With the abundance of parks and historical landmarks found all over South County, you could spend years exploring them without seeing everything that this amazing part of the state has to offer.
One location that, despite its small size, is unquestionably worth a visit is Treaty Rock Park, a tiny space in South Kingstown, along Middlebridge Road and close to the Pettaquamscutt (Narrow) River. This location is teeming with history, as it was the location of some famous meetings between Native Americans and the region’s original European settlers, many of which shaped the state as we know it today.
Treaty Rock Park is a little off the beaten path, but its history and activities provide a pleasant day break for families looking for something to do away from the crowds this summer.
The History of Pettaquamscutt Rock
The most intriguing aspect of Treaty Rock Park is Pettaquamscutt Rock – sometimes called Treaty Rock – and its long and storied history. Before European settlement, the rock was used by Native Americans as a lookout and a location for leaders of local tribes to meet. Since the stone is about 50 feet high, it is possible to see the river, ocean, and what is now Narragansett from its peak, hence its popularity as a meeting place.
The rock’s significance to local tribes is also why it became the location where Roger Williams, William Dyre, and William Coddington finalized the purchase of Aquidneck Island – home of present-day Newport and Portsmouth – and Providence in 1637 or 1638. This transaction kicked off the peaceful settlement of Europeans in this part of the country, helping to shape what we have here today.
Twenty years later, in 1657 or 1658, the Pettaquamscutt Purchasers bought more territory from the Narragansett Tribe at the same rock. This purchase, along with other transactions in the coming years, gave European settlers rights to South Kingstown, Narragansett, Exeter, and parts of North Kingstown, paving the way for further expansion into Rhode Island.
Being able to visit the location where so many important historic events in Rhode Island’s past took place is reason enough for any history buff to stop by Treaty Rock Park for a quick visit.
The Hiking Trail
There is a hiking trail that makes its way through the park and up to the top of Pettaquamscutt Rock. Even though it’s only about half a mile long, the hike is challenging because the trails are unblazed and it heads through some thick brush.
Once you reach the end of the actual trail, you’ll have the option of climbing the rock or turning around and heading back to the park. The climb can be tricky, as there are steep inclines and some loose rocks and soil.
If you're comfortable with a little climbing, the payoff is worth the effort because you'll have views of the Atlantic Ocean, Narragansett, and even the Newport Bridge to the far northeast. Once you're up there, you'll quickly see why Native Americans used the rock as a lookout, as they could see the entire area while remaining completely sheltered.
Other Activities in the Park
There are some modern elements to Treaty Rock Park, as well, including basketball courts, a playground, and a sizable green space. These additions make it possible for families to spend a few hours there. Dogs are allowed in the park as long as you have a bag to clean up after them. Limited parking spaces are available, and there are a few benches if you’re looking to relax.
A Relaxing Day at the Park
When the oceanfront beaches and parks get busy in the summer, you might find yourself looking for a quiet place to relax for a few hours. Walking to the top of Pettaquamscutt Rock can make you feel isolated on some days since there’s a chance you won’t run into another person on your journey.
Once you reach the top, you can’t help but imagine what it was like when these significant events took place there over 380 years ago. Much of the landscape probably looks the same, minus the houses, buildings, and boats and you’ll probably have the same views over the Atlantic as these early settlers.
Visiting some historic venues is a pleasant way to unwind when life gets too busy, and luckily, South County has Pettaquamscutt Rock, Treaty Rock Park, and a host of other outstanding places for residents to explore.