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This small creek does big things. Lower East Creek is a slow-moving, nutrient-rich stream that flows into Lake Champlain and serves as the lifeline for 800 acres of wetlands. The creek drains 21,000 acres of surrounding land. The East Creek marsh, located near the mouth of the stream, contains one of the largest stands of narrow-leaved cattail in the state, and it's a haven for nesting waterfowl like the American bittern and the common moorhen. At the confluence of the main creek and the north fork, there is a prime example of the floodplain forests that once dominated riparian areas in the Lake Champlain Valley.
East Creek includes a large area of high quality marshland that serves as important habitat for waterfowl and many species of fish. The Conservancy is working to protect multiple ecological targets at this site including the deepwater marsh and lakeside floodplain forest.
The best access to the natural area is via canoe from Lake Champlain. The canoe trip on the lake to and from the creek can be difficult, especially if there are boat wakes on the lake or if the wind is up, but once you're in the creek, it gets easier.
The East Creek Natural Area is located near the state's 398-acre East Creek Wildlife Management Area. It's also adjacent to the Mount Independence State Historic Site. Please read our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.
The narrow-leaved cattail marsh at the mouth of the creek provides crucial feeding and nesting habitat for many marsh birds. Arrowhead (also known as duck potato because ducks and muskrats eat its starchy tubers), pickerelweed, and wild rice are also common aquatic plants in the marsh. You can see the purple spiky flowers of the pickerelweed blooming in mass profusion along the creek much of the summer. Other common aquatic or semi-aquatic plants found here include: burreed, pondweed, duckweed, bladderwort, yellow pond lily, coontail, water plantain and scented white water lily.
Many water birds nest and feed along the creek, especially in the marsh area: American bittern, the common moorhen, Virginia rail, least bittern, marsh wren and swamp sparrow have been sighted here. Predatory birds like osprey, marsh hawks, and bald eagles, though rare, occasionally soar above the creek in search of a meal. Other common birds seen here include the tree swallow, mourning dove, kestrel, common crow, gray catbird, American goldfinch, killdeer, white-breasted nuthatch, eastern kingbird and cedar waxwing.
Muskrats build houses out of the narrow-leaved cattails along the upper portions of the creek and mink cruise the banks for food. Other mammals like coyotes, bobcats, white tailed deer and shrews inhabit the uplands.
Painted turtles often sun themselves on shore. Their cousins, the snapping turtles, probe the depths of the creek and prey on unsuspecting ducklings. The northern water snake thrives in the south fork of the creek.
Fish are abundant in East Creek, and it is a favorite local fishing hole. When water levels are high in the spring, long-nosed gar spawn in the creek. Many fish species live here, including the blackchin shiner, bridle shiner, golden shiner, bullhead, rock bass, chub and yellow perch.
There are two access points to East Creek from Lake Champlain: Buoy 39 Marina, south of East Creek, and Larabee Point Fish and Game access, north of the creek. The marina is privately owned; there is a fee for launching your boat here.
To Buoy 39 Marina: Take Route 22A to Orwell. Follow Route 73 west to the "Y" to Mount Independence Road. Buoy 39 Marina is at the end of Mount Independence Road. From here it's a 1.25-mile, approximately half-hour paddle north on Lake Champlain to East Creek.
To Larrabee Point Fish and Game access: From Orwell, follow Route 73 west and then north to Hough Crossing. Go about three more miles to just south of the ferry crossing. It's a one-mile, approximately half-hour paddle south on Lake Champlain to East Creek.