News Archive

Rivers Are For All

Friday, June 5th, 2020

The Vermont River Conservancy remains committed to our goal of public access to our rivers for all to enjoy. We believe that river access offers a connection with the natural world, a connection that transcends socioeconomic status, physical abilities, and race.

Simply put, VRC believes rivers are open to ALL.

In order to fully embrace and live our mission, VRC will oppose the systemic racism that is prevalent throughout our state, region and country. We humbly acknowledge that we have work to do to ensure we are not preventing our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members full access to the beauty and peace our river spaces provide.

James Lyall, Executive Director of ACLU of Vermont wrote these words: “Vermonters may feel a world away from Minneapolis and the sites of so many uprisings, but we are not. Every metric we have shows that Black Vermonters face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, and justice.”

Vermont River Conservancy will not let these barriers stop our BIPOC friends from enjoying all that our rivers have to offer. We acknowledge that words are not enough, and we commit our organization to consider equity and inclusion with each new project we take on, to being more deliberate in reaching out for other perspectives and thinking beyond our own experiences, and to being anti-racist in all aspects of our work.

North Branch Cascades, photo credit: Wayne Fawbush

VRC welcomes a Swimming Hole Steward for the summer!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy is very proud to host its second AmeriCorps volunteer, and to create this new partnership with Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.  With funding support from AmeriCorps, the Richmond Conservation Commission, Richmond Land Trust, and the Lintilhac Foundation, VRC’s newest Swimming Hole Steward Morgan Perlman will support our stewardship efforts at popular swimming holes in Central Vermont.  You’ll see him this summer at the Lower Huntington Gorge, the Bolton Potholes, and the North Branch Cascades greeting and surveying visitors, picking up litter and reminding you to Carry In, Carry Out any trash, implementing our management plans with trail maintenance, new signage, and environmental interpretation.  We always encourage you to leave if parking is crowded, and remind you never to park illegally as it creates safety issues for road travel and emergency responses, and it means the site is too crowded to maintain safe distances from other people.  And new this summer: to stay safe during the COVID19 pandemic, state guidance includes bringing your mask, staying in household groups of less than ten, giving a minimum of six feet space between you and others, washing your hands regularly, and keeping your dogs leashed.  Morgan’s service is not to enforce these safety guidelines, but he can happily remind you why they are so important for keeping everyone healthy as we get outside and enjoy summer!  Say hi to him when you see him, and please tell him what you like about each swimming hole – we want to know!


VRC welcomes Conservation Stewardship intern

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

We are excited to introduce our Conservation Stewardship Intern,  Tessa Schneider, to our VRC team.  In this position, Tessa will visit all of our conserved lands across the state, documenting her visits and reporting on river conditions and land use. As part of our conservation work, we monitor each of our easements annually to ensure that the terms of the easements are being upheld and to follow up on any issues. We conduct site visits for our 70+ projects with the help of an intern each summer. As a junior studying at the University of Vermont, this internship will help inform her future studies and professional interests.  Tessa looks forward to getting to know the beautiful rivers of Vermont!


Swimming Hole Guidelines for Pandemic

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

The Vermont River Conservancy (VRC) anticipates swimming holes throughout the state will see many visitors with the warm weather upon us. VRC’s core mission is protecting public access to places along rivers that are well-loved by community members and visitors alike. However, VRC’s Executive Director Steve Libby emphasizes the importance of swimming hole visitors to follow state guidelines regarding recreating on public land during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Vermont River Conservancy sees the unique role swimming holes play in communities throughout Vermont,” Libby says, “these are places to enjoy the peace that a river can provide, to cool off on a hot day, and to recharge your mental well-being during these unsettling times. VRC protects swimming holes for public enjoyment, but we rely strongly on the respectful behavior of visitors to ensure these sites can remain open during the pandemic, and are cared for and maintained for years to come.”


Visitors to swimming holes protected by VRC will find signs guiding proper use of the site during the Covid-19 pandemic, including:

  • Don’t go to public swimming holes if you are sick.
  • Avoid crowded trails and swimming holes that do not allow a minimum of six feet of distance. If a parking lot is crowded, please go elsewhere.
  • Leash your dog.
  • Avoid risky activities, so as not to put more strain on hospitals and emergency responders.
  • Be mindful of the popularity of these sites and don’t linger too long, to make space for others to be there.
  • Do not wear a mask while swimming, but do bring a mask with you for walking along the trail.

If you enjoy Vermont’s swimming holes, please consider a donation to VRC to help protect special places along our rivers for public use for years to come.

VRC Awarded Wild & Scenic Funding

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy received an $10,000 Upper Missisquoi & Trout Rivers Wild & Scenic grant as part of the River Community Grants Program, to create a management plan and conduct site improvements for a public access site on the Missisquoi River. Several years ago, VRC worked with landowners Bruce and Anne McKay to help realize their vision of merging a portion of their property with the Village of North Troy parcel below Big Falls State Park, to improve public access and increase conservation benefits of this important land on the Missisquoi River (link to completed project details here). With the Village’s recent approval at the end of 2019, this property will be conserved by VRC and transferred to the Village with an approved management plan and site improvements in place in 2020, for people to enjoy access to the river and fishing hole below Big Falls.

The McKay Big Falls parcel is dominated by Silver Maple – Ostrich Fern Floodplain forest, which visitors pass through to arrive at the open field / well-head area and move on to the River Cobble Shore below the Falls. In 2019, after years of leaving the metal gate on River Road closed and locked, the Village of North Troy opened the gate allowing public access to the site. Whereas before, limited parking in the pullout on River Road kept site-use low, vehicular access to the property’s driveway and lower field allowed public use to increase substantially. Allowing public access is the intent of conserving the McKay Big Falls parcel, but it must be done with proper management and site improvements.

Without any management in place, vehicles were able to drive to the water’s edge and near the well head, camping and campfires were unchecked, and no signage provided visitors with site rules. These actions can damage sensitive areas quickly and intensively. Designated parking and campfire locations are important management decisions, and can allow for desired uses while protecting natural resources. VRC understands how many people enjoy accessing the river here, as originally intended by the McKays, and wants to ensure it is managed well for long-term enjoyment.

The Village of North Troy depends on the public’s respect of this property and ensured respect for the water well head area and infrastructure. VRC will vet community needs and concerns so that the management plan robustly supports hassle-free future ownership by the Village of North Troy. Management planning will address topics including: Naming of property, signage, parking, trails, dogs, litter / trash, vehicles, picnic areas, campfires, loitering, human waste, seasonal uses, hazards, river buffer vegetation, invasive species control, flooding, erosion, long term maintenance and seasonal site stewards.

VRC collaboratively manages several popular swimming and fishing holes and river access parks throughout Vermont. Partner and funding support from the UMATR River Community Grant Program will help ensure VRC can initiate this process with a strong partnership and collaboration from the Village of North Troy. Community involvement is critical for a successful plan with the goal of river access to this beautiful spot on the Missisquoi River to be enjoyed by all.

VRC Helps Protect Bramhall Wilderness

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy is proud to partner with the Northeast Wilderness Trust on their Bramhall Wilderness Preserve project, in which NWT purchased 359 acres from Paedra Bramhall last week, creating the first privately protected, forever-wild preserve in the Chateauguay No-Town Conservation Area. The Northeast Wilderness Trust is a non-profit land trust that conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people. The newly established Bramhall Wilderness Preserve is home to pristine cascading brooks, towering trees, and abundant wildlife. Protecting this land has been a long-time effort for landowner Paedra Bramhall, who was born in a rustic cabin on the property without running water or electricity in the 1940s. “The fact that this dream I have had most of my life is now a reality [for] the acres my mom left me—that they are now and will be forever wild—is still sinking in,” said Ms. Bramhall. Since Ms. Bramhall has left the land largely unmanaged for decades, the forest is already well on its way to returning to old-growth.

The Preserve lies just south of the Appalachian Trail as it winds its way down from the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River. Nearly two miles of waterways, including the North Branch of the Ottauquechee River and two smaller tributaries, tumble through the steep hills of the Preserve. Dense hemlocks shade the water, creating prime habitat for native brook trout. Vermont River Conservancy will work with the Northeast Wilderness Trust and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) on the permanent conservation of the land. VRC and VHCB will co-hold forever-wild legal protections on the preserve. “We are excited to partner with Northeast Wilderness Trust for the sake of public access to the rivers in the beautiful Bramhall Preserve,” says Lydia Menendez Parker, Assistant Director of VRC. “Low-impact recreational access paths from the parking pull-out will support those adventurers looking for a place to dip in the cool, refreshing waters and cast a line.” You can read the full press release here: News Release – New Wilderness Preserve Created in Bridgewater, VT

Mature forest – Daryl Burtnett

Ottauquechee Tributary – Shelby Perry

Announcing Summer Internship Opportunity!

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy, Montpelier, VT

Spend your summer at popular swimming holes in Central Vermont! Welcome visitors with a friendly and open attitude and simple survey questions; encourage safe and respectful behavior and leave-no-trace practices; improve site conditions with litter cleanup, parking patrol, and invasive species control; collect data to improve overall site management and water quality; engage volunteers and the public with media and outreach tools. Enjoy Central Vermont’s most beautiful rivers spots where hundreds of people come to enjoy the cool waters, chill vibes, and sweet surroundings. This position is part of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board AmeriCorps (VHCB AmeriCorps), and is in partnership with the Richmond Land Trust. Apply today! For more information, and how to apply, check out the job description here: VRC_Swimming Hole Steward Job Description.

Public Access Sites & COVID-19

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

The Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” addendum to the Emergency Declaration still allows us to enjoy Vermont’s outdoors while staying close to home. This means that currently, VRC’s public access sites remain open for use, with the following considerations. Please also note that Spring weather and continued snow melt from the mountains mean that as usual, Spring is a time to practice extreme caution when visiting rivers. Water levels tend to be much higher and also tend to fluctuate rapidly. Be safe, pay attention to water levels, and please practice social distancing when recreating at or around Vermont’s rivers. Thank you!

Here are tips to recreate locally and stay safe outdoors during this public health emergency (the following message from The Vermont Department of Forest, Parks & Recreation):

Recreate locally: walk on your street or a local wood lot as opposed to hopping in the car to visit a favorite spot. If you must drive someplace, please limit the distance from home to ten miles, and only drive with members of your household. You can find information on local spots on and

We do ask that you follow commonsense behaviors including honoring all signage, treating public areas with respect and giving people space at gathering points like parking areas and scenic overlooks, for example. Visitation and use will be monitored, with closures possible based on overcrowding or additional orders from health agencies. If a parking lot is full, or too many people are gathered at a location, please find an alternative place to recreate. 

Minimize risk to others: Go out only if you’re feeling healthy, have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have not recently traveled from a location with a CDC-issued travel advisory.

Engage in low-risk activities: Now is not the time to try something extreme and end up in the hospital, taxing an already overburdened health care system.

Don’t crowd: Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting, including the outdoors. Outdoor crowding isn’t any better than indoor crowding. Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean it’s safe unless you are continuing to practice appropriate social distancing, good personal hygiene, and avoid touching your face until you can wash your hands. This includes finding an alternative place to recreate if the area you choose is already crowded.

Please leash your dog! They are members of your household and need to keep their social distance as well (most standard leashes are 6 feet in length).

For more info on COVID-19 and related guidelines, visit:

  • For outdoor recreation COVID-19 related links, visit:

  • For information on wildlife based recreational opportunities, visit:

VRC welcomes Patrick Whelley to the Board!

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

I grew up in central New Hampshire, in the foothills of the White Mountains, where there were constant reminders of the abundance of wildlife (moose, deer, blue heron, beavers) living in and around the local brooks and marshes. Family canoe-camping trips on nearby rivers and lakes were exciting adventures and fond memories on the water. These were some of the pieces of the region that I missed the most after moving to Arizona for college.

At Arizona State I earned a bachelors and a masters in geology and then a PhD in geology from the University at Buffalo focusing on geological hazards, specifically explosive volcanoes. After graduating, some of my work focused on encouraging the use of language familiar to river hazards (100-year event, 500-year event) in the volcanology community. The goal was to overcome societal amnesia and convey clear and quantitative hazard probabilities.

These days, my family and I live on Wood Rd in Middlesex and my wife and I take our two boys (under 4) to paddle Vermont’s lakes and rivers whenever we can. I work remotely for the University of Maryland as a research scientist and NASA contractor. Through Maryland I write and manage research grants and lead NASA funded expeditions to the American West and Iceland, to study geology and astrobiology. I use detailed topography and 3D visualization tools to characterize geologic formations to better understand how they form and erode.

Wetland, Woodland, Wildland in VTDigger!

Monday, January 6th, 2020

VRC works to protect the important floodplains and riparian areas in Vermont, 80% of which is privately owned.  Learn more about the natural communities we protect with forever conservation easements in partnership with willing landowners by reading about our river ecosystems in Wetland, Woodland, Wildland.  We collaborate with the VT Agency of Natural Resources to use funding on targeted and high priority conservation projects, and the science in Wetland, Woodland, Wildland helps inform this important conservation strategy.  Read about the book and its authors in an article written by former VRC AmeriCorps Stewardship Intern, Elizabeth Gribkoff.  Then get out and explore the natural communities that make our little state so special!

Red Rocks Park in South Burlington on Tuesday, December 24, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

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