Places We Protect

Aust Family Preserve at Lime Rock

Rhode Island

A forest stream passes through sharp-edge stones with a pond in the background.
Aust Family Preserve The Moshassuck River flows into and out of Manton Pond, on its way to Waterplace Park in Providence. © Mike Condon

A suburban sanctuary of wildflowers and forest, great for explorers of all ages

Overview

Description

The Aust Family Preserve is a flagship preserve of The Nature Conservancy. Just 15 minutes from Providence, this beautiful natural area offers a bit of history, scenic backdrops, and wide trails fit for family adventures. 

A long-abandoned trolley track provides a flat, straight trail through the forest, while connecting loops wander the preserve's hills and curves. A broad, grass-covered dam serves as an unofficial rest stop overlooking Manton Pond. 

The preserve's rich soils, overlaying ancient limestone deposits (unusual for Rhode Island), support a vibrant forest, with abundant wildflowers and massive oak trees. Spared from development, it brings close to home the look and feel of the central New England woods. 

The Aust Family Preserve is managed in partnership with the Town of Lincoln. Leashed dogs are permitted. 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Open year-round during daylight hours.

Highlights

Hiking, birdwatching, pond views

Size

130 acres

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Photos from the Aust Family Preserve

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

Two tree trunks growing close together, each with its bark curling upward in thin, narrow strips.
A flat, yellow leaf comprised of three equally sized lobes
Two skunk cabbage flowers side by side, compromised of a maroon and gold hood, emerging from bare ground..
A small, black and white-striped songbird with a little green caterpillar in its beak.
White berries with a black dot in the center, held to a central stem by bright red stalks.
Portrait of Carolyn Aust, sharply dressed in a lush garden.
A light purple wildflower comprised of 5 open petals arranged in a circle.
A robin-sized songbird, with a bright orange breast, black head and black and orange wings.
A cluster of bell-shaped wildflowers, yellow underneath and red on top.
A cluster of wildflowers with yellow centers and tightly packed yellow ray flowers around them.

Visit

  • Parking

    Parking for the Aust Family Preserve is limited. There are three spaces in the gravel lot at the trailhead and approximately six spaces along the shoulder of Wilbur Road. Please observe the signs that govern street parking in this area. If parking is not available when you visit, consider visiting the Moshassuck River Preserve, five minutes away by car. Other nearby options include Lincoln Woods State Park and Chase Farm Park. 

  • Trails

    A trailhead kiosk greets visitors with an introduction to the preserve and its 3-mile trail system. Just past the kiosk, you'll come to a trail junction, with the Railway Trail going straight and the Moshassuck Trail going up the hill to the right.  

    The Railway Trail (yellow) runs beside and slightly above the bed of abandoned electric trolley line. The old railbed is often flooded and now provides spring breeding habitat for amphibians. (0.4 miles)

    The Pond Loop (yellow) starts where the trail crosses over to the railbead itself. It provides a bird's-eye view through the trees, as the forest floor drops away steeply on both sides. The trail loops around Manton Pond to a wide, earthen dam. (0.9 miles)

    The Moshassuck Loop (blue) explores the southern half of the preserve. The Moshassuck River is visible through the woods, especially in winter. Part of the trail follows a wide, old cart path, which recalls the area's agricultural past. (0.8 miles)

    The Moshassuck Trail returns to the parking area, passing a vernal pool that rings with "quacking" wood frogs in early spring. (0.2 miles)

    The trail system passes within sight of several homes. Please respect our neighbors' property. 

  • What to See

    Surrounded by suburban development, the Aust Family Preserve provides a wooded sanctuary for people and nature. 

    Plants: Throughout this hardwood forest, you'll find a mix of trees that are unusual for Rhode Island. Sugar maples and red oaks thrive in the damp, calcium-rich soils. In the understory, look for American hornbeam, also known as musclewood for its sinewy, twisting trunks and branches. Christmas fern is abundant, along with spring wildflowers like wild geranium and dwarf ginseng.

    Birds: The Aust Family Preserve is an important stopover site for many songbirds during spring migration. Scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and many warblers rely on the preserve to rest and refuel. Many other birds are year-round residents or summer nesters, including pileated woodpeckers, wood ducks and tree swallows.

    Animals: The preserve's streams and wetlands provide habitat for frogs and salamanders. Common woodland mammals in the area include white-tailed deer, Eastern coyote, striped skunk, and raccoon. If you're lucky (and quiet), you may find a red fox sharing the trail with you.

  • Preserve Guidelines

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

    • Stay on marked trails.
    • Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times. 
    • Respect preserve 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.
A chiseled outcropping of dark gray rock in a forest.
Outcropping The Aust Preserve is one of the few places in Rhode Island where dolomitic marble, high in magnesium and calcium carbonate content, is found in extensive ledges. © Mike Condon

History

The Aust Family Preserve is part of the traditional homelands of the Narragansett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag peoples. 

At the turn of the 20th century, an electric trolley, or streetcar, ran from Providence, through what is now the preserve, to Woonsocket and Burrillville. The line was abandoned in the 1930s, allowing the forest to grow back. 

The Nature Conservancy established the Lime Rock Preserve in 1986, working with  conservation-minded landowners like Dorothy and Raymond Houghton, the Knowles family, the Plante family, and the Wilbur family. TNC purchased the land with support from the RIDEM open space grant program, the Champlin Foundation, and numerous individual donors. The...

The Aust Family Preserve is part of the traditional homelands of the Narragansett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag peoples. 

At the turn of the 20th century, an electric trolley, or streetcar, ran from Providence, through what is now the preserve, to Woonsocket and Burrillville. The line was abandoned in the 1930s, allowing the forest to grow back. 

The Nature Conservancy established the Lime Rock Preserve in 1986, working with  conservation-minded landowners like Dorothy and Raymond Houghton, the Knowles family, the Plante family, and the Wilbur family. TNC purchased the land with support from the RIDEM open space grant program, the Champlin Foundation, and numerous individual donors. The Conklin Limestone Company donated its mineral rights. 

In 2016, TNC renamed the preserve in honor of Carolyn Aust, her husband, Clifford Aust, and her brother, Thomas Capron. Their incredibly generous support allows us to save special places, restore fish habitat in upper Narragansett Bay, and tackle environmental challenges in the Providence Metro area. Mr. and Mrs. Aust and Mr. Capron enjoyed observing birds and other wildlife in the natural world around them. They would be so pleased to know that their gift continues to provide opportunities for all Rhode Islanders to spend time in nature.

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