Potter Hill Dam
This is a site for launching hand-carried boats and it is also a portage. This typically means that to continue paddling down the river past this site you will have to portage your boat around a dam or other obstruction.
Description & Overview:
This site provides access to the Pawcatuck River at the Potter Hill Dam. Do not try to run this 10 foot high dam! People have died doing so. When putting in below the dam be careful to stay away from the dam. If paddling down the river to Potter Hill take out above the bridge and dam, up the short, steep bank on river right along River Road.
The put-in below the dam is on the same side of the river, below the fish ladder. If portaging around the dam, the portage is just a short walk down River Road. Please do not use the grassy areas along River Road for access as these are private property.
Below the Potter Hill Dam there is a short section of easy rapids and then the river is quiet, beautiful, and bucolic. In 1/4 mile the Ashaway River flows in from the right. Near here, the Pawcatuck River becomes the border between Rhode Island and Connecticut. In 1.5 miles you will pass under Boom Bridge and in another 1.5 miles you will come to the site of the old dam and mill at White Rock. In the fall of 2015 this dam was removed and as a result the old whitewater run down the mill race is no more. USE GREAT CAUTION IN THIS AREA: the middle section of the newly restored river contains narrow channels, and the river-right (CT) side of the river has had trees and root balls cabled to the bank to reduce erosion. There are also numerous boulders in sections, and the channels will likely shift and change as the river wears in its new "clothes."
The first possible take-out below Potter Hill is 3/4 mile beyond White Rock Dam (4 miles below Potter Hill) at White Rock, just upstream of the Route 78 bridge.
Below Route 78, the river is largely relatively placid, but in about a mile you will come to the broken down Stillmanville Dam, which can either be portaged on the right bank or, at some water levels, run via the millrace on the left, which gives you about 200 yards of class II whitewater (scout first as it is not always runnable!). Below this dam the river is tidal and runs through downtown Westerly.
(This description was adapted in part from The Wood-Pawcatuck River Guide, which is highly recommended for paddling on the Wood-Pawcatuck river system.)
This site provides access to the following water bodies in the Pawcatuck River watershed: Pawcatuck River.
Nearest Town Center: Potter Hill
Driving Landmarks: From Interstate 95 take Exit 1 in Rhode Island for Route 3. Go south on Route 3 for 1.8 miles and turn right onto Route 216 (High Street) in Ashaway. Go 0.2 miles and turn left onto Laurel Street/River Road. Go 1 mile to the bridge over the river above Potter Hill Dam. Park on the left. See the Comments & Overview section for details on where to access the river.
Access & Waters:
Water 'Features' At Site: whitewater, flatwater/slow moving river
Note: Because one boat launch can access, say, both a lake and a river or both the upstream and downstream portions of a river, not all paddling trips at a given site will necessarily encounter all of the features listed.
Type of Access: Boat launch for hand carried boats
ADA Accessible Boat Launch? no
Shoreline: short, steep embankment next to River Road above bridge, and a similar embankment below the fish ladder, below the dam
Approximate Length of Carry between Car Access and Water: 50 feet
Portage Length: 50 feet
Parking: on street
Public Restrooms: No
Sources for More Information:
AMC River Guide: 4th Edition, page 137
AMC Quiet Water Canoe Guide: 2nd Edition, page 214
Other Guidebooks: Paddles 28 and 29 in "Paddling Connecticut and Rhode Island"
The data on this website come from many sources, including volunteers and organizations across the state of Rhode Island and nearby parts of Massachusetts. We have done our best to make sure the data are accurate and up to date, but any information critical to the success of your trip should be confirmed before you start. The maps and information on this website should not be substituted for nautical charts, topographic maps, or other more detailed maps and guides. We welcome corrections and additions. To send a correction or provide other feedback, please use our feedback form (see link above).
This site report was last updated on October 15, 2015