The Story of the Yawgoog Trails

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Seven Pond Path - Part II

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The hike soon leaves Canonchet Road by heading right (east) on a dirt road at a gate. The road winds its way to the southern end of Blue Pond, the sixth on the route; the dam, which is just to the right (east).

(image)
Panoramic view of Blue Pond from the dam, before the dam failed
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.352', W 71° 44.941' (Datum: WGS84)
Larger image

(image)
Panoramic view of Blue Pond from the dam, after the dam failed
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.352', W 71° 44.941' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

The Blue Pond dam has a troubled history. According to deed records a dam has been present since 1756 (Drummond, "Dry Earth" p. A1). Segar and Salomon (p. 16) write about the dam's problems in the nineteenth century:

The Hope Valley Advertiser for May 3, 1877, carried this news item: "There was lively times at Ashville from Friday until Sunday, stopping a leak in the dam of the Blue Pond reservoir. Had the water gone down stream, it would have done great damage." In 1896, the retaining wall did give way, jeopardizing the safety of the earth embankment. The mill owners were able to reduce the water to a safety point where repairs were made. There was a difference of opinion as to responsibility for final repairs to the structure, for it performed a two-fold purpose, serving as a public highway as well as a dam. In the end, the Town of Hopkinton made the repairs.

The "highway" is the long-abandoned dirt road that runs through the area. In 1992, according to property records, the dam was acquired by Ashville Corporation. The company was a real estate holding company owned by Greene Plastics Corporation in Canonchet. Inspections of the structure in 2004, 2006 and 2007 revealed significant problems (RIDEM, "Notice of Violation" p. 1). The owner did not begin to respond to the inspection reports until 2008 (RIDEM, "2010 Annual Report" p. 8). Curiously, according to records from the Rhode Island Secretary of State, three real estate holding companies, Ashville A, LLC, Ashville B, LLC and Ashville C, LLC, were formed at the same time in 2007 -- all with the same mailing address as Greene Plastics Corporation.

When the dam failed on March 30, 2010, there were no injuries, but a significant amount of damage was done, as told by The Providence Journal:

Strained by that day's record rainfall, the earthen dam gave way at the top. The waters of Blue Pond sliced through it like a knife cutting cake, unleashing an estimated 179 million gallons of water -- 2.3 million cubic feet -- on a rampage through Hopkinton.

The blast of water hurtled through the woods, destroying about 2,000 feet of a local road that led to the pond. Hopkinton Public Works Director Douglas R. Reese said it took about 500 tons of gravel to get it back to where it could support emergency vehicles. It washed out the small bridge that carried Route 3 over Canonchet Brook, a loss that forced state Department of Transportation officials to use Route 95 between Exits 1 and 2 as a detour.

Farther downstream, water blew out culverts and flood control structures near the Lindhbrook Country Club, Reese said, before flowing through Woodville and hitting the Wood River, where it swamped two bridges and left one, the Woodville Road Bridge, impassable.

Reese said the Wood River sent what had been Blue Pond down to the Pawcatuck River and into Chapman Pond, possibly contributing to the surge that flooded Chapman Pond so much that it closed parts of Route 91.

"Every piece of road damage was because of it," Reese said of the effect the dam break had in town. "Twelve feet of water just disappeared overnight. This would have been spectacular to see." (Hill and Reynolds)

(image)
Breached Blue Pond Dam in 2010, looking west
(RIDEM, "2010 Annual Report" p. 9)
Approximate Coordinates: N 41° 30.342', W 71° 44.862' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

The dam's owner was fined $59,747 in 2010 (RIDEM, "Notice of Violation" pp. 3, 8). The owner settled with the state by selling the land to the state at a reduced price from the estimated market value of $400,000 (Drummond, "Hope for Blue Pond" p. A5). Property records indicate a sale price of $360,000 in February 2012 and, thus, the company was penalized $40,000. The Nature Conservancy contributed $150,000 toward the purchase of the land. The state will decide if it will rebuild the dam (Drummond, "Hope for Blue Pond" p. A5); the pond was a resource for fishing and wildlife conservation. After the land sale all four "Ashville" corporations became inactive, according to Secretary of State documents. Apart from its factory buildings, there are no other Hopkinton properties owned by Greene Plastics Corporation.

(image)
LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) image of Blue Pond Dam in 2011 (URIEDC)
Approximate Coordinates of Breach: N 41° 30.338', W 71° 44.863' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

(postcard)
Postcard of Blue Pond from the lower/southern end, circa 1938
Coordinates: N 41° 30.336', W 71° 44.807' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

From the dam, the unmarked road turns left (northwest) and becomes a faint and lightly-used footpath. Hikers can carefully follow the western shore of the pond until the path reaches another dirt road. Turn right (east) onto the road and head toward the stone and concrete foundation of a former cabin. A corner of the foundation has long space that used to have a metal door that could be barred and locked. Perhaps this was a safe used to store hunting rifles or fishing poles.

(image)
A safe in the foundation?
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.452', W 71° 45.079' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

A path leads northeastward from the foundation to another view of the pond from a large rock that juts into it.

(image)
Panoramic view of Blue Pond from the cabin site, before the dam failed
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.459', W 71° 45.052' (Datum: WGS84)
Larger image

(image)
Panoramic view of Blue Pond from the cabin site, after the dam failed
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.459', W 71° 45.052' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

(postcard)
Another postcard of Blue Pond, circa 1944

The hike returns to the foundation and takes the second dirt road west to Canonchet Road. Turn right (west) onto Canonchet Road, again walking single-file on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. Hikers will soon pass the parking space for the Long Pond fishing area, which was visited earlier on the Narragansett Trail. Canonchet Road climbs Bellyache Hill (as named in the RISPB map), passes Berrie Lane, and reaches an intersection with North Road; turn left (southwest) onto North Road. As a short side-trip, travellers may head right (northeast) from the intersection on Canonchet Road briefly and turn right (east) to the Rockville Cemetery. Josiah P. Palmer, a member of the Rhode Island house of representatives, and his family are buried there. The Palmers were the previous owners of much of what is now Yawgoog.

While walking along North Road a view of Wincheck Pond, the seventh pond of the journey, will be seen. The view looks northward from the end of a cove; on the opposite shore are private residences on Camp Yawgoog Road.

(image)
View of Wincheck Pond from North Road
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.689', W 71° 46.170' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

At a horse farm along the way, a whimsical metal sculpture can be seen in a wishing well.

(image)
A sculpture lurks in a wishing well on North Road
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.653', W 71° 46.307' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

A second view of Wincheck Pond can be seen from another cove off North Road, now a dirt road. The view looks northwestward to Long Cove in Yawgoog. At the end of Long Cove is the dam on Yawgoog Pond, where the hike will eventually end.

(image)
Another view of Wincheck Pond from North Road
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.666', W 71° 46.438' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

The route continues southeastward on North Road. It passes the parking area for Long and Ell ponds, and retraces the way back to the Reservation on the Red Trail (see its full description for more detail). The Red Trail will be taken all the way to its end at the Three Point dining hall, taking in more views of Wincheck Pond at Eagles Roost and the nearby campsite.

Note: Horses are prohibited in Camp Yawgoog (land north and west of North Road). If horse riders, hoof prints or feces are observed on trails, please contact Narragansett Council. A sign noting the prohibition of horseback riding and other activities is posted on the trail to North Road; please notify the Council if the sign is missing. More information is available.

Driving Directions to Ashville Pond Area from Yawgoog: Turn right (southeast) at the intersection of Route 138 (Spring Street) and Camp Yawgoog Road and immediately veer right (southeast) onto Wincheck Pond Road, until it ends at Canonchet Road (less than 0.25 mile/0.4 kilometer). Turn right (south) onto Canonchet Road for 0.4 mile (0.6 kilometer) and, at the intersection with North Road, veer left (south) with Canonchet Road. In 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) the parking lot for the Long Pond fishing area (on the Narragansett Trail) will be reached on the right (west). The parking area for the Blue Pond fishing area will be to the left (northeast) in another 0.3 mile (0.5 kilometer); a gated road to Blue Pond will be to the left (east) in another 0.4 mile (0.7 kilometer). In less than 0.25 mile (0.4 kilometer) the Ashville Pond fishing area will be to the right (west). After another 0.2 mile (0.3 kilometer), turn right (west) onto Stubtown Road. In just under 0.5 mile (0.7 kilometer), turn right (northeast) into the parking lot of the former swimming area of Ashville Pond; the western terminus of the Narragansett Trail is here.

Driving Directions to Ashville Pond Area from Interstate 95: Take Exit 2 to Route 3 South (Main Street) via Woodville Alton Road. Turn left onto Route 3 for 0.5 mile (0.9 kilometer), then turn right (northwest) onto Canonchet Road. Follow Canonchet Road for 1 mile (1.7 kilometer) and turn left (west) onto Stubtown Road. In just under 0.5 mile (0.7 kilometer), turn right (northeast) into the parking lot of the former swimming area of Ashville Pond; the western terminus of the Narragansett Trail is here. Back at the intersection of Stubtown and Canonchet roads, follow Canonchet Road north for 0.2 mile (0.3 kilometer) to the Ashville Pond fishing area, which will be to the left (west). A gated road to Blue Pond will be to the right (east) in less than 0.25 mile (0.4 kilometer). The parking lot for the Blue Pond fishing area will follow on the right (northeast) in another 0.4 mile (0.7 kilometer). The parking lot for the Long Pond fishing area (on the Narragansett Trail) follows on the left (west) in 0.3 mile (0.5 kilometer).
 

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