SAMUEL SLATER CANAL BOAT
You can stay overnight, docked in Central Falls, Rhode Island on a canal boat named for the father of the American Industrial Revolution.
Slater brought the knowledge of British textile technology to America. His replicated and modified machinery designs would help start the first successful water powered mill in America. The Slater Mill still stands today as a museum on the Blackstone River near Pawtucket Falls.
The Samuel Slater was commissioned by the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and was built by C T & P Fox Builders of Cambridgeshire, England. It was completed in November 1999 and was the builder's first export. It was launched on the Blackstone River in May of 2000, available for river cruises and overnight stays. In the early half of the 19th century similar boats traveled the Blackstone Canal between Providence, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts.
Canal boats, or narrowboats, were designed to navigate the narrow canals and lock systems in the United Kingdom. Narrowboats were key in the British Industrial Revolution in transporting coal, dry goods, and other materials along the British canal system. These boats were eventually surpassed by a faster, more developed railway, which in turn led to the deterioration of the canals. Today, most modern canal boats are pleasure craft.
We arrived at the boat in the early afternoon, and were greeted by a member of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and a boat captain. We got settled in the boat with our belongings- we brought plenty of Long Live beers for the cruise the captain would take us on a little later, plus a bottle of wine and some oysters from Matunuck Oyster Farm in South Kingstown, RI. Some Seven Stars biscuits and local cheeses rounded out the snacks we had while we were docked for the evening. The council provided us with playing cards and binoculars- which were wonderful for viewing deer along the riverbank and the many birds we encountered out on the water.
At five o'clock Captain Matt met us back at the boat and took us for a cruise at about two miles per hour along the Blackstone River through a very idyllic part of Central Falls. The banks of the river were lush and full of wildlife- surprising for the most densely populated city in Rhode Island.
We relaxed at the back of the boat as it meandered along the river, while sipping beers and taking turns steering. We learned about the Blackstone River's important history of innovation and industrialization, and consequently, it's dire history of pollution. Its riverbanks funneled the heavy metals, dyes and solvents flowing from the textile mills and metal industries for centuries, and the river was deemed one of the most polluted in the country by the nineteen-nineties. The clean-up of the river has been a slow process, but many groups and communities are drawing people back to this valley for recreational purposes.
Getting to stay overnight and wake up to a quiet, sunny Sunday morning was an experience that can't be beat. The tight space was incredibly accommodating and comfortable. The front of the boat was prefect for spending time in the sun.
Visiting the Slater Mill museum on the Blackstone River near neighboring Pawtucket Falls is a relevant trip before or after a stay on the Samuel Slater canal boat. As the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, Slater Mill shaped both the fortune and the deterioration of the Blackstone River Valley. The museum honors innovation and the rich history of the region, but also educates about the perils of labor and pollution of the time. To learn even more about this region's history, check out Along the Blackstone, a National Park Service award-winning public access television show, available on the National Park Service Web site.
In 2014, legislation was signed to established the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, the 402nd park in the national park system to help preserve and protect the industrial heritage of the Blackstone River Valley.
Along with Slater Mill, other significant areas of this park to visit include:
The Blackstone River State Park in Lincoln, RI
Slatersville Historic District in North Smithfield, RI
Ashton Historic District in Cumberland, RI
Whitinsville Historic District in Northbridge, MA
Hopedale Village Historic District, in Hopedale, MA
The Blackstone River and tributaries of Blackstone River