3. The Clay Pit Trail
The Clay Pit Trail can be accessed from several different locations. The primary entrance is on the opposite side of the main road from the Brickyard Pond Trail’s parking area near Grey Gulls. The trail initially follows an old road that leads toward the clay pits, created when clay was mined for the Fishers Island Brick Manufacturing Company at the end of the 19th century. These are “water table” ponds; they rise and fall depending on the amount of rainfall seeping into the ground.
Several hundred yards in from the main road, you reach the junction with a loop trail. Moving straight ahead will take you up a steep grade to an elevated path that overlooks the clay pits and provides scenic views of the ponds through the surrounding Red Maples. As the uphill trail first approaches the clay pits, a steep spur trail to the left leads downhill to a stream that drains the pond area toward the north. There is usually a plank at the bottom of the hill permitting passage over the stream. The return back up to the main trail is very difficult.
The main path continues uphill, a ridge above the western-most of the two ponds. The trail extends to a well earned resting spot with a large oak bench that provides an unobstructed view of Block Island and its wind turbines on clear days. This lookout also offers the clearest view of the pond below. Across the pond note the Isabella Beach parking lot. Continuing downhill along the forest edge will bring you onto a path that leads to the skeet range.
After moving a short distance though the range, on the right you will see the entrance to the part of the loop that parallels the main road. This trail passes through a wonderfully complex hydric forest area. Privet and Bush Honeysuckle, both introduced invasive species, have gained a strong foothold here. The trail continues through a scenic woodland, serpentining past a number of forks. A left at either of the two forks will bring you to the main road. Staying to the right will bring you over a small plank bridge then along a path that changes elevations several times before entering a moist area with extensive glades of ferns.
One of these contains a large patch of Netted Chain Fern, an uncommon species on the Island, sitting beneath an understory of Flowering Dogwood. You may also see Hay-scented Fern, Ebony Spleenwort, New York Fern, Lady Fern, Christmas Fern, Sensitive Fern, Horsetail, and Marginal Woodfern, all providing a year-round green cover.
After passing through this area you will rejoin the old mining road. Turning left on that road will return you to the parking area near Grey Gulls.