Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Come take a stroll through the preserve and spot some of our unique plants and animals. View All

Plan Your Visit

Follow our preserve guidelines and your visit will be pleasurable. View All

Get Directions
Why You Should Visit

This is the Rhode Island Chapter's second largest nature preserve. Straddling the rocky uplands of the Charlestown moraine and the sandy floodplain of the Pawcatuck River, the property supports a variety of natural communities, most notably rare pitch pine/scrub oak barrens, vernal pools, and a 35 acre grassland.

****Bowhunting for deer is permitted at the Preserve. During the bowhunting season (September 15 - January 31), all visitors are required to wear a fluorescent orange hat or vest.  

 Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times.


Charlestown, in southwestern Rhode Island


841 acres
Map of Francis C. Carter Preserve


The Carter Preserve has its own volunteer group called the “Friends of the Carter Preserve”.  These volunteers are valuable in helping to keep the preserve enjoyable for future generations. Volunteers assist with ongoing stewardship projects including  trail maintenance, preserve monitoring, litter cleanups, and treatment of invasive plants.  They play a vital role in the stewardship of the Carter Preserve, for the benefit of wildlife and visitors, alike. If you would like to become a Friend of the Carter Preserve, please contact Jeanne Cooper at or (401) 331-7110.

Why the Conservancy Selected this Site

This preserve is one of the largest protected properties in the state. It joins several thousand acres of contiguous forest and contributes to an 11-mile corridor of open space running from the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge to the state's Carolina Management Area.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy purchased the property with major contributions from The Champlin Foundations, a longtime supporter of the Conservancy's conservation work in Rhode Island, the Cove Point Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The preserve is dedicated to Francis ("Frank") C. Carter, who led the Champlin Foundations for many years.

  • Conservancy staff regularly lead two-hour nature walks on the preserve, showcasing key features of the southern New England forest. Scout and school programs are encouraged to use the property as an outdoor classroom.
  • The Conservancy is restoring and maintaining wildlife habitat at the Carter Preserve, to help reverse the decline in the number of grassland and shrub-nesting birds.


Trailhead kiosks greet visitors with an introduction to the preserve and its natural features. There, visitors can pick up a trail map, a self guided hike, and a bird checklist.  Visitors have a choice of hiking the wide Narragansett trail that leads to the grassland or hike on the narrower woodland trails that meander through the heart of the property.

In addition, the preserve is open to horseback riding on specified trails.  The parking area at the Old Mill Road entrance is large enough to accommodate horse trailers, and there is a manual water pump to provide water for horses.

Self-Guided Preserve Tour Brochure

What to See: Plants
The grassland provides a nesting area for state-threatened grasshopper sparrows and the adjacent pine barrens support the globally rare barrens buck moth.  The uplands feature black oak, scarlet oak, white oak, pitch pine, black huckleberry, and lowbush blueberry.

What to See: Animals
Birds such as the eastern towhee, scarlet tanager, and prairie warbler live here during the summer, as do several rare moth species. Vernal pools and wetlands within the forest support a diversity of frogs, salamanders, dragonflies and damselflies.

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

  • Stay on the 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.
  • 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 Block Island or Prudence Island 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.

Thank you for your help.
Preserve Visitation Guidelines

From I-95, take exit 3-Route 138 East
  • Continue to the intersection with Route 112
  • Bear right onto Route 112 and continue south through Richmond
  • Continue through the intersection with Route 91 and over the railroad bridge

To the Route 112 entrance:

  • Watch for the preserve sign on the right
  • A short dirt road leads to the parking area

To the Old Mill Road entrance:

  • Drive past the preserve sign on Route 112 and take the next right onto Old Mill Road
  • Continue on Old Mill Road until the road curves sharply to the left
  • Do not turn the corner, but bear right onto the dirt road at the sign
  • Follow the dirt road straight to a parking area

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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