Places We Protect

Whitehead Preserve at Dundery Brook

Rhode Island

A small pond in a forested clearing reflects the blue sky above.
Whitehead Preserve Each pond is like a little outdoor gallery, inviting quiet exploration and appreciation of the birdsong and butterflies. © Tim Mooney/TNC

A magical hideaway of meadow, thicket, woodland and water.

Overview

Description

The Whitehead Preserve is a charming hideaway. Careful, historic plantings of native shrubs and wildflowers host a multitude of birds, butterflies and other pollinators. An easy, winding path circles three farm ponds surrounded by woods and open meadows. Each one is like a little outdoor gallery, inviting quiet exploration and appreciation of nature.

The preserve also includes a fully accessible, wooden boardwalk, which is particularly suitable for younger children and anyone with limited mobility. In a wet spring, there is water underneath its entire length. Forested wetlands, swamps and old fields support a changing variety of wildlife throughout the year, so this trail is well worth getting to know.

Dogs are not permitted at the Whitehead Preserve, due to the sensitive ecology of its wetlands and the confined space along the boardwalk trail.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Open year-round during daylight hours

Highlights

ADA-accessible boardwalk, hiking, birdwatching, wildflowers

Size

188 acres

Explore our work in Rhode Island

Whitehead Preserve (1:32) Whenever it rained, sections of the trail at the Whitehead Preserve turned to mud. But volunteers from Oomph Inc came to the rescue with a one-day trail makeover, building 175 feet of bog bridging. Oomph is a Providence-based digital marketing firm, that partners with TNC through 1% for the Planet.

Photos from Whitehead Preserve at Dundery Brook

Tag your preserve visits on Instagram with #WhiteheadPreserve to have your photos featured here!

A young girl in a red winter coat walks along a boardwalk through a holly forest.
A scientist's hand holds a large, alert, slate gray songbird with a black cap.
TBD
Clusters of yellow and white daffodils in full bloom in a meadow by a pond.
Seven volunteers in brightly colored t-shirts stand in a line on wooden boardwalk, smiling and holding tools.
A boardwalk trail winds through the woods in early spring.
Purple and white irises bloom above the plants' green, sword-shaped leaves.
A brown, robin-sized songbird, with a white breast covered with black spots. It's beak is open to sing from a leafy branch.
Two jack-in-the-pulpit plants facing in opposite directions, both with a large maroon and light green hood.
A yellow warbler perches on a thorny branch of a rose bush, facing the camera.

Visit

  • Parking

    There are two parking areas for this preserve. The trailhead and parking lot for Hope's Path is located at 374 West Main Road. For the boardwalk trail, continue on West Main Road and turn left on Meetinghouse Lane. Park by the tennis courts and follow the paved path to the trailhead.

  • Trails

    Note: The grassy paths through the fields can be seasonally wet or muddy. Sturdy hiking boots are recommended.

    Trailhead kiosks greet visitors with an introduction to the preserve and its 2-mile trail system.

    Hope's Path (0.7 miles) connects the main trailhead to the Dundery Brook Trail boardwalk, circling three small farm ponds. Each one is unique, and best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. 

    The boardwalk (0.6 miles) is constructed of native black locust and designed to withstand seasonal flooding. It meanders south from Hope's Path, providing views of the swamp's hidden treasures, with occasional benches for rest stops. 

    Blanche's Path (0.6 miles) is a grassy cart path that follows the edge of Bumblebee Pond and leads into a historic meadowland that is great for birdwatching. 

  • What to See

    The Whitehead Preserve is surrounded by several hundred acres of conserved land, protecting water quality in Briggs Marsh downstream. Together, they provide habitat for a wide range of plants and animals.

    Plants: The Whitehead Preserve features an undisturbed, highly-diverse forest community. Great oaks, beeches and tupelos dominate its interior, and red maple swamps and areas of shrub create bordering wetlands. American holly is abundant in areas. Signature wetland plants include skunk cabbage, jack in the pulpit and cattails.

    Birds: More than 60 bird species use the preserve as breeding habitat, including warblers, vireos, hawks and owls, and wood ducks. The boardwalk provides an excellent vantage point for viewing American redstarts, common yellowthroats and blue-winged warblers in May. In summer, look for green herons around Bumblebee Pond, on Blanche's Path. In cooler seasons, one can find American woodcocks, great horned owls and American black ducks.

    Animals: Spring peepers, wood frogs, green frogs and gray tree frogs are abundant and heard chorusing following spring rains. Look for snapping turtles in the brook. White-tailed deer, coyote, fox and raccoon are present year-round. 

     

  • Preserve Guidelines

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

    • Stay on the boardwalk and marked walking trails.
    • Dogs and other pets are not permitted at the Whitehead Preserve. Please leave your pets at home, for the safety of the fragile ecology of this preserve and as a courtesy to other visitors.
    • 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 the preserve or on the trails.
    • The preserve is not suitable for hunting, fishing or trapping or use or possession of firearms.
    • Do not remove any living materials from the preserve or disturb any vegetation.
    • Remove any trash you create and, if possible, any garbage that you see left by someone else.
A freshly cut, grassy path leads through a meadow.
Hope's Path TNC is grateful to Hope Burchard Purmont and Blanche Borden Frenning, whose interest in conserving their family land made it possible for TNC to establish this preserve. © Tim Mooney/TNC

History

The Whitehead Preserve is part of the traditional homelands of the Wampanoag and Pokanoket peoples. 

Blanche "Inchy" Borden and her husband, Alfred Frenning, began acquiring land in the area in the 1930s and named it Bumble Bee Farm. It was a place for horses and family to come together. Blanche loved hard work and managed much of the farm herself. 

Hope Burchard Purmont's family built a summer home just south of Bumble Bee in the mid-20th century. Hope's husband and grandsons created the farm ponds by digging down to groundwater and letting them fill. Her heirs are still nearby today, and help maintain the trails. 

TNC established a preserve at Bumble Bee Farm in 2001 with land purchased from Blanche's daughters, shortly after her passing. Additional parcels were added from the heirs of Hope Burchard Purmont in 2016 and then again Blanche's heirs in 2020. 

In 2013, the preserve was renamed in honor of John Whitehead, one of the founders of TNC's Rhode Island chapter. John loved this land along the Sakonnet. From Goosewing Beach to Dundery Brook to Tiverton's coastal forest, he inspired a community of donors with his leadership and exceptional generosity.  

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