Five nature trails at Salter Grove offer the opportunity to see hundreds of bird and plant species, many of which have been labeled. Sightings shows which you can see today. Stations highlight special trail features.
Tap the green i-icon for trail highlights, and the trail name for a more detailed description. In either location, tap "Show the trailhead..." to see the start of that trail displayed in Google Maps as a navigation aid.
All five trails have numbered distance markers 100 feet apart to serve as spatial reference and for visitors to pinpoint the location of interesting sightings.
Audubon Trail (AØ to A9) (Show trailhead in Google Maps) starts about 30 feet west of the Pond trailhead and goes through upward sloping woodland west of the vernal pond. There are large trees and understory plants like jack-in-the-pulpit that do well in heavy shade. Where the trail curves upslope, visitors can marvel at a tree-of-heaven with a sharply bent trunk. Nearby, there is a pudding stone for the geologically curious beneath a grove of sassafras. Native wetland plants like the small-spiked false-nettle and common water-primrose are also easily visible as the vernal pond dries out.
The trail continues up to the crest of Audubon Field, where woodland vegetation gives way to sun-loving plants like goldenrods and the common blackberry growing on the edge of an expansive lawn. There is an extremely large eastern red cedar in the middle of this lawn that provides shelter for small birds. Enjoy expansive views of the bay and seabirds on a shaded bench before going downhill along the edge of shrubby vegetation to connect to the Marsh Trail. Audubon Field is a favorite sledding spot for neighborhood children of all ages.
Marsh Trail (MØ to M11) (Show trailhead in Google Maps) starts about 140 feet east of the entrance to the graveled causeway and is a straight run along the shoreline until it stops at the southern edge of the park. Along its length there are connectors to the Upland Trail (M1 to M8), the Pond Trail (M8.5) and the Audubon Trail (M10). The Marsh Trail showcases many species native to New England marshes such as salt marsh sand-spurry, seaside goldenrod and smooth cordgrass and has relatively fewer introduced species than the other trails.
Except at the beginning, the Marsh Trail is not clearly delineated. However, visitors can easily wend their way through the marsh vegetation made patchy by tidal action. The walk can be quite squishy depending on time elapsed since the last high tide. Distance markers have been placed above the high tide line. A well defined deer track closer to the water's edge is visible as the tide recedes. Experience how insects must feel as you walk through a tall stand of common reed at the end of the trail. Check the tide schedule to avoid wet feet
Pond Trail (PØ to P5) (Show trailhead in Google Maps.) starts about 40 feet west of the Upland trailhead and goes south through low-lying woodland on the eastern border of the elongated ephemeral pond. Large trees prefering a moist soil predominate. There is a well established stand of black-gum as well as scattered individuals of American elm, unscathed by Dutch elm disease. Native plants such as the coastal sweet pepper bush and tall meadow-rue thrive in the shady understory. The trail emerges from bottomland vegetation to enter a brushy area of Morrow's and Tartarian honeysuckles before joining the Marsh Trail (M8.5).
Rock Island Trail (RØ to R8) (Show trailhead in Google Maps) is more rugged than the other trails and is accessed via the causeway out to the breakwater. The trail starts at the southern end of the breakwater where there is a large flat-topped shrub of poison ivy. Stunted individuals of eastern red cedar, heath American-aster, and smooth serviceberry sparsely cover the high rocky ground at the trail’s beginning.
After crossing a tidally inundated marsh where mute swans and Canada geese sometimes roost when the tide is out, the trail continues onto a larger rocky area covered by windswept individuals of black oak, cultivated apple, and small bayberry, before ending in a poorly vegetated marshy area north of less accessible rocky islets. Visitors should check the tide schedule before heading out to avoid a very wet and potentially dangerous return trip.
Upland Trail (UØ to U12) (Show trailhead in Google Maps) heads south at the edge of the woods and lawn, south of the parking lot. As it loops back northward there are nice views of Rock Island and connectors down to the Marsh Trail. This trail offers clear evidence of the glacial history of Rhode Island. Towering individuals of native trees like black oak and black cherry are conspicuous along the trail through upland woods dominated by introduced plants like Asian bittersweet and Norway maple. However, there is a hotspot at the beginning of the trail where as many as 20 native species can be seen close to one another.
After emerging from the woods, the trail passes a rectangular picnic table on the South Lawn before continuing through a small brushy area and emerges east of the parking lot. It crosses the entrance to the causeway, then the boat launch, and follows the northern edge of North Lawn to end at the foot of a large Dawn Redwood. Just north of the redwood, dense shrubbery and a storm drain combine to yield unexpected bird species throughout the year.