A magical boating and paddling venue awaits just 6 ½ miles from downtown Providence, Rhode Island, in the quiet suburb of Barrington. For it’s here that you’ll find Hundred Acre Cove, part of the tidal Barrington River, which flows south into the Warren River and thence to Narragansett Bay.
The Cove itself is shallow and broad, and contains several small marsh islands and the peninsula known as “The Tongue”—all part of the third largest salt marsh estuary in Rhode Island. According to the Audubon Society, the system supports important breeding populations of clapper rail, seaside sparrow, marsh wren, and saltmarsh sparrow. Common terns also nest on The Tongue, as do the only know breeding population diamondback terrapins in Rhode Island.
The first diamondback (the only estuarine turtle in North America) to be seen in two decades was spotted in the cove in 1981. Since then biologists with the RI Dept. of Environmental Management, along with members of the Barrington Land Conservation Trust have worked to protect the terrapin nests until the turtles hatch and can be safely placed in the nearby woods, where they live for several years before entering the estuary.
Anglers appreciate the Cove for its good fishing for striped bass, which enter coastal waters in late April. Best action runs through mid-June, or until the water temperature reaches the seventies. A variety of lures will take these early-season stripers, including soft-plastic jerk baits, poppers, stick baits and flies.
The Cove’s main access point for boaters is the Walker Farm Public Boat Ramp, which features 35 spaces for trailers and a hard-surface ramp and adjacent gravel beach suitable for launching hard-carried craft. You can also launch a kayak, canoe or paddleboard from the Commuter Rail Station, a bit farther south along the river. From either spot you can head north into the Cove and explore around the islands, or continue north along the Barrington River, which narrows considerably as it winds through some beautiful countryside.
If you choose to head south toward the Warren River junction, be aware that the tide runs swiftly in the lower river, especially below the two bridges. Those in paddle- and oar-powered craft should exercise caution and try to plan this leg of the trip around slack water. Heading back upstream against the tide in a kayak or on a paddlboard can prove daunting if you time it wrong.