Shawomet/Conimicut Marsh


The marsh is located in the midst of a densely settled suburban area in the southern part of the Village of Conimicut in Warwick, just 800 feet or so west of the protected park, Conimicut Point Park. Just 1000 feet north of this area are Pawtuxet Cove and Occupasatuxet Cove. The Marsh also has the potential to be an important link in a chain of protected coastal areas including Gaspee Point, Passeonkquis Cove and Rocky Point. This coastline is within a quarter mile of thousands of residents in suburban and urban communities. Conimicut Point Park’s location supports the Conimicut Lighthouse and enthusiasts who appreciate the area’s coastal features.

The properties along the Shawomet Marsh flow into this delicate eco-sensitive wetland in a dense residential area. The marsh bottom is composed primarily of sand, silt and mud.  At low tide, the shallow marsh is mostly a mudflat. According to the Audubon Society, mudflat habitat is scarce in RI. The area consists of healthy Spartina grass, along with some areas of native cattail grasses. The sandy areas at the mouth of the marsh attract horseshoe crabs for nesting. This is recognized (by who?) as a Coastal Marsh and associated Estuarine Wetlands and Floodplain Forest. The marsh is a Salt Water Marsh.

The Warwick Land Trust was able to protect 13 lots thanks to $100,640 grant from the National Heritage Preservation Local Open Space Conservation and Acquisition Grant, through the RI Department of Environmental Management.  The acquisition of the properties along this marsh helps to further the goals of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, including pursuing improved connectivity of parks, open space, recreation land, and water resources; protecting Warwick’s critical wildlife and wildlife habitat; protecting, preserving and enhancing natural resource areas adjacent to developed areas; and working to promote efforts to protect and enhance tree resources. 

A public city park that already exists at the end of Conimicut Point, allows access for kayaks and canoes to this quiet and beautiful refuge, but only at high tide. The open space surrounding the marsh provides an important buffer to prevent flooding in these densely populated neighborhoods during storms and rain events, and the marsh acts as a run-off site to prevent overloaded storm drains and flooded basements.

The plant community types found on the property are characteristic of this region: Spartina grasses, cattails and high-tide bush. This area has not changed from its natural state. It has been kept clean by local volunteers from the Buckeye Brook Coalition and Mill Cove Conservancy, helping to maintain the natural presence. For the most part, this area has been left alone in its natural wild state. Hunters sometimes use the marsh for hunting waterfowl. Approximately 40 years ago the city dumped spent ore here, believing it would curtail erosion. Neighbors have since cleaned this beach in its entirety of the dangerous pieces of rough metal.

The property is adjacent to Spot Park, a parcel owned by the Mill Cove Conservancy, on its southeastern end. Conimicut Point Park, owned by the City of Warwick, is contiguous to the east of the property. Buckeye Brook streams from the Airport down to Narragansett Bay and flows directly to the mouth of Mill Cove and the entrance to the marsh. The Providence River also flows into the Narragansett Bay at the point of the lighthouse. Buckeye Brook (fresh water) runs into brackish waters at Mill Cove, one of the few brackish water areas in the state.

A local private boat ramp provides access for kayaks, catamarans and canoes to use the bay any time of the day, but primarily at high tide.  Much of the property along the marsh is not under water until moon-high-tide or a storm. Fishing from the shore or from boats could be possible at high tide. Hunters already use the marsh during hunting season. They are restricted to shooting only toward the bay.

The marsh also presents abundant bird-watching opportunities and a photographer’s dream setting for nature at its best. When using the parking lot at the public park, recreational activities can be accessible from this direction and enthusiasts can easily walk on the paved and dirt roads or along the coastline.

The marsh is a mudflat at low tide, which supports rare kinds of habitat in Rhode Island: The Limulus polyphemus (Horseshoe Crab) and Gaukensia demissa (ribbed mussel) lay their eggs in this area. The Marsh is very popular with egrets and herons, and provides a refuge for many seabirds during stormy weather, especially in winter. A Haliaeetus leucocephalus (bald eagle) has been spotted a couple of times, as well as the Syctea scandiaca (Snowy Owl) during the 2013/14 Fall/Winter.

The wildlife species present include: Didelphis virginiana (Opossum), Marmota monax (Woodchuck, Groundhog), Sciurus carolinensis (Eastern Gray Squirrel), Canis latrans (Coyote), Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox) -- a family of foxes has been observed raising young here for several years — Procyon lotor (Common Raccoon), Mephitis mephitis (Striped Skunk), Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) and the (Rabbit) Sylvilagus floridanus & Sylvilagus transitionalis.

The birds, mostly waterfowl, are: Ardea Herodias (Great Blue Heron), Egretta thula (Snowy Egret), Ardea alba (Great Egret), Tyto alba (Barn Owl), Nycea or Bubo scandiaca (Snowy Owl), Megascops asio (Screech Owl), Bubo virginianus (Great Horned Owl), Pico villosus (Hairy Woodpecker),  Meleagris gallopavo (Wild Turkey), Buteo jamaicensis (Redtail Hawk), Branta bernicla (Brant), Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard Duck), Gavia immer (Common Loon),  Cygnus olor (Mute Swan), Branta canadenis (Canada Goose), Colaptes auratus (Northern flicker), Ceryle alcyo (Belted Kingfisher), Larus marinus (Great Black-backed Gull), Larus argentatus (Herring Gull), Sterna hirundo (Common Tern), Larus atricilla (Laughing Gull), Lrus delawarenis (Ring-billed Gull), Icterus galbula (Baltimore oriole), Archilochus colubris (Ruby-throated Hummingbird), Selasphorus rufus (Rufous Hummingbird), Cardinalis cardinalis (Cardinal), Carduelis tristis (Goldfinch), Zenaida macroura (Mourning Dove), Colaptes auratus (Flicker), Pandion hahiaetus (Osprey), Myiarchus crinitus (Great Crested Flycatcher), Actitis macularia (Spotted Sandpiper), Calidris alba (Sanderling), Pluvialis squatarola (Black-bellied Plover) Nycticorax nycticorax (Black-crowned Night Heron), and Ardea Herodias (Great Blue Heron).

Vegetation on the property include: Spartina alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass), Typha angustifolia (Narrow-leaved cat-tail), Phragmite australis (Phragmites).

Crustaceans: Limulus polyphemus (Atlantic Horseshoe Crab), Palaemon macrodactylus (Asian Shrimp), Elliptio complanata (Freshwater mussel), Pyganodon cataracta (Freshwater mussel), Mytilus edulis (Blue mussel), Pinnotheres pisum (Pea crabs), Forcipulatida (Sea Stars) and the Gaukensia demissa (ribbed mussel)

Fish: Stenotomus chrysops (Scup), Tautoga onitis (Tautog), Brevoortia tyrannus (Menhaden Pogy), Salvelinus fontinalis (Trout), Morone saxatilis (Striped Bass), Pomatomus saltatrix (Blue Fish), Paralichthys dentatus (Fluke), Scomber scombrus (Mackerel)

The Warwick Comprehensive Plan lists Shawomet Marsh as an Open Space Site for Protection. The marsh is listed under Major Wetland Areas, Coastal Wetlands, and Freshwater Wetlands, and it is stressed that this marsh is one of the wetlands of importance for protection. In the plan, this area, designated Area XII, is classified as a “Type 1” and should only be low-density residential designation.

The areas identified as the Narragansett Bay Watershed and Pawtuxet Watershed are listed as Open Space Element of the Comprehensive Plan and identify Mill Cove (at the base of the Marsh) as a Priority Open Space Site for Protection. Mill Cove is identified as a major scenic, historic and environmental asset to Warwick and threatened by development. The entire area is classified as "Type 1" by CRMC, and as such, except as noted below, only very low density residential designations should be permitted.