A local walk that I have wanted to try for a while but somehow never got around to is the Mastuxet Brook Greenway Trail which starts at the Rotary Park on Airport Road. The Mastuxet Brook Greenway is one of the Westerly Land Trust’s conservation properties. The Greenway stretches from Wells Street and runs behind both the Mill Pond Plaza and the Westerly Crossing shopping centers, and ends behind the Thorp and Trainer building on Airport Road.
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The Greenway consists of 4 parcels totaling over 37 acres – the trail is located in parcel 1. The RI trail guide rates the trail as easy and about a third of a mile in length. Dogs are not allowed so I had to leave the Beagle buddies at home.
I parked at Rotary Park to the sounds of children playing and people hitting tennis balls. I walked down the dirt lane that leads to the trail which can go either to the left or the right. I chose the left hand trail. I have to admit my somewhat out of shape self found it anything but easy.
The narrow trail with white markers quickly became very rocky and full of roots. The rocks must be left over from the receding glaciers and have been worn smooth by ancient floods. They are covered in moss and lichens. I had to step carefully over them or risk twisting a knee or ankle.
The rocks became progressively larger as the trail meandered alongside the brook. The beginning stretch of the brook is narrow and almost hidden by vegetation. In a few places tree limbs had fallen across the path and that forced me to either step over or go under them. I wondered how much farther the end of this trail could be .
After what seemed a long time I reached the end at what the map called Diamond Falls. The water only tricked over a series of rock ledges dropping about 4 feet, the falls could have been the victim of the extended drought we had this summer. The forest consists of an open area with no undergrowth and many large oak trees. I’m guessing they were probably saplings in 1938 when the famous hurricane came through. Some could be close to a hundred years old.
Since I was a child I have loved oak trees after reading stories about how the Druids thought that giant oak trees were sacred. This magical place probably hasn’t changed much since the glaciers left the rock ledges exposed over 12 thousand years ago.
Mastuxet Brook is a tributary of the Pawcatuck River and at the head of the brook is a little cove where over 368 years ago in 1648 John Babcock and Mary Lawton, the first settlers of Westerly, landed.
The story goes that John and Mary were in love but Mary was the daughter of the governor of Rhode Island. The governor did not approve of John who worked for him as a laborer at his estate in Newport. Having decided to elope they loaded a canoe with provisions and set off down Narragansett Bay.
Entering the ocean they paddled west along the coast until they came to the Pawcatuck River. The couple traveled about two and a half miles up the river turning into Mastuxet Cove. They built a wigwam and set up camp with the help of some friendly Narragansetts.
I think the Mastuxet Brook Greenway South is a unique and special place. You can almost feel the spirits of the people who long ago walked the same trail following the little brook down to the shores of the river where John and Mary built their wigwam. I want to go back and explore more of the trail and see if Diamond Falls really does glitter in the rain.