Man paddles across RI for a cause

Chuck Horbert

Before the federal Clean Water Act and then Rhode Island's companion legislation in the early 1970s, many of the state's rivers were dumping grounds for garbage, chemicals and sewage.

"I'm trying to use the trip to highlight a lot of the work that many of the cities and towns, watershed councils, nonprofit groups have done to improve water quality, improve canoe access and to really reconnect their communities with their rivers," said Chuck Horbert of Rhode Island Blueways.

From the starting point along the Clear River in Harrisville to the Blackstone, Pawtuxet and Pawcatuck rivers, four decades later, a complete turnaround, with countless miles of navigable waterways, and the idea to "Paddle Across Rhode Island."

"I suppose if I wanted to stay on the water the entire way, I could have just gone down Narragansett Bay and right across the Atlantic Ocean to Westerly. But I really like the challenge of doing an inland route to really see more of the inland state of Rhode Island," Horbert said.

All but 17 miles of the 106-mile journey will be in the water because there are some dams and connecting waterways that are going to make it necessary to hike around instead.

"At some point, I'm going to run out of water on the Big River, which is the farthest up we can go. From that point, we're going to have to walk across a big watershed divide to get to the Wood River and then it's downhill all the way," Horbert said.

Horbert will hold speaking engagements along the way.

"I've arranged for a lot of different, small PR programs with different watershed groups. The town of Burrillville is going to have a little launch event at the beginning of the trip," Horbert said.