Rhode Island

Distance from Nearest Road: 1.8 miles
Travel Method: Boat
Travel Distance One-Way: 3.6 miles
Cell Phone Coverage: Yes
Public Land: Yes, Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Remote Footprints is working to precisely calculate and travel to the remotest locations in each of the 50 United States. We call this unique endeavor–Project Remote. Below is a written account of our 1-day boating expedition to document the Rhode Island Remote Spot. This is our 18th state Remote Spot documented as part of Project Remote.

We embark by boat to the RI Remote Spot from Allen Harbor boat launch…Cameron, our nephew and Remote Spotting intern, sports the Go Pro video camera by head. Our cousin Bryan Hallas, an expert outdoor adventurer, serves as our captain today. It’s extremely hot –upper 90’s. A mid June 2012 heat wave is underway for the Northeast. Feels like home (Florida) for us.

We leave harbor, enter the Bay, and look northward up Narragansett Bay. Dozens of people dig for shellfish/clams in the shallow tidal flats. Two powerplant smokestacks are in view on the horizon.

Almost immediately, Hope Island comes into view eastward. It sits out in the middle of Narragansett Bay. The remotest location in the entire state of Rhode Island resides on this island. Hope Island is presently part of Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Reserve. Decades before, it once harbored a mid-20th Century U.S. Navy installation that stored millitary ordnance. During that era, civilians were not allowed on the island. Ruins from this era are present all over the island, including old, grown-over roads. Although there are ruins from a past era of human habitation and development, this island now sits vacated and is restoring very slowly back to more natural, verdant habitat. We very much like to see restorations like these underway all over the country.

Cap’n Bryan approaches the south tip of Hope Island. There is a small cove. We enter, and it’s a haven for gulls and other shorebirds…We anchor the boat and deliberate about how to approach the RI Remote Spot.

Two buffy colored juvenile gulls are learning how to swim along the rocky shore of the cove.

We spot a great black-backed gull perched atop a rock overlooking our boat.

While anchored in the cove, we look southward out the mouth of the cove into Narragansett Bay. Another boat approaches, apparently out on a recreational day trip.

The RI Remote Spot is 0.35 miles up the western shore of the island from our present location. The vegetation is extremely dense on land. It appears impenatrable–especially for a family carrying a toddler. Cameron wades and swims over to shore for recon. He calls out, “It’s all poison ivy!” Looks like an overland walk to the Remote Spot is now out. Nor can we just beach the boat along the steep, rocky shores adjacent to the Remote Spot. We’d get pounded by waves against the rocks. So close, but so far away…Each Remote Spot carries its own set of challenges.

We decide to wade to shore while anchored in the protected cove. The plan now is to travel by foot along the bouldery beach around the southern tip of the island, then head up the western shore to intercept the Remote Spot. It is low tide right now, but the tide will be coming in while we are gone. This puts us on a strict time schedule to get our work done and be back before water gets too high to wade. We don’t want to have to swim with a child who is afraid of deep water and who doesn’t know how to swim. Of course, we all have pfd’s, but, nonetheless, swimming is still very undesirable with gear and child in hand. We proceed rapidly. It’s the only way.

We make it around the bend and turn northward along the island’s west side. The Remote Spot now is within view hundreds of meters to the north along the coast…

The coastline is extremely rugged and bouldery. Not to mention very slippery with tidal washing and algae. Our “walk” becomes a scramble. We forgot our child-carrying backpack, so Dadoo has to carry our little partner the old-fashioned way. She ain’t so little any more.

The poison ivy thickets nearly push us all the way to the surf zone while the heat bears down….1/3 of a mile starts to feel more like 13 miles.

The handheld GPS unit starts beeping, indicating our arrival at the exact coordinates of the Rhode Island Remote Spot. We set up shop to get our documentary work done. Skyla sits in the shade near a boulder. We busily conduct our Remote Spot Assessment (RSA).

The RSA consists of spending 15 minutes recording quantitative data on human presence/absence. Specifically, one of us stands calm and observes all surroundings in the time alloted. We observe sights, sounds, and smells of anything of human origin, then we identify it, estimate distance, and record the compass bearing of the datum. This is an attempt to measure the current effects of humanity on remoteness in each state. Additional to the RSA, we also make wildlife observations. Last, and not least, we make high resolution, panoramic photo and video of the Remote Spot. Through Project Remote, we are quantitatively measuring remoteness as it currently exists in the United States. This work provides a baseline of information on remote (i.e. roadless) areas that is useful to current and future roadless area conservation efforts.

This is the view southward from the Rhode Island Remote Spot. It’s what we just scrambled to get here and what we will return over to get back to our boat in the cove. Boats are visible out on Narragansett Bay as are human structures, such as towers, visible on the horizon.

A quick moment to snap what has become our cheesy tradition…the “Remotest Family in such and such state…” photograph. We wouldn’t do it any other way.

“The Remotest Family in Rhode Island.”

Our cousin and captain rings us by cell phone (looks like we’re getting service out here) and informs us that tide is coming in rapidly and for us to get moving…And that we did.

The Rhode Island Remote Spot trip was a quick, coastal out-and-back day jaunt. We were hardly awe-struck by its remoteness. Humans and their noises and structures were never so far away as to be undetectable. But the good news is that the Rhode Island Remote Spot has good prospects for preserving its current level of remoteness because it is part of the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. There may not be much wild and remote remaining in large parts of the East, but–if we can just save what IS left–then that’s the best we can hope for, and that is good enough.


We had to turn our comment function off due to Spam but wanted to share this post from Richard Simonetti of Calabash, NC. We love hearing from people who have memories, experiences, and knowledge of these remote areas we can only explore as a snapshot in time.

Richard Simonetti says:  “You mentioned that you found ruins of a possibility of humans once living there as now it’s a Bird Sanctuary. Of course there were humans living there as from 1940 till the early 70’s there was a Navy presence there in which I am proud to say that I was once part of that Naval presence back in the years 1960/1961. Hope Island was a Naval Ammunition Dump where I often pulled Sentry Duty guarding those Ammo Bunkers. Hope Island was part of the Quonset Point Naval Air Station where I was attacted that also closed in the 70’s. There might be still some remains such as an old shack we would sleep in while standing duty there. Also there might be some evidence of some old grovel roads that encircled the island and also remains of those ammo bunkers. There was also an old wooden building that might have been a Barn at one time as I once found out on google that these old buildings that I slept in there were built in the late 18th or early 19th century. Of course they were probably refurbished many times over the years but it’s something that I never know when I was a Young 18 year old Sailor. In a way it’s a little discouraging to realize that nobody seems to remember that there was a Navy presence there. It almost makes me feel like some extinct animal that roamed the Earth millions of years ago. Thanks for this memory!”