The town was named after James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685. It seems that Conanicut Island played a role in both the Revolutionary War and World War II. For a time, it was occupied by British forces during the Revolutionary War, leaving many buildings destroyed as they retreated.
And during World War II, Fort Burnside was constructed on Beavertail Point to monitor all the incoming and outgoing military ships, while also protecting the harbor against possible enemy attacks.
Beavertail Point is in Beavertail State Park, which lies on the southernmost tip of Conanicut Island within Narragansett Bay. The point is known for some of the most beautiful vistas along the New England coastline, the best saltwater fishing in the area, and scenic hiking trails that meander along its rocky coastline.
The State Park is also home to the ever-popular Beavertail Lighthouse. Prior to the establishment of a lighthouse, local Native Americans would keep pitch fires burning here to war sailors away from the dangeous coastline. There’s been a lighthouse at Beavertail since 1749, when it was the premier lighthouse in Rhode Island and the third lighthouse built in the country. The present granite lighthouse was built in 1856.
Beavertail Point features two major subjects of interest to photographers. The first is the lighthouse itself, and the second is a series of narrow channels and tide pools that face east and west. At certain times of the year, the channels face directly into the rising and setting sun, making them highly photogenic especially when the sun paints the clouds in colorful hues at the edge of day.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
You’ll see both narrow and wide channels all along the coastline at Beavertail Point. I find them to be at their best between November and February, when the sun is well aligned with most inlets, permitting more dramatic scenes that are backlit and include sun and colorful clouds.
Although it’s possible to photograph the inlets at either the beginning or end of the day, I find the west-facing channels more photogenic, hence I prefer to come here at sunset.
Walking the hiking trail along the shoreline is an excellent way to explore your options. I always arrive early to search for a composition that will vary depending on tide level and sky conditions.
Getting to Jamestown involves crossing a bridge. When coming from the west, drive on RI-138E over the Jamestown-Verrazono Bridge. Once across the bridge, take the Helm Street exit and continue onto Tashtassuc Road for about half a mile. Then turn onto North Road for two miles, and continue onto Southwest Avenue for another half mile. You’ll soon come to Beavertail Road and arrive at Beavertail State Park after two miles.
When arriving from Newport, take RI-138W over the Clairborne Pell Newport Bridge, and turn right on East Shore Road after clearing the toll booths. At the end of the road, turn left onto Conanicus Avenue for about a mile, then turn right onto Narragansett Avenue for another half mile. Turn left onto Southwest Avenue for about half a mile, and then continue on Beavertail Road to Beavertail State Park.
Beavertail Point is notorious for its high winds and rough surf, so be wary of the coast on windy days. When standing on shore, always keep a watchful eye for rogue waves that can wash ashore at any time without warning. Many have been swept out to see in high tide conditions, or ruined their camera equipment to corroding sea salt. Always watch for sea spray on your lens that can ruin a perfectly good photo.
Watch out for innocent-looking rocks that can otherwise turn deadly when wet. I always wear boots for seascapes just in case I choose to stand in shallow waters for a better composition. But if you choose to do the same, be careful of your footing as algae-covered rocks are very slippery.