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Barrier Beach


Green Hill Rocks Visits Green Hill’s Barrier Beach

One of the characteristics of South County Rhode Island are the numerous barrier beaches along its shores. Barrier beaches are narrow strips of sand and dunes that run parallel to the coastline. They are separated from the main land by a body of water. In the neighborhood of Green Hill, Rhode Island, there are two barrier beaches.

The Barrier Beach at Green Hill Salt Pond

This week’s rock report was filmed at the barrier beach between Green Hill Beach and Green Hill Pond. Just before you reach Charlestown beach, you will discover a beautiful path that serves as a pedestrian bridge between the ocean beach and the pond. It is a special spot that is filled with beach roses and scrubby pines. When you reach the end of the path you are rewarded with a spectacular view looking across the pond and up at the hillside of Green Hill.

The Barrier Beach near Trustom Salt Pond

The best way to observe the barrier beach at Trustom Pond is to visit the Trustom Pond Center along Matunuck Schoolhouse Road and walk their trails out to the ocean. The pond and distant ocean views across the barrier beach here are magnificent. The ocean side of the barrier beach at Trustom Salt Pond is a restricted space and unlawful to travel by foot because of harmful disruption to the nests of the Piping Plover.

History of Barrier Beaches in South County, Rhode Island

Here’s a chilling excerpt from page 142 of the book, Sudden Sea, The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti. In his book, Scotti details the beaches of the seaside towns that stretch between Point Judith and Watch Hill, including Matunuck, Green Hill, Charlestown, Quonochontaug, Misquamicut and Weekapaug:

Barrier Beaches are spits of shifting sands between two bodies of water, the sea on one side, lagoons and salt ponds on the other. The ocean builds the barrier beaches, and like an artist whose creation is never as perfect as the picture in his head, the sea continually sculpts and resculpts them. Pounding surf and ocean winds shape them, filling in the tidal flats with sloping dunes and dramatic bluffs, some as high as twenty feet.

If you build on a barrier beach, you are toying with nature. It is borrowed land on loan from the sea, and eventually, inevitably, the sea will come back to claim it. When a tropical intruder unexpectedly blows in, there is no more vulnerable place. Barrier beaches form a buffer zone of sorts between the ocean and the mainland. In a hurricane, they become the killing fields.

The hurricane of 1938 took the lives of 400 people with 175 perishing along the coastline of south county.

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