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Throughout history, the Blackstone River has been an important waterway, from its use by American Indians who fished its once-abundant salmon to its role as a major artery for the transportation of raw materials and manufactured goods along its canal and riverways. Its widespread use during the Industrial Revolution earned it a reputation as “the hardest-working river” in America, though that legacy came at a cost, as the river would later be regarded as one of the most polluted in the country. The cleanup of the river is ongoing—and communities along its banks are embracing tourism and recreation as new industries, with the Blackstone River Greenway (also known as the Blackstone River Bikeway) as a major draw. The greenway is envisioned as a 50-mile network of trails and pathways along the riverbanks from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island.
In Massachusetts completed off-road sections include a 3.5-mile segment that begins in South Worcester and ends in Millbury, and a tranquil 3.6-mile canalway in Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. Currently, the longest off-road segment connects Woonsocket and Pawtucket in Rhode Island.
Just north of the Massachusetts–Rhode Island state line, the trail will one day connect to the Southern New England Trunkline Trail. On the southern end of the trail, you can continue on bike lanes and shared roadways into Providence, where you can connect to the East Bay Bike Path in India Point Park.
Visit the Blackstone Heritage Corridor website for greenway updates and maps with suggested on-road routes that connect the off-road trails.
South Worcester to Millbury (Massachusetts)
This 3.5-mile section begins at the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center, where McKeon Road crosses Middle River.
The paved pathway heads south into Millbury, passing a railroad and winding under busy highways as it offers serene river views under a pleasant tree-lined canopy. A parking lot at Millbury Street has maps and information placards, a bike repair station, and bike racks. As you continue south, you’ll see several forks that connect to nearby roadways—stay to the right to continue along the main trail.
The most picturesque portion is the trail’s last 2 miles on its south end. Here, a small bridge carries you to the other side of the Blackstone River. Shortly after, the railroad makes an appearance again as you cross an intersecting branch of the river, revealing an interesting side-by-side view of a rail-with-trail. The trail continues to follow the railroad as you move toward the center of Millbury. One last underpass and a bend in the trail put you along Main Street and back across the river. The trail follows Main Street and ends at a small parking lot just off the road.
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park (Massachusetts)
The 1,000-acre Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park offers a series of connecting, multiuse trails totaling 3.6 miles that wind through a lushly wooded corridor, mostly along the historical canal towpath. The park allows equestrians, in addition to walkers and cyclists, to enjoy the scenic setting.
The natural-surface trail begins at the Plummer’s Landing trailhead on Church Street in Northbridge. From there, you’ll follow the Plummer’s Trail to the Canal Towpath, then take the Goat Hill Trail at Goat Hill Lock and continue south. Along the way, you’ll find picnic tables, kayak and canoe access points, and opportunities for fishing and viewing wildlife.
Be sure to visit the River Bend Farm Visitor Center for exhibits on the history of the canal and more information about the Blackstone River corridor. The trail ends 0.75 mile later at the restored 19th-century Stanley Woolen Mill on Cross Street in Uxbridge.
Woonsocket to Providence (Rhode Island)
The Blackstone River Greenway in Rhode Island spans 19.5 miles, including some on-road riding. The paved pathway begins at the Rivers Edge Parking Area on the western bank of the Blackstone River in Woonsocket, a city that borders the Massachusetts–Rhode Island state line. From the trailhead, you’ll travel south through the heart of the river’s industrial past.
The trail is fairly wide with excellent wayfinding signage. After briefly following along a park access road, the trail crosses the road and continues through the Rivers Edge Recreation Complex, where you’ll have access to putting greens, a playground, restroom facilities, and multiple sports fields. Traveling out of the park, the trail parallels an active rail line as you make your way south, leaving Woonsocket behind and entering the community of Manville. There are multiple places to stop along the way to take in the beauty of the river and read interpretive signage about the trail’s history.
Eventually, the rail-with-trail crosses the Blackstone River, allowing for an unusual view of this side-by-side configuration of trail and rail over the water. Now on the other side of the river, the trail snakes down and under I-295, which surrounds Providence. The path crosses over the Blackstone River at the impressive Ashton Mill. Once producing cotton fabrics, this vast industrial complex has been converted into riverside apartments and lofts. The Ashton Mill and its surrounding homes were one of four mill villages that lined the river in this area—built and owned by the Lonsdale Company in the 19th century. Here, you’ll also pass the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Museum. Housed in the historical residence of a canal boat captain, the museum displays the history of transportation along the Blackstone River and canal, from prehistory through the Industrial Revolution.
You can roll or stroll along portions of the crushed-stone canalway that intersect the paved rail-trail. A branch of the trail also heads north to the large Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, off I-295. In addition to drinking water and restrooms, the center has a gift shop, a gallery, and exhibits about the Blackstone Valley river corridor. Don’t miss the vast terrazzo floor map of the valley, complete with the Blackstone River Greenway.
Head south of the Kelly House Museum on the main trail and you’ll pass under the Martin Street bridge, with its striking timber bowstring trusses. After 1.5 miles, you’ll arrive in Lonsdale, one of the mill villages along the banks of the Blackstone River. To the east, you’ll find a short pathway to parking near Lonsdale Mill. Cross over the churning Pratt Dam on an impressive bridge that uses the original stone piers from the trail’s railway past. About a mile away, you’ll come to another parking area—this one is marked with a restored drive-in theater sign, featuring the Blackstone River Bikeway and habitat restoration on its marquis. The trail meanders through secluded marshland over a boardwalk bridge, where it comes to an end at Jones Street.
Signs continue for a section of on-street bikeway to reach the Valley Falls Heritage Park in Pawtucket. You can continue on-road to just under the I-95 overpass on Taft Street, where spacious bike lanes and sharrows (symbols indicating a shared bike-vehicle lane) lead the way. Take a right onto Bowles Street, then a left onto Pleasant Street. You’ll veer right onto Alfred Stone Road and cross Blackstone Boulevard onto a tree-lined pathway for about 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Irving Avenue, then right onto River Road for a pleasant ride along the banks of the Seekonk River to the end of your journey. In India Point Park, you can pick up the East Bay Bike Path, which heads southeast for just over 14 miles to Bristol.
Northernmost access in Worcester: Parking will be available at the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center off McKeon Road in Worcester. At press time, the northernmost parking lot for the trail can be found just south of the intersection of Millbury and Cliff Sts. in Worcester. From I-90 (Massachusetts Turnpike), take Exit 10A toward US 20/MA 146. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right to merge onto MA 122A/MA 146. In 0.6 mile exit and turn right onto Millbury St. Drive south 0.4 mile to Cliff St. The trail parking lot will appear on your right.
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park: To reach the River Bend Farm Visitor Center from I-90, take Exit 10A toward Worcester/Providence. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right, then turn right again onto MA 146 S toward Millbury/Providence. Merge onto MA 146 S, and continue 12.1 mile. Take Exit 3 for MA 16 toward Uxbridge/Douglas, then turn left onto MA 16/Douglas St. After 2.3 miles, turn right onto MA 16/MA 122. Take the next left onto MA 16/ Mendon St. In 0.3 mile turn left onto Oak St., and the entrance to the state park will be on your right in 1.1 miles.
Woonsocket: To reach the Rivers Edge Parking Area on Davison Ave. in Woonsocket from I-295, take Exit 9B for RI 146 N toward Woonsocket, then in 0.3 mile take the exit for RI 99 N. In 2.8 miles, turn left onto RI 122/Mendon Road toward Woonsocket. In 1.5 miles, turn left onto Hamlet Ave. Just after crossing the river, turn left onto Davison Ave. The parking lot will be on your left, just past the Veterans Memorial. The trail begins at the south end of the parking lot.
Lonsdale: To reach the parking area and trail access point near the Pratt Dam in Lonsdale from I-295, take Exit 10 for RI 122 toward Cumberland. Turn left onto RI 122/Mendon Road. In 3.25 miles, turn right onto RI 123/Front St. After a slight bend in the road, in 0.2 mile, turn right into the entrance of Blackstone River State Park.
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