The Story of the Yawgoog Trails

Unofficial

Section 3: Miscellaneous Places and Trails


In The Yawgoog Story J. Harold Williams writes:

From its earliest days, Yawgoog was a "hiking camp". Our trail system began in 1919 and in the first years, miles of new trail were cut out; developed and marked each season. The first camp map of the property and the whole lake area was made in 1922. There were overnight hikes of all kinds - rookie training hikes, troop hikes, special exploration groups. Provisional units began to develop their own special hide-away hike sites on the Island and around the lake. There were hikes to investigate Long and Ell Ponds, Beach Pond, Stepstone Falls, Mount Tom, Lantern Hill and Green Falls [sic] Pond and the magnificent hemlock-clad ravine of the Green Falls [sic] River. (Williams and Anthony vol. 1 pp. 12-13)


Phillips Island

The island is believed to have been named after the man who originally owned it; "Phillips" is probably a surname. It has been said that he raised sheep on the island when it was connected to the mainland before the dam was constructed; this connection is off the southwestern end near Divers' Ledge and is known as the Sunken Road (Williams and Tracy). "The Gut" is the narrow gap between the island and the Davis Campsite and Armstrong Point on the mainland. The gap between the southern side of Phillips Island and the mainland is known as the Southwest Passage because it stretches into the southwest.

(mage)
Sunken Road (foreground) and The Gut (background), as seen from the Davis Campsite
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.928', W 71° 47.226' (Datum: WGS84)

(image)
Southwest Passage, as seen from the Davis Campsite
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.928', W 71° 47.226' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

The island has two major physical features: No Bottom Point and Divers' Ledge. No Bottom Point, named for its considerable depth -- about 85 to 88 feet (26 to 26.8 meters) -- is just off the northeastern tip (Forbes, letter, 7 Mar. 1991 p. 1). Divers' Ledge is near the southwestern end of the island; it was a popular place for the staff to dive from the 15-foot (4.5-meter) high point into the deep water below; diving in the murky, rocky water is now prohibited.

(image)
Divers' Ledge, as seen from Devil's Slide
Image by David R. Brierley
Coordinates: N 41° 30.908', W 71° 47.072' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map

Phillips Island has been used as a location for various program centers throughout Camp Yawgoog's past. In the 1920's there was a tepee camp at the southwestern point and a Sea Scout base at the opposite one. The island used to be accessible by land by way of Slade's Bridge, finished in 1933 and dismantled in 1948; some remnants of the bridge can still be found opposite the Davis Campsite. The island later served as the home of the King Phillip Wilderness Center. The center, stationed on the northeastern tip, served as a teaching place for nature, Indian lore, and wilderness survival; it even had a white tepee right out on the point. Scouts could take a canoe or rowboat out there or could hike the Yellow Trail to the Davis Campsite, where a floating platform was located. It was strung along a cable stretched to the island; Scouts would pull on the cable, taking the platform with them back and forth. The center was closed after the summer season of 1979. The trails on the island were side-trails of the Yellow Trail. In the third volume of The Yawgoog Story the origin of the Wilderness Center's name is told, "The 'King' had a double meaning, referring both to King Philip or Metacomet, the Wampanoag Chief involved in the war with the colonists in the 17th century, and the whimsical 'king' who arrived from the Island at the old Palmer Barn to entertain Scouts during the early days of camp" (Lutynski p. 22). It is important to note that only the Wilderness Center bore the name "King Phillip"; the name of island itself is "Phillips Island." Metacomet was killed on the other side of Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1676. The island in Yawgoog Pond did not become an island until the dam was built in the mid-nineteenth century. Although Metacomet was allied with the Narragansetts, there does not appear to be any evidence that he travelled this far southwest. Reservation maps use "Phillips Island" and the name first appeared on the US Geographic Survey Voluntown Quadrangle map in 1943. An 1855 map (Walling) also uses "Phillips Island."

(scanned map)
1943 topographic map showing Phillips Island in Yawgoog Pond

(scanned map)
1855 map showing Phillips Island in Yawgoog Pond

(photograph)
Tepee on the eastern tip of Phillips Island, circa 1970s
(Yawgoog Alumni Assn. p. 14)
Coordinates: N 41° 31.087', W 71° 47.026' (Datum: WGS84)
Google Map
 

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