SPF Bradford Dam Bradford Dam © Ayla Fox

Stories in Rhode Island

Removing Bradford Dam

Our largest demolition project to date will benefit fish, reduce flooding, and open the Pawcatuck River to paddling.

The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are working together to remove the Bradford Dam from the Pawcatuck River.  We are replacing the dam with a more natural step-pool design, allowing river herring to swim upriver to their traditional breeding grounds and eliminating the risk of a catastrophic dam failure.  

Bradford Dam is a 6-foot-high, 200-foot-wide structure built in the mid-1800s to support a mill on the riverbank. The mill has been idle for many years, and the dam has since fallen into disrepair. The dam restricts the movement of migratory and resident fish and is at risk of failing and causing a major flood during another powerful storm. 

The project will provide a 10-foot-wide channel allowing canoes and kayaks to pass easily. It will eliminate an awkward portage for paddlers almost immediately downstream of the popular boat launch at Bradford Landing on Route 91. 

The $1.8-million project is part of a multi-year partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the Pawcatuck River. Supported with federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects and additional funds raised by the Conservancy, the partnership has included the removal of the White Rock Dam and improvements to the Potter Hill Dam fishway. 

Demolition of the dam is expected to begin in August, with the river returned to its natural channel by late December. Restoration of the cleared area will take place next spring.