Walking Wolf Hill
If you’ve paddled on Woonasquatucket Reservoir in Smithfield, or even just driven on the roads in the area, you may have noticed a long, wooded ridge, wild and undeveloped, rising up beside the southern arm of the reservoir. Check a map and you may have noted that this ridge is called Wolf Hill and much of it is a preserve. “Gee, that looks like a nice place to go for a walk, you might have said.” But until recently, a walk on Wolf Hill was an adventure in trying to navigate a maze of poorly marked and poorly mapped trails that wandered over the 300-acre hill.
That’s all changed. This past summer the Smithfield Land Trust unveiled a new trail map and celebrated the completion of a major overhaul of the trail system, adding new trails and improving the existing trails so they are easier to follow and nicer to walk. Roy Najecki, a trustee of the Glocester Land Trust, volunteered his time to create the new map, walking the trails with a GPS, sometimes spending as much as six hours at a time gathering data up on the hill. Najecki then spent many more hours back at home compiling the data and creating the map, which is now available here on ExploreRI. Najecki’s work is part of an ongoing project by the Rhode Island Land Trust Council to assist land trusts across Rhode Island with trail mapping and blazing. Results of that project are being posted here on ExploreRI as they become available. Many others were involved in the trail work, including Barbara Rich, current chairwoman of the Smithfield Land Trust and Ann Marie Ignasher, founding chairwomen of the Trust.
All the trails are gently rolling, with the exception of a southern portion of Mary Mowry Trail which is very steep and rocky. Many of the trails are old farm and woods roads from the time this was part of the Mowry Farm. Wolf Hill was not prime farmland; it was instead the “back acreage” the Mowrys used as a source for firewood and occasional hunting. Most of the property is a mature oak and maple forest, with a few stands of pine and hemlock. The undergrowth contains many huckleberry and lowbush blueberry bushes. Several vernal pools are visible from the trails.
In the center of the property is a memorial to three airmen who perished when their plane crashed on this site in August 1943. Bisecting the property is a right-of-way for National Grid’s high voltage power lines. This right-of-way has created a low bush habitat for wildlife and here deer, wild turkeys, songbirds, and hawks can often be seen. At the southern end of the property is Mercer Outlook which offers views of the Providence skyline and beyond. Along the Ken Weber Trail the side of the rock ledge that makes up Wolf Hill is clearly visible.
This winter, if enough snow falls, strap on your skis or snowshoes and explore the new trails, but avoid the Mary Mowry Trail on skis or snowshoes as it’s too steep and rocky for either. Or when Spring comes, head out for a walk and enjoy this beautiful forested hill in the midst of Smithfield, and just 20 minutes from Providence!