Fort Barton and Ft. Barton Woods, Tiverton
Town of Tiverton
Hunting is not allowed here but it is permitted on nearby land. During hunting season everyone using the trails here should wear blaze orange. Remember, hunting season includes much of the late fall, winter and spring. More details.
In Rhode Island the primary hunting seasons typically run from the second Saturday in September to the last day of February and from the third Saturday in April to the last day in May, however this can vary from year to year and depends on what game is being hunted. During hunting season you should wear at least 200 square inches (a hat OR a vest) of blaze orange. During shotgun deer season, which is typically in December, you should wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange (a hat AND a vest). For more information see the RI DEM website.
Description & Overview:
After a short, but strenuous uphill walk up from the street parking area to the Revolutionary War fortifications of Fort Barton, one may climb the observation tower for a panoramic view of Narragansett Bay. The historic area includes the redoubt, a network of earthen fortifications remaining from the Battle of Rhode Island in 1777. The trailhead for Fort Barton Woods is to the rear of the redoubt area, beginning with steep descending steps, then an upward climb onto the trail leading into Fort Barton Woods.
Fort Barton Woods is an 83-acre natural area with 3.5 miles of trails that take visitors alongside the pristine Sin and Flesh Brook, where they can view many wildflowers, ferns, and animal habitats. The trail is rugged in places, with several rustic bridges crossing the meandering brook.
The mature hardwood forest has the common upland trees of southern New England: oaks, birch, sassafras, beech, black cherry, and hickory. Red maple, yellow birch and tupelo populate wetter areas. You will also see the only New England broadleaf evergreen tree, the American holly. The brook winds through swamp, aggregations of boulder and exposed bedrock, and vernal pools. A diverse assemblage of woodland plants and shrubs may be seen along the trails.
The Native Pocassets would have used the forest for hunting, gathering, and possibly winter quarters for thousands of years before the King Philip's War of 1675 drove them from the East Bay. The forests would have been cleared by Europeans early in Tiverton's settlement, for fuel, wood products, and for pasturing animals. This use continued into the early 20th century.
The strategic importance of Tiverton Heights (i.e. Fort Barton) is apparent from atop today's observation tower. Only a narrow strait separates Tiverton from Aquidneck Island, which the British troops had occupied early in the war. Behind the tower are earthworks that protected artillery positioned to prevent the British from crossing the strait.
History was first made here in July of 1777, when Lt. Col. William Barton and 40 men left Tiverton in three boats. Three days later they slipped through British ships in the middle of the night, and crept inland to capture the British Commanding General Richard Prescott at his quarters in Portsmouth. This daring plan had little strategic significance. However the reports of the General being led off in his nightclothes was a tremendous morale booster to Americans. Subsequently, the Tiverton Heights redoubt was renamed Fort Barton to honor the leader of the raid.
Hours: sunrise to sunset, year round
Miles of Trails: 3.5 miles
Miles of ADA Accessible Trails: None
Trail Width: Typical one person footpath.
Trail Rating: Moderate Explanation
Trail Rating Key
Easy: Trails are relatively smooth and the route is quite obvious such as a single point to point trail or an easy network of trails in an urban or suburban setting where help is always readily at hand. A map may be useful but is not necessary.
Moderate: Somewhat more strenuous trails or harder to follow trails. Trails are well-marked but following them requires a trail map and a trail map is readily available either at the site or online.
Difficult: Strenuous trails, trail systems that mostly involve multi-mile loops and trail systems where there is no available trail map or the trails are not marked.
Are Dogs Allowed? Dogs must leashed at all times. Owner must pick up and remove dog waste.
Is Horseback Riding Permitted? No
Are Bicycles (non-motorized) Permitted? No
Is Hunting Permitted? Hunting is not allowed on this property but is in nearby areas. Walkers wear orange during hunting season!
Other Amenities: No amenities. Carry in/carry out policy. Picnicking and camping are not allowed.
Trailhead Name: Highland Road Trailhead
Driving Landmarks: From Route 24 in Tiverton, take Route 77 (Main Road) south toward Little Compton. After quarter of a mile take a left onto Highland Road. Proceed to Tiverton Town Hall (343 Highland Road) with parking on the left. Entrance to the revolutionary redoubt is a steep driveway to the tower on the hill. Entrance into the woods is behind the redoubt area.
Parking: Yes: Parking lot, 12 spaces, no overnight parking
ADA Accessible Parking Spaces? No
The Viewing Tower
Photography by: Gayle Lawrence
Date of Photograph: June 10, 2009
The viewing tower at the Revolutionary War fortifications of Fort Barton offers extensive views of the East Bay including Aquidneck Island and the Sakonnet River.
A Family Walking in Fort Barton Woods
Photography by: Garry Plunkett
Date of Photograph: October 4, 2013
A family walking over one of the twelve bridges which cross the winding Sin & Flesh Brook throughout the preserve.
Sin & Flesh Brook in Early Fall
Photography by: Phil Schuyler
Date of Photograph: September 30, 2013
Sin & Flesh Brook in Spring
Photography by: Phil Schuyler
Date of Photograph: June 14, 2009
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This site report was last updated on October 26, 2017