"Extensive and Impenetrable Forest" Such are the notations on a map of Narragansett Bay that was issued in 1820 by Army Corps engineers for the United States Topographical Bureau, the agency that would go on to produce the maps that opened the way to the American West.
Remarkably, the high country east of Stone Bridge was known then as now only from beyond, a mysterious place of deep shadows.
An era better known for its nascent mill industries, expanding fleet of sailing ships, whaling, urbanization and rising immigration, the 1820’s also gave rise to a generation of writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, observers of nature who grew up at a time when New England deforestation had reached its peak. Enduring, still, at the end of the 20th century, but then threatened by speculative development, citizens of Tiverton rallied first to save this forest at Weetamoo Woods, and then at Pardon Gray Preserve, all the while creating the blueprint to save more of this extensive tract of forest.
With dedication to the task and partnerships with The Nature Conservancy and RI environmental agencies, 500 acres more have been saved and outfitted with trails so that hikers may now enter a forested realm which has never been opened before. Exploring the rock formations, hillsides and rolling terrain of this forest together with its first visitors has been an eye-opening experience for me. Adventurers who came on the occasion of a Land Trust Days hike were amazed by the bright sunlight and clear, open views existing in the depths of this forest between its canopy of oaks and floor of huckleberries. Leaving the forest edge behind, with its tangle of shrubs and vines, hikers to the heart of Pocasset Ridge may observe a natural structure where specific varieties of trees, plants, birds and wildlife inhabit specific locations governed by topography and access to water.
Hillsides of hickory, woodlands of oak, and bordering wetlands of beech and holly are interspersed with bedrock ledges, cliffs, and boulder-fields, crisscrossed throughout with surface streams and shrub swamps. Brought further to life by resident wildlife, such as the red headed woodpeckers we saw convening amid a stand of dying oaks, there is much to explore!
–John Berg,The Nature Conservancy