Dundery Brook trail Boardwalk
Dundery Brook trail Boardwalk Dundery Brook trail Boardwalk © Nat Rea

Places We Protect | The Nature Conservancy

John C. Whitehead Preserve at Dundery Brook

Rhode Island

The Whitehead Preserve, including the Dundery Brook Trail, is currently closed.

Unfortunately, its boardwalk, enclosed paths and narrow bog bridges pose a hazard to keeping safe social distances.

Dundery Brook Trail is the place to experience the myriad of wetland habitats which are endemic to coastal Rhode Island from the safety and comfort of a boardwalk path.  Dundery Brook Trail is handicapped accessible.  Created by The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island in 2012 of native black locust wood, this trail is particularly suitable for younger children and those for whom getting around can be a challenge.  Forested wetlands, swamps, old fields and wet meadows surrounding Dundery Brook trail support a changing variety of creatures throughout the year, so this trail is well worth getting to know.

Following a stem of Dundery Brook, the boardwalk trail provides an outdoor classroom for schoolchildren and visitors to engage with nature up close while learning about freshwater resources that supply drinking water for residents of the surrounding community. Easily travelled on foot, the boardwalk provides views of the swamp’s hidden treasures while the existing grass trail follows the edge of a pond and historic meadowland that offers numerous opportunities for bird sightings as well as deer and wild turkey. Over 60 bird species use this area as breeding habitat including warblers and vireos, hawks and owls, and wood ducks.

Little Compton, Rhode Island

Dundery Brook trail crosses from the Town’s Veteran’s Field property into the Conservancy’s 118-acre Bumblebee Preserve, across nearly 3,000 feet of boardwalk structure, which then connects with a grassy trail over an old cartpath of an additional 3,000 feet.  A hike in and out easily exceeds two miles.

Map of John C. Whitehead Preserve

Bumblebee Preserve was acquired by the Conservancy in 2001 for its significant size, its intact and rare plant communities which support a diversity of wildlife, and for its location within the Dundery Brook watershed, which supplies critically needed clean freshwater to the coastal lagoon ecosystem at Briggs Marsh in Little Compton.  Briggs Marsh is important in its own right for its rare shorebirds, marsh and wading birds and waterfowl, both resident and migratory, along with shellfish and state-listed rare plants.

Dundery Brook trail is just one feature of the Conservancy’s effort to protect, steward, and provide opportunities for environmental education in its Sakonnet landscape, an area where nature predominates in all its forms in Rhode Island’s southeast corner.  Other key Conservancy preserves include Goosewing Beach and its Benjamin Family Environmental Center, and Pocasset Ridge Conservation Area, a 500-acre forest reserve where trails will be opened, soon. 

What to See:  Plants
Bumblebee Preserve was protected by The Nature Conservancy, in part, because of its undisturbed, highly-diverse forest community.  Great oaks, beeches and tupelos dominate its interior, and red maple swamps and areas of shrub create bordering wetland areas.  American holly is abundant in areas.  In addition to signature wetland plants like skunk cabbage, jack in the pulpit, and cattail, this preserve is notable for its rare plants, including several native orchids (platananthera sp.) which produce their small flowers in early summer. 

What to See:  Birds
In May, the boardwalk provides an excellent vantage point for viewing warblers.  American redstart, Common yellowthroat, and Blue-winged warbler are among the many that can be seen. 
Hear the ‘peent’ of American Woodcock or listen for the Great Horned Owl in late winter evenings among the old fields at Bumblebee Preserve.  Black duck visits Bumblebee Pond, then.  In summer, look for Little green heron in this pond.

What to See:  Animals
The Dundery Brook watershed supports wildlife in abundance.  Spring peepers, wood frogs, green frogs and gray tree frogs are abundant and vociferous following spring rains.  Look for spotted turtles in the pond or snapping turtles in the brook.  White-tailed deer, coyote, fox and raccoon are present year ‘round.  Otter and Fisher are more likely to be seen in winter.

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

  • Stay on the boardwalk and walking trails, using marked trails wherever they exist.
  • 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 disturb bird nesting areas. Between April 15 and September 1, nesting areas may be off-limits to visitors. People or dogs can easily destroy a nest with one misstep.
  • The preserve is not suitable for hunting, fishing, or trapping or use or possession of firearms.
  • Leave your pets at home, for the safety of the fragile ecology of preserves and as a courtesy to other visitors.
  • Contact our office in Providence to visit those preserves that have restricted public access because of their very sensitive flora and fauna. These places deserve special respect and are best visited only on guided field trips.
  • 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.
  • When visiting in the spring, summer and fall, dress in long pants and socks to avoid deer ticks, especially if you plan to explore the grass trail beyond the end of the boardwalk. 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.

Thank you for your help!