Lower Clarendon Gorge

Lower Clarendon GorgeName of Project: Lower Clarendon Gorge

Location: Clarendon, VT

River: Mill River

Type of Project: Gorge, Waterfalls, Interesting Geology, Fishing

Public Access: Yes

Date Completed: 2002 and 2004

Size: 63 Acres

Water Frontage: 11,913′

Landowner: Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

Funding Partners: Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Snowden Environmental Trust, Windham Foundation, William P. Wharton Trust, Individual Donors

Property Description: The Lower Clarendon Gorge property includes an exceptional swimming area well known to many. The main pool is a short distance upstream from the old (now removed) Route 7 Mill River Bridge location. Visitors park near Gorge Road, walk south along the old road, and turn down the trail to the river. The walls of the gorge rise quickly from the main swimming areas, and there is a delightful and dramatic view into the gorge from a trail along its top. Because the river takes a sharp turn at the gorge’s downstream extent, it cannot be seen from Route 7 and is wonderfully secluded. Nearly a mile from the lower pool, the upstream end of the gorge includes a dramatic series of mesmerizing waterfalls that cut through the wild folds and faults of colorful, metamorphosed Champlain Valley rock stratigraphy. The property also protects an important and uncommon “temperate calcareous cliffside” natural community whose presence is due to the 1,000-foot wide band of calcium-rich bedrock that passes through the property. This assemblage of plants is uncommon in Vermont. The white marble at the gorge is heavily fractured, the river has done some water sculpture, and there is a huge purplish basaltic intrusion in the rocks just above the head of the lower gorge.

Project Background: Old postcards and photos from the turn-of-the-century reveal the respect that people once had for this deep rock canyon of mists and crystal clear water. In the late 90’s, however, there were some questionable activities around the tarmac of the abandoned Route 7 just north of the Mill River crossing in Clarendon. Cars seemed to be parked at all hours by the concrete jersey barriers, and more trash dotted the woods than saplings. Graffiti marred the rocks. Anglers and naturalists frequently visited the land and waters above the swimming hole to enjoy the unsurpassed beauty there; no doubt they shook their heads at the abuse the site was receiving. The area was in danger. To protect access to the site and to improve its management, VRC purchased 25 acres surrounding the Lower Clarendon Gorge in 2002 and an additional 48 acres in 2004. Both of the properties were conveyed to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and the site is now the Lower Clarendon Gorge State Forest. Management of the property now strives to balance human use with the protection of its ecological integrity.

Directions: Take Route 7 south out of Rutland. Turn left on Route 103, right on Route 7B, then left on River Road. Park on the side of the road in a wide spot, making sure to be out of the travelled lane. There is a path through the woods that leads to the river as it approaches the gorge.

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