Bolton Potholes

Location: Bolton, Vermont

River: Joiner Brook

Type of Project: Public Access  

Public Access: Yes

Date Completed: December 2018

Size: 5.95 acres      

Water Frontage: 1,000 feet

Landowner: Vermont Riverlands, LLC

Funding Partners:  Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Davis Foundation, Kelsey Trust, Vermont Community Foundation, Jane B. Cook 1992 Charitable Trust, Lintilhac Foundation.

Property Description: The Bolton Potholes are located east of the Bolton Valley Access Road in the heart of the Green Mountains. Close to Burlington and Montpelier, visitors and Vermonters alike enjoy the Potholes’ stunning beauty, spectacular round “pothole” shape, and sense of community. Joiner Brook carved the potholes in the bedrock.  Flowing from the top of Bolton Mountain, Joiner Brook joins the Winooski River to ultimately flow into Lake Champlain. Perched in the Green Mountains, Bolton Potholes offers beautiful views, sunny bathing areas, and cool mountain pools for swimming and jumping.  People of all ages enjoy the natural features of this landscape.

Project Background: Owning a popular swimming hole is a challenge for any landowner. Vermont River Conservancy worked with the Bolton Potholes landowners for over a decade to negotiate the conservation of this popular recreational area. The value of this property to Vermont’s landscape kept this project a high priority, and Vermont River Conservancy found solutions to make public access conservation of these magnificent pools of Joiner Brook a reality. By engaging with the town selectboard, safety personnel, neighbors of the Potholes, community members, and Potholes visitors, Vermont River Conservancy identified the critical management issues and proposed a plan to address them. Vermont River Conservancy will collaborate with Vermont Riverlands, LLC (the new Potholes landowner) to maintain public access, and improve management for water quality, swimmer safety, neighbor relations, and user experience.

Future Management Goals: Because Bolton Potholes is accessible, beautiful, and popular, overcrowding has caused some negative impacts to the natural resources and neighboring properties around the Potholes. To reduce the impacts of overcrowding at the Potholes, and to celebrate the change in ownership, Vermont River Conservancy has developed a management plan to improve water quality, swimmer safety, neighbor relations, and user experience. Visitors will see changes in the 2019 swimming season.  New signage will orient visitors to the site’s natural features and the new rules of conduct, such as no glass and no littering, help in identifying legal parking spots, and clarifying the safety risks.  If funding is secured (please help us by visiting our donation page), Vermont River Conservancy will test pilot Port-O-Lets and encourage visitors to use them. Collaborating with the Friends of the Winooski and local volunteers, Vermont River Conservancy will help coordinate water sampling to better understand the water quality in Joiner Brook. The trails will be improved and maintained to reduce soil erosion and compaction, and parking areas at the Smilie School will be more clearly marked to ensure the Fire Lanes are always clear. Public access is always reliant on visitor’s caring for the land and having respectful behavior.  Please help make the Potholes an enjoyable space for all by treating it as your own: keep it clean, be respectful, and care for the land as a treasured jewel we always hope to enjoy.


From the south, take I-89 exit 10 for VT-100 S toward Waterbury/US-2, the turn left onto VT-100 S and at the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto US-2 W/N Main St. After 6.6 miles, turn right onto the Bolton Valley Access Road (small pullout parking area for 5-7 cars on right) or into the Smilie school parking lot and follow the trail up to the potholes.


From the north, take I-89 exit 11 for US-2 toward Richmond/Bolton/VT-117. In .2 miles, turn right onto US-2 E. In 8.1 miles, turn left onto the Bolton Valley Access Road (small pullout parking area for 5-7 cars on right) or into the Smilie school parking lot and follow the trail up to the potholes.

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