First ‘7 Rivers Festival’ Celebrates Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed

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Rhode Island is known for its miles and miles of Atlantic coastline, but that’s not the state’s only draw, or even its only aquatic attraction. The Ocean State is also home to miles of creeks, streams, and rivers, including the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed, which will be celebrated this weekend at the inaugural 7 Rivers Festival.

The Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Stewardship Council, in collaboration with local communities and businesses, is hosting the celebration. The activity-filled weekend will highlight the recreational, scenic, and economic importance of the rivers.

From categorizing nighttime insects in Hopkinton, to land-based fly-fishing lesson in Westerly, to free kayaking in Pawcatuck and South Kingstown, the wide range of activities and locales for the event mirror the size and diversity of the watershed itself, said Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association Wild & Scenic Rivers coordinator Kassie Donnelly.

Donnelly grew up on the Wood River, where she said she discovered her passion for environmental issues. She said she hopes the festival will be the weekend’s “hot spot, or should I say cool spot?”

With the darkest night sky between Washington, D.C., and Boston, and dozens of miles of “wild” rivers, the watershed encompasses 300 square miles, and its waterways travel through 12 towns, crossing the Rhode Island border in the south into Connecticut.

The first 7 Rivers Festival will celebrate the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed, including the Queen River. (Colleen Cronin/ecoRI News)

Congress bestowed the special Wild & Scenic designation, only given to 1% of the nation’s rivers, on the watershed in 2019. The designation doesn’t put the land and waterways in federal control but allows communities around the watershed to devise a stewardship plan to conserve it.

Before the designation, the watershed was already central to life in the western part of the state, but the rivers’ uses have…