Below is the status of fish passage at each of the first five dams on the Woonasquatucket River, listed in order from lower to upper river regions. Currently, the fish can swim all the way up to the Lyman Mill Dam in Johnston. Our ultimate goal is to open the way for fish to return all the way up to Georgiaville Pond in Smithfield. Come out in the spring to see the fish return to their spawning grounds!
A fishway or fish ladder is a structure on or around barriers (like dams) to help fish migrate up and down waterways. They come in different forms – sometimes a series of steps with waterflow that help fish swim up over dams.
Completed in 2007, this Denil fish ladder, a type of fishway, passes the first dam on the lowest part of the river before the tidal waters. This fish ladder sits behind Rising Sun Mills, just up river from Donigian Park, on Valley Street in Providence. Along with the fish ladder, we have a viewing platform above, providing great views of the herring as they return upstream in the spring.
Paragon Dam sat as the next dam upriver from Rising Sun Mills, previously visible from the Delaine Street Bridge over the Woonasquatucket River. The WRWC removed this dam in 2010, returning the flow of water to Pre-Industrial Revolution status and completely opening this point to fish and eel passage.
The Atlantic Mills is at the next dam upriver from Paragon Mills at what is now known as Riverside Park, on Aleppo Street in Providence. This Denil fish ladder, a type of fishway, presented a complex problem, both because of the height of the dam and because of a major gas line that cut through the project site. Because it sits in a city park, this is a great fish ladder for the public to visit. You can walk on a grate directly above the fish ladder and look down into it, seeing how it actually works!
Dyerville dam sat 1-1/4 miles up river from Atlantic Mills, behind Buttonhole Golf Course. An old wooden crib dam, though the structure of the dam was largely gone while some remained in the river. The WRWC removed the remaining wooden structures to allow fish passage at this dam.
The final dam in our fish passage project is 5/8 mile up river from Dyerville and 4-1/2 miles up river from the mouth of the Woonasquatucket. Above this dam, Manton Pond provides excellent spawning habitat for fish that prefer pools such as shad. In December 2016, we completed our first nature-like fishway at this site. It is a series of pools and weirs in a concrete channel that looks like a stream to the fish. It is also very easy to observe the fish as they swim into the pools in this fishway. In 2017, we observed many herring as they crossed this final fishway on the lower river to new spawning grounds in Manton Pond.