Block Island

Block Island

Infobox Settlement
official_name = New Shoreham, Rhode Island
settlement_type = Town
nickname =

imagesize =
image_caption =


mapsize =
map_caption =

mapsize1 =
map_caption1 =
subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_type1 = State
subdivision_type2 = County
subdivision_name = United States
subdivision_name1 = Rhode Island
subdivision_name2 = Washington
government_type = Council-manager
leader_title = First Warden
leader_name = Kimberly H. Gaffett
established_date = 1664
area_magnitude =
area_total_sq_mi =
area_land_sq_mi =
area_water_sq_mi =
area_total_km2 =
area_land_km2 =
area_water_km2 =
population_as_of = 2000
population_note =
population_total = 1010
population_density_km2 =
metro pop =
timezone = EST
utc_offset = -5
timezone_DST = EDT
utc_offset_DST = -4
elevation_m =
elevation_ft =
latd = 41 |latm = 10 |lats = 11 |latNS = N
longd = 71 |longm = 34 |longs = 48 |longEW = W
website =
postal_code_type = ZIP code
postal_code = 02807
area_code = 401
blank_name =
blank_info =
blank1_name =
blank1_info =
footnotes =

Block Island is part of the U.S. state of Rhode Island and is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately convert|13|mi|km|0 south of the coast of Rhode Island, and is separated from the mainland by Block Island Sound. The United States Census Bureau defines Block Island as Census Tract 415 of Washington County, Rhode Island. As of the 2000 census the population of 1,010 lived on a land area of convert|25.211|km2|sqmi|3|abbr=on. The island is a fragment of glacial terminal moraine (tracing through the Outer Lands region). [ [ Census Tract 415, Washington County] United States Census Bureau]

Block Island was named by the The Nature Conservancy as one of twelve sites in its list of "The Last Great Places" in the Western Hemisphere. Roughly 20% of the Island has been set aside for conservation. [cite web|title=One of the last great places|url=|publisher=Providence Journal,|accessdate=2007-10-01|date=June 9, 2005]

The only town on the island is New Shoreham. The island is a popular summer tourist destination and is known for its excellent bicycling, hiking, sailing, fishing, and beaches. Two historic lighthouses are present on the island: Block Island North Light, on the northern tip of the island (established in 1829, current lighthouse was built in 1868), and Block Island Southeast Light, on the southeast side of the island (built in 1875). Much of the northwest tip of the island is an undeveloped natural area and resting stop for birds along the Atlantic Flyway.

Every summer the island hosts Block Island Race Week, a highly competitive, week-long sailboat racing event. On odd years, the event is held by the [ Storm Trysail Club] , and on even years by the [ Block Island Race Week] organization. Yachts compete in various classes, sailing courses in Block Island Sound, and circumnavigating the island.

Other popular events include the annual Fourth of July Parade and celebration. During these times the island's population can triple over the normal summer vacation crowd.


In 1524, what later became known as Block Island was sighted by Giovanni de Verrazzano who named it Luisa after Louise of Savoy, the Queen Mother of France. He described Luisa as "about the size of the Island of Rhodes." In fact, they are shaped very similarly. When the founders of Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations surveyed the land, they thought that Aquidneck Island was the place referred to by Verazanno--possibly because in 1614, it was charted by the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, after whom it is named. [ Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State] ; "Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State"; retrived on October 23, 2007] At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, it was occupied by a branch of the Narragansett people who called the island "Manisses." English settlers from the mainland first arrived in 1661, when the island was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The island became part of the colony of Rhode Island in 1672 and the island government adopted the name "New Shoreham." A of 1685 clearly shows Block Island, indicated as "Adrian Block Island" ("Adriaen Blocks Eylant").

In 1829 the original North Lighthouse was built, but it was replaced in 1837 after it was washed out to sea. This lighthouse was also claimed by the ocean . In 1867, the lighthouse that can be seen today was constructed. [ Rhode Island Light Stations] ; "United States Coast Guard"; retrieved on October 23, 2007] A few years later in 1873, construction began on Block Island's other lighthouse, Southeast Light.

Since Block Island has no natural harbors, in 1870 breakwaters were constructed to form Old Harbor. Block Island's other harbor, New Harbor, wouldn't be created until 1895 when a channel was dug that connected the Great Salt Pond to the ocean through the north west side of the island.

The Island Free Library, Block Island's only public library, was established in 1875. Block Island's school was built in 1933, replacing five one roomed schools. The island's airport was opened in 1950 and remains open today as a general aviation airport. In 1972 the Block Island Conservancy was founded. The Conservancy and other environmental organizations are responsible for protecting over 40% of the island being from development [ The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island - Block Island] ; "The Nature Conservancy"; retrieved on October 30, 2007] . In 1974 Old Harbor was declared a National Register historic site.


Block Island's weather is greatly influenced by the surrounding ocean and prevailing winds that generally blow offshore. The climate is continental, with some maritime influence. Because the ocean stays cold during the Spring and Summer months, Block Island stays cooler than the mainland during this period. However, summers can still be hot on Block Island although July and August average in the mid and upper 70s instead of low and mid 80s that New York and New England experience. Block Island's record high temperature is convert|95|°F|°C|0|abbr=on. Block Island stays warmer than the mainland during the fall and winter months when the ocean remains relatively warmer than the mainland. Block Island's record low is convert|-7|°F|°C|0|abbr=on.

Block Island's High and Low Temperature Averages and Precipitation Averages:


Crescent Beach can be viewed from the Pt. Judith Ferry on the way to the island. It contains three smaller beaches, Fred Benson Town Beach (still popularly known as State Beach due to its former status as one), Scotch Beach, and Mansion Beach, all of which are located on Corn Neck Road. State Beach and Ballards Beach are the only beaches on the island with on-duty life guards. State Beach has a pavilion with food and beach rentals. The so-called Baby Beach begins at the Surf Hotel, near the Beachhead Restaurant on Corn Neck Rd. Scotch Beach is located just north of Fred Benson Town Beach and Mansion Beach is located north of Scotch Beach.

From Mansion Beach north you run into Clayhead and Pots & Kettles. Clayhead are the cliffs that you first see when riding the ferry in from Point Judith or New London. This area is rocky and full of iron rich clay deposits, great for shell and rock hunting. and if you continue north you will end up at the Northern tip of the island.

Cow Cove, Settler's Rock & Sandy Point make up the northernmost point of Block Island. Here lies the North Lighthouse and the postcard sunsets. Settler's Rock is here at Cow Cove, right where the settlers landed and swam to shore bringing with them the island's first cows which they pushed off the boats and forced ashore. Attached to the rock is a plaque that holds the names of the original settlers of Block Island. This beach is not good for swimming on the ocean side, especially at the point, as the rip current is fierce. On the other side, however, is Sachem Pond, fresh water and good for swimming.

On the south side of the island, Black Rock Beach is widely regarded as the best beach for surfing on the island due to its high surf. However, the beach tends to be very rocky and has a reputation for being a nude beach, despite laws against nudity on Rhode Island's beaches. It is located near the Mohegan Bluffs and Southeast Lighthouse.

Coastguard Beach is situated between the Great Salt Pond and the ocean on the north west side of the island. It is a popular beach for fishing and walking, but not particularly good for swimming due to the large number of boats traveling nearby.

Ballard's Beach is on the southern side of the Block Island Ferry Dock and jetty. Set right in front of Ballard's Restaurant and Inn, popular with boaters and with the young crowd. There are cocktail waitresses on the sand, and daily live music outside. There's also a busy volleyball court with daily games and tournaments. There are lifeguards at Ballards Beach, it's busy and sometimes noisy.

Bluffs Beach is accessed by parking at the Mohegan Bluffs entrance and walking down the stairs. There are 141 steps to this rocky area, the view from above is spectacular attraction. At the foot of these steep wooden stairs are big rocks leading to the beach. A word of caution also about walking near the bluffs. If you look up at the steep cliffs along the sand you will see where the island is eroding. This can be very dangerous as there is no warning as to when a chunk of land will fall from above. This has proved to be fatal in the past, so do not walk or sit too close to the bluffs. The same is true for when you are at the top of the bluffs, be mindful and watch your children. Do not walk too close to the edge. For this reason the main bluffs overlook is now closed to sightseers. Continuing south from the Bluffs you'll run into Vail Beach. Access this beach by parking at the first left on Snake Hole Road, where the painted rock is. There's only room for two or three cars here and the path can be a difficult walk. This is a popular surfing spot when the surf is up. You won't find many people here. It's very rocky, no sand and the surf is usually too rough for swimming.

Tourist attractions

Southeast Lighthouse is located at the southeast corner of the island on the Mohegan Trail. The lighthouse was constructed in 1875 [ Block Island South East Lighthouse National Historic Landmark Nomination] ; "National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program"; retrieved on October 23, 2007] and remains to this day an active US Coast Guard navigational aid. In addition to offering tours of the tower, the lighthouse has a museum that is open during the summer season. [ Daytripper's Guide: Block Island] ; "University of Rhode Island Sea Grant"; retrieved on October 22, 2007]

Mohegan Bluffs is located a short distance to the west of Southeast Lighthouse. The Bluffs are the site of a battle between the invading Mohegan Indians, and the native Manisee Indians in which the Mohegans were driven off the edge of the tall cliffs to their deaths on the beach below. A long staircase leads to the bottom of these clay cliffs and looks out over the Atlantic. On clear days, Montauk, New York can be seen in the distance from the southern and western sides of the island.

Rodman's Hollow is a 230-acre glacial outwash basin, near the southern shore of the island. The hollow has several walking trails. [cite web
title=Rodman's Hollow

North Lighthouse is located at Sandy Point on the northern tip of Block Island. The North Lighthouse warns boaters of a sandbar extending from this end of the island. The surrounding dunes are part of the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to many species, including the Piping Plover and American Burying Beetle. [cite web
title=Block Island National Wildlife Refuge

U-853 is a U-boat wreck convert|7|mi|km|0 east of the island, lying in convert|130|ft|m|0|abbr=on of water. Recreational divers frequently visit the wreck, though at least three have died there. [cite book | title=Block Island—The Sea | author=Robert M. Downie | publisher= Book Nook Press | date= 1998, page 194] [cite web||title=Probe into scuba instructor death could take two months|url=|accessdate=2007-07-23]


The island is connected year-round by a ferry to Point Judith, and in summer to New London, Connecticut; Montauk, New York; and Newport, Rhode Island. The [ traditional ferry] , takes about an hour to reach the island from Point Judith. A [ high-speed ferry] on the same route takes 35 minutes. Another [ high-speed ferry] from New London, Connecticut to Block Island takes an hour and a half. New England Airlines offers regularly scheduled 12-minute flights to Block Island State Airport from Westerly, Rhode Island. [

Besides New England Airlines, the island airport is used mainly by small, privately-owned aircraft, with a huge increase in activity at the airport during the summer months when many of the grass areas around the aprons and taxiways are used to park aircraft. The airport is officially called Block Island State (code: BID) and has a single, paved 2,502-ft. long runway, in an east-west orientation. The airport elevation is 108ft above sea level and the terminal is about one mile from the town center.

There have been several fatal air crashes over the years on Block Island. On August 26, 1995, a Cessna 185 seaplane carrying four people crashed while attempting to land for the third time in the waters off of Old Harbor Beach, an area not normally used for seaplane landings. The plane cleared a dune but hit a power line causing it to crash into a restaurant, G.R. Sharkeys, and hitting a car at the islands only gas station. All four people on the plane perished as well as one person on the ground. Nobody was hurt at the restaurant, which was destroyed by the impact of the plane and resulting fire, but a woman was killed sitting in her car as it was being fueled. The plane severely damaged the gas station when it crashed but the two pumps did not explode. On July 5, 2006, a plane carrying three people crashed about 1/2 mile west of the airport during bad weather. The aircraft had just taken off and was on its way to White Plains, NY, and carried a prominent surgeon, his wife, and mother. cite web
title=New England Airlines


The area around Block Island has been the site of numerous shipwrecks, including the Steamer Larchmont in 1907 [] . Two submarines also sank off of Block Island: the USS S-51 in 1925 [ The Block Island Times] ; "The Block Island Times"; retrieved on October 30, 2007] , and the German U-Boat U-853 in 1945 [ Shipwrecks - Northern Maritime Research - Northern Shipwrecks Database - Famous Shipwrecks of the Last 400 Years] ; "Northern Maritime Research"; retrieved on October 30, 2007] .


External links

* [ Block Island Times Newspaper]
* []

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