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Imagine a wealthy 19th-century textile mill owner building an 8-mile railroad to get coal to his plant or products to market, and then adding accommodations to carry vacationers to beach resorts or voyagers to steamships: that’s the story of the short-line railroad that later became the William C. O’Neill Bike Path. At just over 7 miles, it runs from Amtrak’s West Kingston Station to within about a mile of its original destination in the town of Narragansett Pier.
The paved rail-trail in southern Rhode Island is named for the late senator who spearheaded development of the trail, previously known as the South County Bike Path. (Washington County is locally known as South County.) It follows the railbed of the Narragansett Pier Railroad, opened in 1876 by a man who owned mills in Wakefield and Peace Dale. In 1921, rail buses—actual buses adapted to ride the rails—replaced the passenger cars. Locals affectionately called these unique buses Micky Dinks after two of the drivers. Passenger service ended in 1952, though freight service continued for an-other 25-plus years. The first section of the rail-trail opened in 2000.
A good place to start is the Amtrak station in the West Kingston community. Built by the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad in 1874, the station was shared with the Narragansett Pier Railroad to transfer passengers heading to the beaches. You’ll head south on the trail under a dense canopy of trees. Although you won’t be able to see it from the pathway, the University of Rhode Island is nearby; as you approach your first mile on the trail, note that a connecting trail, scheduled for completion in late 2018 or 2019, will travel 2.1 miles to the campus.
This wooded area fringes the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area, where, particularly in the spring and fall, you’ll encounter flocks of migratory birds. Also in the woods is the Tefft Historical Park, where archaeological sites date from early Narragansett tribal occupation through Colonial settlements. At about mile 4, you’ll enter the Tri-Pond Park, where you’ll find ponds, streams, nature trails, and a nature center.
Emerging from the woods in Peace Dale (named for the railroad builder’s mother), the trail takes Railroad Street for 0.2 mile. About midway on the left sits the renovated train depot, now a business. Crossing Church Street, you return to the trail. In 0.7 mile, you cross Main Street in Wakefield and see a replica train station. Arriving at the commercial center on Kingstown Road, the trail follows MacArthur Boulevard for 0.2 mile, then veers right back onto the trail.
The trail ends at Mumford Road, but across the street is a developing new section that’s scheduled to open in late 2018 or early 2019. It will travel behind Narragansett Elementary School and end at the parking lot for the Narragansett Community Center. From here, another future segment will complete the journey to Narragansett Town Beach on the former right-of-way of Narragansett Pier Railroad’s main rival, the Sea View Railroad.
To reach the trailhead at West Kingston Station, from I-95, take Exit 3A onto RI 138 E/Kingstown Road toward South Kingstown. Go 8.3 miles and turn right onto Rail-road Ave.; you’ll see signs for both the train station and the trail immediately before your turn. Go 0.1 mile and look for parking on the right. The trail starts at the southwest end of Railroad Ave.
The West Kingston Station is an active stop on Amtrak's Northeast line between Boston and Washington, D.C. Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) buses also serve the station.
To reach the trailhead at Narragansett, from US 1, take the exit for Wakefield. If on US 1 N, at the end of the exit ramp, the road ends in a T; turn right onto Narragansett Ave. E., which becomes Mumford Road. If on US 1 S, at the end of the exit ramp, turn left and then right onto Narragansett Ave. E., which becomes Mumford Road. Go 0.5 mile and turn left into the parking lot for the Narragansett Community Center (53 Mumford Road), which is adjacent to Narragansett Elementary School. To get to the trail, exit the parking lot, turn right and pass in front of the school, then turn right onto Mumford Road. Travel 0.2 mile to find the trail on your left.
The wife and I are getting back into biking and this trail is great for the beginner/novice. There are slight inclines which reminded us on why we are taking it slow to get back into shape for more challenging trails as the weather improves.
I just road my beach curser down this trail yesterday and it was GREAT! Hardly any hills at all, which is great when you only have a one speed bike. The views were beautiful as well. Very nicely shaded. I didn't make it all the way down to the beach, but I plan on going back Thursday to make a day trip out of it!
This is our go to trail! Well maintained asphalt trail... The forest provides shade in summer, beautiful color in spring and autumn! The ponds provide nature stops for us nature nerds and children to see water birds, basking turtles, listen out for frogs and one year we found a snapping turtle nest! There are a few beautiful rest stops to sit and enjoy the fern under growth of forest! Occasionally we share the trail with grazing deer! Then there are the great coffee shop goodies or all the way to our amazing sea coast!!! Great parking with toilets at the train station! What's not to love!!! We need more of these well maintained very gentle sloping bike trails for our communities to enjoy!!!! Thank you Rhode Island for making this a reality!
Can't Complain @ All !!! This 7.4 Mile, Very SMOOTHLY Paved Trail Was a Real Pleasure To Bike on June 29,2016 !! 1st Timers To This Trail, It Impressed Us Very Much !!! We Own E-Bikes SOOO The Inclines Were Barely Noticable & The Sites Along the Way We're Very Rural & Eye Candy To Us !! A Few Bugs Along Where the Swamp is But That's Expected...
We Continued Our Ride To The Narragansett Beach By Taking a Left Where Mumford Rd Meets Rt 1A in Narragansett. Stay On The Wide Sidewalk on The Left Side of the Road on Rt 1A & You'll Feel Safer For the .6 Miles To The Beach !! All Told, We Biked 18.1 Miles From The Kingston Train Depot All The Way to The Narragansett Pier & Back Again !! We Stopped @ Dunkin Doughnuts in Narragansett For a Great Cup of Joe Before Heading Back,...lol
This is my favourite RI trail for both walking and cycling. It has a 'rural' feel to much, but not all of the route, passes through some wetlands, some woods and at the eastern end suburban Wakefield--something for everybody and the BEST thing is that the local users seem to get that all dogs need to be leashed and controlled unlike so many other places where dog owners think that they own the trails and forget that for many of us pedestrians and cyclists the last thing we want to see anywhere is their dogs.
There are a few bugs at some times during the day in summer near the wetlands portions but, well, it's a wetland, so expect that. I really like the lengthy upgrade that starts just past the wetland as you head eastward towards the Wakefield portion of the trail--it is definitely not a hill but it's a nice place where one can push the bike a little bit, and since the trail is usually not busy when I am on it I can push it on the bike and not be rude to pedestrians.
I ride this trail regularly in the summer months and it is a great ride. Parking at the West Kingston train station trail head is often full. The new trail head in Narragansett Pier ends right near Sprague Field and about 1/2 mile from Narragansett Town Beach. There is plenty of parking at Sprague Field. You can combine this trail with a ride along the Ocean Road between the Pier and Pt. Judith Lighthouse to have great ocean views and a ~28 mile round trip.
They ended this bike path 500 feet from a town park.
We rode this trail in July and after watching several bikers cross Rt. 108, we followed them and were very surprised to discover a tunnel under Rt. 1.
Here is part of a press release dated 7-27-11 from the RI DOT web site:
"The new 0.8-mile path connects to the existing bike path which RIDOT built in the late 1990s and early 2000s from Kingston Station off Route 138 in West Kingston to Route 108 opposite MacArthur Boulevard in Wakefield. The new segment will bring riders into Narragansett, ending at Mumford Road. The entire path is 7.8 miles long, and stands as the fourth-longest bike path in Rhode Island. "
"The new bike path includes 0.5 miles of off-road bikeway, resurfacing of 0.3 miles of MacArthur Boulevard (which carries the path from Route 108 to the off-road segment), a lighting system at the tunnel passing underneath Route 1 and reconstruction of a parking lot on Main Street at Robinson Street in Wakefield. The path also provides options for those traveling to the Narragansett shoreline by bike, as it bypasses the busy commercial corridors in Wakefield and the Dillon Rotary in Narragansett."
We tried this bike path for the 1st time today and enjoyed it immensely. They are working on the last leg of the trail and it should be finished by the summer. The only word of warning I would give is that if you begin from the train station the path is mostly down hill and makes for a difficult time on the way back. We plan to begin from the other end of the path so that the journey back is on the down hill.
We biked on this path yesterday for the first time. The beginning starts at the Amtrack station in South Kingston. Parking is tight on weekends, as many train and bus riders use the parking lot too. The path hardtop is in excellent condition, it is well marked and well kept. Good scenic visuals. I can't wait until they finish the last two miles that will connect this to the oceanfront on the bay. An A+ bike path.
great path for roller-blading. Trail is flat, and very green. be advised, path goes through great swamp management area (mosquitos come out in force at sunset) Overall 8/10
I am a new biker, and this is the first trail I road. What a beautiful trail, a path cut through nature. I hope to try many more trails. gerryk
A beautiful ride that starts out at a Amtrak station and then takes you through some of the best scenery in RI. The bridge over Mink Brook is worth stopping to check out. As you progress further you end up in the village of Wakefield. A nice trail with a little bit of everything on it.
"Rode the Rail Trail yesterday
9-12-05. it now is 6 miles long and extends almost to Rt.1. Lots of road crossings and one small section on street, but the area thru Great swamp were great and I saw a deer crossing here. Lots of people enjoying the great weather and this trail."
Construction is now complete to Route 108 for a total of 5.5 great miles from the Kingston train station!
I've been running this trail during my lunch hour for the past three years. This is a perfect trail for running and roller blading. The new addition currently under construction from Peace Dale to Narragansett will add a unique link to the Narragansett boardwalk along the ocean front.
There is plenty of wildlfe along this trail. It's a great place to go on weekends with family -- just park at the elementary school off Curtis Corner Trail Road or at the train station just off route 108 in Kingston. Many other small trails can be found off the main path.
"This trail begins at the Kingston Amtrak Train Station and heads towards Narragansett Bay. The existing trail is only 3.5 miles long but is being expanded.
The trail offers something for everyone; it can be used for both recreation and commuting to the Amtrak Station. The trail is handicapped accessible and good for cyclists, roller-bladders, and people on foot.
There are quite a few road crossings; most are well marked and all seem to be safe.
The trail has a good mix of shaded and sunny areas. There are a number of hills. Since the path is constructed from an old rail line, the hills are not to bad – in fact; they add a good cardiovascular workout to your ride.
There are a number of places to rest along the trails – various civic groups have donated park benches. There is also a small park area adjacent to the trail with a basketball court and playground equipment.
One particularly interesting section is where the path cuts through the Great Swamp Wild Life Refuge. Bring your binoculars for great views of egrets and herons.
Restrooms are available in the train station.
All in all, this is an excellent trail and will no doubt get better as it is extended. "
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