Aquidneck Island

Aquidneck Island

[uh-kwid-nek]

Aquidneck Island (or Rhode Island) is the largest island in Narragansett Bay. Its official name, Rhode Island, is used on USGS topographic and many other maps, but it is known locally as Aquidneck Island, in part to distinguish it from the State of Rhode Island, of which it is part. The state's official name is "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," which in part is a reference to the island in question. The total land area is 97.9 km² (37.8 sq mi), and the population was 60,870 as of the 2000 census.

The origin of the name "Rhode Island" is unclear. It may have been given its name because of its similarity in shape to the island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean. Alternatively, it may have been bestowed by Dutch navigator Adriaen Block who visited the island in 1614, who may have named it Roode after the Dutch word for "red".

The conflict between the official name of Aquidneck Island and the name of the state of which it is a part causes some amount of confusion, debate and controversy, it often being noted that "Rhode Island is not an Island." It is also sometimes suggested that the name of the island be officially changed to Aquidneck Island, to avoid confusion with the state as a whole.

The city of Newport, the state's fifth-largest city, shares the island with the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth.

The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge connects Aquidneck Island to Jamestown on nearby Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay, and subsequently to the mainland on the western side of the bay.

The Mount Hope Bridge (in Portsmouth), adjacent to Bristol Ferry and Common Fence Point, connects the northern side of Aquidneck Island to the mainland at Bristol. The Sakonnet River Bridge (in Portsmouth) also adjacent to Common Fence Point, connects the northeastern side of the island to the mainland at Tiverton over the Sakonnet River, a narrow saltwater strait. South of the Sakonnet River Bridge, in the area known as The Hummocks and Island Park, is the site of the Stone Bridge destroyed by Hurricane Carol in 1954. The bridges replaced long-running ferries to the mainland and other Narragansett Bay islands.

The island is home to Salve Regina University and the U.S. Naval War College.

References

  • Frederic Denlson, Narragansett Sea and Shore, (J.A. & R.A. Reid, Providence, RI., 1879)
  • George L. Seavey, Rhode Island's Coastal Natural Areas.

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