Block Island


Seasonal ferries run from New London CT, Montauk NY and Point Judith, RI. 

From Montauk, the Viking Ferry Lines, (516) 668-5700 provides seasonal passenger service to Block Island on between May 12th and May 25th. Fri, Sat, Sun and between May 26th and Oct. 9th Daily. Ferries depart Montauk 9:00 A.M. and arrive in New Harbor, Block Island at 10:45 A.M. Ferries depart Block Island at 4:30 P.M.


Block Island formed about 12,000 years ago when the glacier from the last Ice Age finally receded, leaving the sandy moraine which now makes up Long Island, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The Ronkonkoma moraine originally continued east , but today the only remains in New York constitute Block Island, 156 miles out across the "Rip."


pre-European settlement  --  the Manisses Indians lived here.

1590 -- a war party of 40 Mohegan Indians was driven over the bluffs at the Mohegan Bluffs by Block Island Indians -- the Manisseans. There is a stone monument to this event erected in 1942 by the Block Island Historical Society.

Block Island is named for Adriaen Block. In the early 1600s the Dutch were interested in establishing fur trading posts in the Hudson River area. Adriaen Block was hired to investigate and engage in trade.

1613 -- Block and another Dutch fur trader start sailing back to Holland with a cargo of furs. Block's ship, the Tiger, catches fire and is destroyed at the mouth of the Hudson River.
They built a new ship, the Onrust (the Restless).

1614 -- trial voyage of the Onrust. Block sails through the East River and Hell Gate and into Long Island Sound. Block is the first European to explore the Connecticut River, sailing 60 miles up river. He then returns to Holland.

1624 -- the Dutch build a settlement in New Amsterdam (New York) and a trading post on the Connecticut River.

1661  --  European settlers arrive on Block Island.  The island was forested at that time and had hundreds of fresh water ponds. They established a farming and fishing community.

1714 -- tree cutting became restricted. Today there are few trees on Block Island.

Civil War  --  population had grown from 25 to about 1350.

1867  -- the granite North Light lighthouse built.

1871  --  the brick South East Lighthouse built.

Island resident Nicholas Ball convinced the Federal Government to build a breakwater at "Old Harbor" thus giving the Island its first real harbor.

Victorian age  --  Large Victorian Hotels were built for the visiting steamship passengers and the Island became a well known vacation resort.

1950s --  the Island had reverted back primarily to farming and fishing. The year-round population fell to below 500 and the hotels sat mostly vacant.

1960s  -- summer cottage sprouted on the Island.  The rustic hotels were restored.

1980s  --  a real estate boom brought a fight against overdevelopment.

1993  --   the South East lighthouse was moved 270 feet away from the edge of the eroding bluff to safety.


The dominant vegetation type is maritime scrubland (tall shrubs along a dense understory ). This community is associated with exposure to offshore winds and salt spray.

Preserves and Parks:

The Mohegan Bluffs are large cliffs which rise 150 feet above the beautiful beaches.

Sachem Pond Wildlife Refuge is a fresh water pond surrounded by narrow barrier beaches. Here is the North Light Interpretative Center.


9/14/02 -- Patrick and Rosemary Cooney, Judith Fitzgerald, and Lenore Swensen took the 1.5 hours ferry boat from Montauk at 9 a.m. and then a taxi to Mohegan Bluffs (near the East Coast lighthouse). We walked down the long staircase at Mohegan Bluffs (143 steps) to take a look at the vegetation along the way. Beautiful area with great views from the bluffs. We then took the short walk to the lighthouse (which has a small museum and gift shop inside).

Later our taxi cab drive came back for us and we went to the downtown section, Old Harbor, to do some shopping (Star Department Store and more) and eat on the porch of the National Hotel. Then back to the Champlin Dock for the now 2 hour trip back to Montauk (against head-winds). Went to dinner at the Shagwong Restaurant in Montauk.

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney and Judith M. Fitzgerald
* = plants found in bloom, 5/14/02 -- trip to Mohegan Bluffs

Shrubs and sub-shrubs:
Aronia sp. (black chokeberry)?
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Ilex verticillata (winterberry)
Myrica pensylvanica (bayberry)
Rosa rugosa (wrinkled rose) *
Rosa virginiana (Virginia rose)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Rubus sp. (dewberry)
Sambucus racemosa (elderberry)
Viburnum recognitum (northern arrowwood viburnum)

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Clematis terniflora (sweet autumn clematis)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Polygonum scandens (climbing false buckwheat)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) *
Aster sp. (Small white aster) *
Atriplex patula (orache)
Cakile edentula (sea rocket)
Cichorium intybus (chicory) *
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Decodon verticillatus (swamp loosestrife)
Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) *
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod) *
Hypochaeris radicata (cat's ear) *
Lathyrus maritimus (beach pea)
Leontodon autumnalis (fall dandelion) *
Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs) *
Lotus corniculatus (birdfoot trefoil) *
Nuphar sp. (spatterdock)?
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose) *
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed) *
Polygonum sagittatum (arrowhead tearthumb) *
Rumex obtusifolius (curled dock)
Solidago rugosa (rough-leaved goldenrod) *
Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod) *
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) *
Tragopogon pratensis (showy goatsbeard) ?
Trifolium pratense (red clover) *
Trifolium repens (white clover) *
Tussilago farfara (colt's foot)

Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Carex lurida (sallow sedge)
Scirpus cyperinus (woolly grass bulrush)

Ammophila breviligulata (beach grass)
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Digitaria ischaemum (smooth crab grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Panicum virgatum (switch grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reedgrass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem grass)
Zostera marina (eelgrass)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Thelypteris palustris (marsh fern)

Fucus sp. (rockweed)