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Great Sights at Goosewing

The Nature Conservancy and its partners have long recognized that Rhode Island’s barrier beaches, coastal ponds and expanses of maritime shrub and meadow are among the Northeast’s most valuable natural assets and some of the most biologically rich natural systems on the planet.

Goosewing Beach Preserve—a rarity among barrier beaches in our region for its pristine ecological condition —plays home to the scarce Piping Plover, which rear their young in sight of the crashing waves in camouflaged nests littered with tiny shell fragments.   Vulnerable to predators, storm surge and human footsteps, hatched plover chicks resemble white cotton balls on toothpicks before they mature.  For 22 years these fragile and charismatic birds have epitomized the plight of endangered species while gracing our shorelines and touching our hearts with their flute-like call.

Inland from Goosewing Beach is Quicksand Pond, a place where freshwater meets the sea that supports a web of migratory bird and marine life unlike anywhere else in our region.  It also safeguards a stunning diversity of aquatic and terrestrial species, including otters, kingfishers, river herring which return annually to spawn, Atlantic striped bass, blue crabs, oysters, and even seahorses.

On a coastal headland overlooking these wonders is a verdant tract of coastal meadow and shrub thicket.  Its relentless exposure to sea spray and wind ensures only the most stalwart vegetation will survive, but it is here among the berried shrubs and late season blossoms of goldenrod and aster that the fall migration of songbirds and monarch butterflies reaches its most spectacular.

(Thickets of bayberry, viburnum and grape provide food reserves needed to ensure migratory songbirds get the boost of energy they require in advance of their long fall journey southward over the sea.  Meadows of goldenrod and aster similarly provide monarch butterflies with a feast of nectar and pollen to gird their return flight to Mexico.)

The Benjamin Family Environmental Center sits atop this magnificent spot overlooking these three unique ecosystems.

The Center, built by The Nature Conservancy in 2010 following a generous donation from the Benjamin Family, is the starting point for guided walks and special events designed to educate visitors about the plants, animals and sea life at Goosewing Beach.  The Center also serves as the operating hub for the Conservancy’s shorebird protection program, which provides the tools, equipment and knowledge for helping Piping Plover and Least Tern populations recover from their near-demise only 25 years ago.

In recognition of the Conservancy’s commitment to protecting this unique coastal treasure, CNN picked Goosewing Beach Preserve as the eighth most eco-friendly beach in the world in 2010, right up there with beaches like Playa Matapalo in Costa Rica, or Whitehaven Beach, in Queensland, Australia.  Best Eco-friendly Beaches in the World, CNN Travel.

Bring your family to Goosewing Beach this summer to explore one of Rhode Island’s hidden treasures and witness one of Rhode Island’s most magnificent scenic sea views.

Whether you enjoy surfing, swimming, sunbathing or taking long walks on the beach, Goosewing Beach Preserve and its adjacent coastal pond and maritime dune is waiting for you.

Benjamin Family Environmental Center
Open 12-3pm Thursday through Saturday every week this summer


Full Moon Meander
Aug. 8, 8:30pm
Walk the preserve under the light of a full moon. It’s a whole new world.

Saturday Strolls at Goosewing Beach
Aug. 16: PT Marvell Preserve Walk, 9-10:30am
Aug. 30: Migratory Shorebirds Beach Walk, 9-10:30am
Start your weekend with a stroll down Goosewing Beach. Walks include general information about the plants and animals of Goosewing and we’ll focus on a specific theme each week.

Explorers Program
Thursdays through Aug. 28, 9:30-11am (Ages 6-10)
Each week we’ll get another close up look at the world with games, nature exploration and hikes. Attend one or all. Adult accompaniment required.

Salt Pond Exploration
Aug. 9 & Aug. 23, 10:30am
Blue crabs, shrimps, minnows and more! Search for critters in our salt pond with a seine net and smaller dip nets. Wear shoes that can get wet.

Parking at Goosewing Beach
The Town of Little Compton manages recreational use of the beach during the summer through an agreement with the Conservancy. Car access is through South Shores Beach.
Parking costs $16 on weekdays and $20 on weekends from 8am until 4pm.

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