CENTRAL FALLS – Over the past year, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council had renovated Central Falls Landing, a nearly 7,000 square foot mill located at 1420 Broad St. in Central Falls, on the edge of the town of Cumberland, which had been vacant since 2008. The Tourism Council is now planning an open house from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on June 5 at the body’s new home.
“It’s free for everyone. Come see all that the Landing, our new home, has to offer,” said Mike Martin, Program Manager for BVTC.
The BVTC offers location information for many outdoor activities, including hiking and biking, fishing and more. Interested local residents can sign up for kayak rentals, River Explorer tours and maybe even an overnight experience on the BVTC’s Samuel Slater British Canal Boat.
This year will see the return of a kayak rental program launched last summer. Kayaks can be rented for 45 to 90 minutes at a time, with a range of $20 to $50 depending on weather and renting a single or tandem canoe or kayak. In total, the BVTC has a fleet of nine tandem kayaks and nine single kayaks available for hire. Canoe and kayak rentals will be available daily from June 6 to October 10. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Departing from Central Falls Landing, BVTC Marketing Manager James Toomey explains that paddlers “can explore parts of the river that otherwise might not be seen” from the River Explorer Cruise. With a generally passive tide, the Blackstone River is a great place for people of all abilities to experience paddling sports.
Kayak rental administrator Amanda Mograss, who worked with the program last summer, said paddlers can paddle up the river and spot a surprising variety of wildlife. Just upstream from the boat landing, paddlers can explore Valley Falls Pond or continue north along the Blackstone River.
The BVTC also offers information on local kayaking destinations and boat launch points throughout the valley, including Central Falls Landing, Albion Canoe Launch in Lincoln and others found on tourblackstone.com. Groups are asked to email [email protected] in advance if they are interested in a guided tour or would like to book a group of 10 or more.
Proceeds from these rentals are used to fund a free youth canoe and kayak rental program that was launched last June and operates with a team of certified kayak instructors. During the 2021 season, more than 160 students from the region participated in this program.
After students leave school, the BVTC opens the kayak program offering free rentals and paddling lessons for children from low-to-moderate income households in Central Falls.
Throughout the summer, the program aims to introduce youngsters to water sports, while helping them learn about the Blackstone River in their backyard, often seen only from the nearby bridge. The program is operated by the Central Falls Parks and Recreation Department and BVTC, with financial support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island. To help launch the program last year, BVTC received a $20,000 grant to purchase 18 kayaks, two canoes, life jackets, a boat trailer, paddles and to pay for five instructors.
The Blackstone River and its tributaries are beautiful places to explore, say those who organize explorations. According to the BVTC, the Explorer River Tours have “taken hundreds of thousands of passengers on an interesting journey to see the Blackstone River Valley from a new perspective. Since 1993, the Blackstone Valley Explorer, a 40-passenger educational vessel, has held school programs each spring and fall.
Explorer River Night Tours run seasonally, June to October 2022, on Saturdays, with Nature and Heritage Tours on Sundays. Adult tickets are $12, and children under 12 and seniors over 65 are $10 for a 50-minute guided trip along the Blackstone River through Central Falls, Cumberland, and Lincoln.
With their new location above the Shark Restaurant and close to many other restaurants, Toomey said he plans to expand use of the riverboat for more “casual” activities with dinner cruises in partnership with local establishments.
“You could have dinner, drinks and a ride on the Blackstone,” Toomey said.
Sunday tours teach passengers about the local history, culture and ecology that surrounds the Blackstone River. While Central Falls is the most densely populated city in the state, Toomey said, “once you go around the river, it opens up to this wonderful wilderness feeling.”
The Explorer can also be chartered for private parties, sunset cruises, fundraising events and business functions for $325 per hour.
Another leisurely way to spend time on the river, Toomey and Martin said, is to book a trip on BVTC’s Samuel Slater British Canal Boat, which is set to launch for the 2022 season after undergoing some refurbishment. Built in Cambridgeshire, England in 2000 before being shipped out of state, the authentic British riverboat can accommodate up to 4 people for a unique nighttime experience. Complete with cozy wooden features all around, the Slater has everything you need for that special getaway.
“It’s basically like an Airbnb,” Toomey and Martin said. “People are looking for unique stays, and you won’t find much more unique than an authentic British riverboat on the historic Blackstone River…”
Named for the father of America’s Industrial Revolution, Samuel Slater, the 40-foot riverboat “is the only one of its kind in nearby American waters,” Martin said. The boat will be back on the water this summer with newly installed air conditioning and a fresh coat of paint.