Urgency of Our Work

Savoring a swimming hole on a hot summer day, watching trout rise to kiss the surface over and over again, paddling through morning mists to the sound of birds, sitting on a bank watching and listening as water continues on its eternal journey. At the Vermont River Conservancy we believe future generations should continue to have the option to treasure these experiences, in every Vermont community.
Vermont’s Swimming Holes twenty-foot-hole-kids-resized
There is nothing for feeling alive like a visit to a swimming hole. Vermont’s hundreds of clean, natural swimming holes have been important to generations. These places restore the soul: cool, green oases, communal favorites that define the rural landscape, remnants of a simpler, saner time. Will these areas be there for our children and grandchildren? Will the water be swimmable? For examples of VRC’s work protecting Vermont’s swimming holes, see Buttermilk Falls, Dog River, Hancock Brook, Terrill Gorge and Twenty-Foot Hole.

Waterfalls and Gorges
Water is always trying to find its way to the center of the earth. For a long time, Vermonters have gravitated to falling water. Small wonder. The Green Mountain State has more than its fair share of delightful waterfalls, and people have always loved to visit them. We go for the mesmerizing, ever-changing sight of undulating flow, the lacy foam, the froth of white, the roar and thud, the quiet beauty of many-colored cobbles in clear pools, the sorcery of gray mists, the solid miracle of potholes, and the green, dripping luxuriance of hanging mosses. Buttermilk Falls, Lower Clarendon Gorge and Terrill Gorge are fine examples of Vermont waterfalls and gorges the VRC has helped protect.
Paddling and Fishing Vermont’s Rivers and Lakes
Vermont’s streams, rivers and lakes present a full spectrum of paddling experiences to boaters and fishing accesses to anglers. Big, slow rivers where great blue herons fish and swallows dart acrobatically overhead; steep creeks that challenge the most experienced white-water boaters; mountains looming, forests and farmlands stretching in the distance; water cloaked with morning mist, a beaver swimming, its wake draped behind like a cape. For examples of the VRC’s efforts to protect fishing and paddling access and undeveloped shorelines see the Belknap Nulhegan Projects, Dumaine, DeBanville Access, and the Lyman Falls project.

Wildlife near Vermont’s Waters’ Undeveloped Shorelines
ducks resized for web
So many species depend on the woods alongside Vermont’s waters. Ecosystems in themselves, these lands are important to the integrity of streams providing a rich mixture of plants and animals. Make your own list over time – what species have you observed where the water meets the land – birds, mammals, amphibians, over one hundred species of dragonflies. And the species that live in the water depend on the land as well. The food chain for fish begins with the leaves and other matter falling from streamside trees. See the Berlin Pond Conservation Project, North Branch, the Spotted Turtle project and the Wells River Conservation Area for examples of VRC’s work protecting wildlife habitat.

Chances are if you are reading this, you have spent many enjoyable moments in or near the water in Vermont, whether swimming, fishing, paddling, walking, or observing. Unfortunately for the lands along Vermont’s waters, as more houses are built and more waterside lands are transformed and posted, human and natural communities suffer.
The threats to Vermont’s waters and waterside lands include:

  • Loss of Public Access to Water Places – Loss of public access to waterways threatens one of the most visceral and basic connections to the natural world. Imagine a Vermont whose shore lands are posted and off limits to the public. Without our efforts, and your support, it will happen. Once people can’t get to their waters, will they care so much about protecting them?
  • Inappropriate Development of Shore Properties – Development adjacent to waters is damaging the biological health of river systems, reducing the ability of the landscape to provide free ecological services such as water filtration and flood and erosion control. Removal of vegetation in the riparian zone is threatening fish, wildlife, and water quality. New structures along what had once been undeveloped shore lands threaten the public enjoyment of waterways.
  • Over- Development of Watersheds and Lake and River Corridors – Increasing percentages of “impervious surface areas” (i.e. pavement and buildings) encourages water pollution. Rainwater flowing from developed lands often contains higher concentrations of pollutants that are able to flow directly into rivers.
  • Unmanaged Misuse and Abuse of Water Places – Without proper and thoughtful management, many exceptional water places are too popular. If Vermont’s swimming holes, waterfalls and gorges, and other popular sites are to be well cared for, Vermonters need to be excellent stewards of the lands along Vermont’s waters.

VRC is working to keep this from happening at places along our waters that are important to our communities.

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