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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

Pawcatuck River SAMP

The Pawcatuck River and its estuary create a natural border between portions of southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. The glacially formed Pawcatuck River watershed spans an area of 317 square miles—260 square miles in Rhode Island and 57 square miles in Connecticut. This watershed is Rhode Island’s largest, draining nearly one third of the state. It stretches approximately 23 miles north to south, 20 miles east to west, and discharges an average of 675 cubic feet per second of freshwater into the estuary at Westerly, R.I. The Usquepaug, Wood, and Ashaway rivers are the major tributaries of the Pawcatuck.

The freshwater drainage basin runs through rural uplands, woodlands, forests, and small towns that were once thriving mill villages. While scattered industries can be found along the river, large industrial complexes are somewhat isolated from its banks. In the estuary (the saltwater portion of the watershed), rural land use gives way to the urban center of Pawcatuck-Westerly, R.I. Industry is historically more common in this section of the watershed, due to the proximity of the ocean and overland shipping to New York, Providence, and Boston.

Little Narragansett Bay, at the southern extent of the watershed, is shallow and provides protected waters for recreational boaters and a barrier beach at Napatree Point that is used extensively by summer beach-goers. Little Narragansett Bay also provides a high-quality ecological habitat for a variety of birds, fishes, invertebrates, marine plants, and occasional marine mammals, such as harbor seals.

— From the RI Sea Grant Web Site

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