A Living Legacy
Vermont’s Northern Lake Champlain Region was highly valued by early settlers for its fertile bottomlands, sheltered lake bays, the Winooski, Lamoille and Missisquoi rivers, and an especially temperate climate with a 150-day growing season (the Champlain region is still called the “banana belt” today).
Those same qualities, created by the ebb and flow of glaciers and lakes in the low-lying basin cradled between Vermont’s Green Mountains and the Adirondacks, produced one of the most biologically diverse regions in the state. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries farming, population and development pressures in Chittenden and Franklin counties—more extreme than those felt almost anywhere else in the state—caused a drastic reduction in the area’s cattail marshes, lakeside and riverine floodplain forests and clayplain forests.
By the 1960s, only fragments of many of these natural communities remained. Fortunately, this was the region in which the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy focused much of its early work, often barely outpacing developers by protecting choice landscapes and lakescapes that represent a wide variety of habitat. Those efforts are ongoing today, resulting in 24 natural areas, in the most densely populated part of Vermont. These varied natural areas—islands, beaches, bogs, marshes, ponds, river deltas and forests—which TNC either helped conserve or owns outright, are invaluable to the plants and animals that live there. They represent a remarkable natural heritage, a living legacy that invites exploration on foot, by bike or afloat.
From Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in the north to Williams Woods in Charlotte, this region is full of great places to explore on foot and by boat.
Some Places to Explore in the Northern Lake Champlain Valley
Alburg Dunes State Park
Burlington Intervale / Ethan Allen Homestead
Colchester Pond Natural Area
Fairfield Swamp WMA
H. Laurence Achilles Natural Area at Shelburne Pond
Halfmoon Cove WMA
LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area
Lewis Creek Hill Natural Area
Lower Lamoille River WMA
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
Mud Creek WMA
Mud Pond Conservation and Recreation Area
Richmond Rivershore Natural Area
Rock River WMA
Round Pond State Park
Williams Woods Natural Area