Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuges

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Rhode Island has four National Wildlife Refuges along its coast Ninigret Refuge, in Charlestown; Trustom Pond Refuge, in South Kingstown; Sachuest Point Refuge, in Middletown; and Block Island Refuge. All of these refuges are units of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge Complex, headquartered in Charlestown, Rhode Island. The Complex also includes two refuges in Connecticut: Salt Meadow Refuge in Westbrook, and Stewart B. McKinney Refuge, a series of coastal islands and a barrier peninsula.

All four refuges were established in the early to mid-1970's primarily to provide resting, feeding and nesting habitat for migratory birds. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the refuges serve as important stopover areas during spring and fall migration for many species of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors such as the endangered peregrine falcon. Refuge uplands, lowlands and beach areas attract more than 60 nesting bird species including woodcock, osprey and the endangered piping plover. The sheltered waters of refuge ponds and coastlines harbor wintering scaups, mergansers, scoters and other waterfowl. The refuges also support a great variety of mammals, reptiles, insects and other wildlife and are becoming increasingly important as more of the surrounding area is lost to human development.

All four refuges are open daily from dawn to dusk.

Refuge Headquarters - approximately 40 miles south of Providence in Shoreline Plaza on Route 1A in Charlestown. From U.S. Route 1 take the Green Hill Beach exit onto Route 1 A. Travel 1 mile to the plaza entrance on your right. Office hours are Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Phone (401) 364-9124.

Managing for Wildlife

A variety of management practices are in use at the refuges to enhance wildlife habitat and diversity. You may see evidence of the following:

Croplands: Acres of high energy foods including corn, rye, oats and millet are planted for migratory birds.

Mowing: Portions of refuge lands are periodically mowed to maintain open habitats, providing food and cover for such migratory bird species as woodcock and bobolink. This practice also benefits other wildlife such as bobwhite and white-tailed deer.

Nest structures: Boxes of various sizes can help meet the nesting needs of wood duck, bluebird, tree swallow, American kestrel, and many other cavity-nesting birds. Elevated platforms situated near refuge water bodies attract nesting osprey.

Water level controls: Periodically the water levels of Trustom and Card Ponds are lowered by opening breachways to the ocean. Among other benefits to wildlife, breaching exposes mudflat feeding areas for shorebirds and nesting islands for common terns.

Closures: National Wildlife Refuges are established primarily to protect wildlife and habitat. Certain areas are therefore closed to reduce human disturbance or to provide for public safety.

For Your Information . . .

Surf fishing: Permitted from refuge seashores under applicable State and Federal regulations.

Interpretive programs: Conducted by refuge staff at various locations throughout the year. Frosty Drew Nature Center (401 -364-9508) provides additional programs at Ninigret Refuge.

Wheelchair access: Most refuge trails have gravel, wood chip or grass surfaces. Although the terrain is generally gentle, some paths are rough and uneven. Sachuest Point Visitor Center is completely wheelchair accessible. Refuge headquarters is accessible with the exception of the rest rooms.

Regulations: Established to help protect wildlife resources and ensure you have a safe visit. Bicycling, horseback riding, kite flying and camping are incompatible with refuge management objectives and are therefore prohibited. Motor vehicles, firearms, fireworks and fires of all types pose special hazards and are also not allowed. Dogs are no longer permitted in the refuges.

More information: The Rhode Island Department of Economic Development publishes a number of brochures on the State's recreational opportunities, lodging facilities, and transportation services. Contact the Tourism and Promotion Division, 7 Jackson Walkway, Providence, R.I. 02903. Phone (401) 277-2601. Outside R.I. (800) 556-2484.

Note: Biting flies and ticks are common on the refuges during the warmer months. The tiny deer tick is responsible for LYME DISEASE, a serious infection of people and pets. As a precaution, stay on refuge trails, wear protective clothing and check yourself carefully for ticks.

Refuge conditions and regulations are subject to change. Please contact the Refuge Manager prior to your visit.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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