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National Wildlife Refuge

50 Bend Road
Charlestown, RI   02813
Phone Number: 401-364 9124
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Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge

Named after one of the original chiefs of the Narragansett Indians, the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Southern Coast of Rhode Island in the Town of Charlestown, Washington County.

Perched on the shoreline of the largest saltpond in the State, the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge sits upon the glacial outwash plain of the Charlestown moraine, providing the refuge with its unique character.

The wildlife present is as diverse as the vegetation which occupies the land. Over 250 bird species visit seasonally, and 70 species nest on the property, making bird watching and photography popular refuge activities. From saltmarshes, kettle ponds, freshwater wetlands, maritime shrublands and forests dominated by oak or maple, habitat is varied and plentiful.

Originally being used as a Naval Auxiliary landing field during world war II, the main portion of the refuge still contains remnants of the numerous runways, taxi-ways, and buildings which supported the war effort. Many people served their country here, with this rich history celebrated in an interpretive "trails through time" route which passes through the refuge.

Ninigret, along with the four other National Wildlife Refuges in the State are administered by the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, headquartered in Charlestown, RI.

On the refuge, the new Kettle Pond Visitor Center and headquarters, which opened in October 2005, celebrates the Ninigret Refuge and all of the other refuges in Rhode Island. This facility contains interactive exhibits, displays, a sales area, classrooms for special events, and knowledgeable people where visitors can come and explore the refuges and learn about the wildlife resources and coastal environments of each refuge.

Getting There . . .
The Ninigret Refuge can be accessed directly from state Highway 1 which follows the Southern Coast of Rhode Island. Our Western entrance is located on highway 1. Our Eastern entrance is accessed from Ninigret Town Park, by exiting route 1 onto Old Post Road, turning right into the Town park entrance, and following the road to its end. Ample parking is available. Our newly built Kettle Pond Visitor Center is directly off of highway, on 50 Bend Road, about 1/2 mile south of the Western entrance.

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The barrier beach portion of Ninigret Refuge is occupied by the threatened piping plover, whose populations, at least in Rhode island, are increasing. Osprey ply the air over the refuge in search of the dozens of fish species inhabiting Ninigret Pond. From bluebirds to woodcock, wildlife awaits the vigilant visitor. During the fall migrations, a wide variety of waterfowl and shorebirds visit the shoreline of the refuge along Ninigret Pond.

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From use for farming, then a Naval auxiliary landing field, and now to a National Wildlife Refuge, this area is steeped in history. The refuge was established in 1970 with the transfer of 27.5 acres from the navy to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional transfers of 375 acres and other purchases before 1982 provided the bulk of the main portion of the refuge. In 2001 and 2002, another 235 acres have entered the refuge system, bringing the current total to about 900 acres.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
Restoring habitat either reduced or eliminated from past land uses, or from the invasion of undesirable, non-native plant and animal species is a high priority on the refuge.

Over the past five years, over 70 acres of habitat once buried under the asphalt and concrete of the former naval land field have been restored. Once the asphalt is removed, refuge staff planted a variety of native grasses and shrubs in the former landing field to create a rich grass and shrub dominated landscape used by a variety of migratory songbirds. In some locations, wetlands long since buried under the asphalt are being restored to their original condition.

The refuge will maintain these sites in a maritime shrub and grassland mixture, to help stem the decline in wildlife species adapted to this habitat type. As more lands adjacent to the refuge are developed, and as farmlands disappear, much of this shrub and grassland habitat disappeared, resulting in the decline of some migratory songbirds.

Over time, this early successional habitat will be maintained with the careful use of controlled, or prescribed fire, and mowing.

The invasion of many wetlands and upland habitats by non-native undesirable species has had a substantial and adverse effect on the presence of native wildlife and the plants upon which they depend. To stem the tide of this invasion, the refuge has mapped the location of these sites and has implemented a control program to reduce this threat to native wildlife.

Land acquisition continues to be an important tool in protecting habitats and preserving our natural heritage.