Discover Seekonk River’s Odd Islands With An Unexpected Past
If you've ever driven from the SouthCoast to Providence with Google Maps open on your phone, then you may have noticed these two tiny islands to the right as you pass over the Washington Bridge.
My daughter happened to be holding my phone while we were using the app for directions recently and from the backseat I was asked, "Did you know there was a Pancake Island?"
In fact, I did not know about this tiny, tastily named island and its nearby neighbor, Gingerbread Island. Yet they both exist in the waters of the Seekonk River and it turns out they have quite the history.
Providence's legendary, macabre writer H.P. Lovecraft once mentioned this pair of islands in his personal writings. In an April 13, 1934, letter he wrote to his good friend and fellow writer, Duane Rimel, Lovecraft said,
"I used to row considerably on the Seekonk, which you'll find on your city map ... and also on general maps of R. I. Often I would land on one or both of the Twin Islands — for islands (associated with remote secrets, pirate treasure, and all that) always fascinated me."
The source of Lovecraft's theory that these super-small islands could ever hold pirate treasure remains to be seen, but he clearly believed the legends about them and spent time rowing along the river attempting to find adventure.
Presumably, he found nothing, because there have never been any reports of treasure of any kind being found on these islands. Currently, all that Pancake Island has space for is a single cell tower, and even the wires supporting this tower end up in the water.
Gingerbread Island is really nothing more than a small group of rocks with some grass on top.
Records from the late 1800s have them simply called the Twin Islands, yet by the 1930s they began showing up on city maps as Pancake and Gingerbread Island. Their names can still vary depending on the map, however.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration leaves them unnamed. Google obviously calls them Pancake and Gingerbread Island while the U.S. Board of Geographic Names lists them together as the Cup-Cake Islands.
No matter what you call them, you can see them next time you drive into Providence using the Washington Bridge. Or perhaps row out to them yourself one day and see about that treasure.