Places We Protect

Canonchet Brook Preserve

Rhode Island

A small stream flows through the stone ruins of an old mill surrounded by forest.
Canonchet Brook Preserve Hero Streams like Canonchet Brook were dammed in the 1800s to power sawmills that produced shingles, clapboards and floorboards. © Nathan Bissell

A rugged, rocky landscape, defined by stone walls and old foundations.

Overview

Description

Why You Should Visit

The Canonchet Brook Preserve contains some of the best examples of colonial and pre-colonial stone work in Rhode Island, from stone walls to sawmill ruins to an impressive barn foundation. 

Five miles of marked trail take hikers across a rugged landscape of steep hills, glacial boulders, rocky outcrops and swampy lowlands. In some sections, large oaks, tulip poplars and white pines that have stood for several generations dominate the forest. Other areas of the preserve were used for agriculture until more recently, and there, a young forest of mixed hardwoods and evergreens is springing up. 

Dogs must be leashed at all times. Bowhunting for deer is permitted on portions of the preserve from September 15 to January 31. All visitors are required to wear a florescent orange hat or vest during the hunting season. 

The Canonchet Brook Preserve is owned and managed through a partnership between TNC and the Hopkinton Land Trust. 

Why the Conservancy Selected this Site

Located near the Rhode Island/Connecticut border, the Canonchet Brook Preserve anchors the southern end of the largest and healthiest coastal forest between Boston and Washington, DC. On nighttime flights, the forest appears as a dark gap in the bright lights associated with the rest of the Eastern Seaboard.

The Canonchet Brook Preserve lies between Rhode Island's Rockville Management Area Connecticut's Pachaug State Forest. Also nearby to the north are TNC's Ell Pond Preserve and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island's Long Pond Woods Wildlife Refuge.

Canonchet Brook and Tomaquag Brook--both tributary streams to the Wood-Pawcatuck National Wild and Scenic River system--originate in this forest. Their conservation is important to the protection of wildlife habitat downstream. 

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

In 2020, TNC acquired a 28-acre forested property on Stubtown Road, expanding the Canonchet Brook Preserve and providing additional buffer to the trail system. TNC continues to work with local landowners and partners to conserve land in the Pawcatuck River watershed, focusing large areas of connected forest that allow nature to adapt to climate change.

TNC is grateful to our volunteers and to the Hopkinton Land Trust, Hopkinton Conservation Commission and the Hopkinton Historical Association for their help in developing the Canonchet Brook trail system and interpreting the preserve's historic resources. 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Open year-round during daylight hours

Highlights

Hiking, birdwatching, mill ruins, colonial-era stone foundations

Size

780 acres

Explore our work in Rhode Island

Trails

The main trailhead is located on Route 3 in Hopkinton. Sturdy hiking boots are recommended for the Canonchet Brook Preserve, as the terrain is steep and rocky in places. Use caution and wear orange if walking the preserve during hunting season (September 15 - January 31). 

Highlights include a stone bridge, where a dam and sawmill once operated, near the entrance to the preserve. The west side of the trail system is rugged with boulder upon boulder, glacial erratics and ledge outcrops. Walking past the stone walls, and house and barn foundations, you'll find history at every turn. The preserve is also accessible from small parking areas on North Road and Stubtown Road. 

We hope you enjoy visiting our preserves in any season. We ask that you please observe the following guidelines:

  • Stay on marked walking trails.
  • Respect preserve open hours (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset). Overnight camping is not allowed.
  • Do not ride horses, bikes or any motorized vehicle through preserves or on the trails.
  • Do not remove any living materials from a preserve or disturb any vegetation.
  • Remove any trash you create and, if possible, any garbage that you see left by someone else.
  • In the spring, summer and fall, dress in long pants and socks to avoid deer ticks. After any walk on a preserve, it is a good idea to check for ticks when you return home.
  • Be careful! Your safety is your responsibility.

What to See: Plants

Oak, tulip trees, white pine, American beech, hickory, maple, witch hazel, blueberry, huckleberry, mountain laurel

What to See: Animals

In summer, the forest canopy is filled with songbirds that migrate to Rhode Island from Central America, South America and the Caribbean basin. Look and listen for ovenbirds, scarlet tanagers, great crested flycatchers, and wood thrushes.