philip's seata depression in a rock outcropping where the Wampanoag sachem Pometacom (King Philip) sat. Part of Brown University, the Haffenreffer Museum features a collection that focuses on artifacts from the native peoples of the world. Outdoor exhibits include a wetu (wigwam), tipi (seasonal), and nature walk. Group tours are available, and educational programs are offered for children and adults.
For more information, contact Haffenreffer Museum, (401) 253-8388.
From I-195, take exit for Rte. 136 south. Follow Rte. 136 (Metacom Avenue) south 7.2 miles through Bristol to Tower Street; watch for signs for Haffenreffer Museum on left.
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