Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, the Blackstone River Valley, makes up the northern half of the smallest state, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Encompassing nine cities and towns and 241 square miles in size, it is part of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, a unit of the National Park Service.
Rich in culture, history and recreational activities, the Blackstone River Valley is undergoing a major rebirth, and at the heart of that revitalization, just as it was during the Industrial Revolution, is the Blackstone River.
A new century has prompted a return to the river’s past. As a millennium project Bandar Bola, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council commissioned the Samuel Slater, a British built canal boat that’s the area’s new centerpiece for interpreting the heritage, culture, environment, and recreation of the Blackstone River Valley.
Named in honor of the father of the American Revolution, it’s a 40-foot boat that’s the only one of its kind plying American waters. It’s a reminder of the two decades, 1828 – 1848, when canal boats were a common sight on the river and the nearby canal. The Blackstone Canal linked Worcester, Mass., and Providence, RI, and was used to transport goods and passengers during the early stages of the region’s manufacturing growth. But by 1848, railroads replaced the canal and the old canal is now accessible in sections by walking paths and the Blackstone Valley Bikeway in Lincoln.
The Samuel Slater arrived at its permanent docking area at the Central Falls Landing in January of 2000 from the C.T. & P. Fox Boat Builders in Cambridgeshire, England. It can seat up to 12 for river tours and can be chartered for up to four as an overnight bed & breakfast.
Central Falls, bordering the suburban town of Cumberland, is a one-square-mile city that’s one of the most densely populated and diverse communities in Rhode Island. Visitors will see the Central Falls Landing area slowly evolve from the site of an old braided rug mill into an environmental education center where the public can learn about the ecology of the river.
Despite the urbanization, this section of the Blackstone River is one of the most scenic as it opens almost immediately to the north into a marsh area that’s a haven for abundant wildlife.