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North Branch Cascades: Tornado Warning Washout

July 8, 2024 by Addie Hedges

In the week following the severe thunderstorms on Sunday, June 23rd, 2024, a group of Vermont River Conservancy staff and volunteers planned to meet at the northern parking lot at North Branch Cascades, to have a fun day on the river and take professional photos for a river safety campaign. We caravaned up and were met with a devastating realization as we approached the parking area. It was gone.

The storm overwhelmed the too-small culvert under Route 12, sending floodwater gushing across the highway and into the northern parking lot, washing away the parking area and a portion of Route 12 directly adjacent to it. Road crews made emergency repairs to reopen the road while juggling the other impacts of the storm, and in the process eliminated the parking area. The thunderstorm passed through north-central Vermont, triggering a swath of tornado watches and warnings, a rare event in the Green Mountain State. The damage was clear immediately in southern Lamoille and northern Washington counties, where roads were washed out and trees downed following up to 3 inches of rain in less than an hour.

When our group drove up to where our parking lot used to be, we were met with orange construction barricades and a toppled trailhead kiosk. It took some time to sink in, all of us thinking “that couldn’t be the entrance, we must have missed it”. We eventually all made it to the southern end of the trail, where we gathered and took in the impact of the storm. As the day went on, we noticed a missing picnic table and failed tie-downs that led to it floating downstream with the rushing water.


We met a community member who uses the trail almost daily, and she let us know that the damage was far worse than what we could see from the road. Stone steps and large boulders had been carried down the trail, and our bridge was undermined, cutting off our northern privy, and the parking lot, from access on either side. Meeting her made us even more acutely aware of the importance of this place for the community.



It also made it clear just how important it is to protect land along rivers. After the more widespread flooding last July, we have been more inspired by our mission to protect and restore rivers, and have seen the importance of providing communities with the tools they need to grapple with the significant changes that climate change will have on our lives and infrastructure.

North Branch Cascades is one of our most popular and well-loved sites, an oasis in the woods, with the sounds of waterfalls all around. It is a great spot for people of all abilities to be immersed in nature and enjoy a peaceful moment along the river. It is a special place for which many people in the region have an appreciation. We are overwhelmed with support to make sure that this access is preserved and will do all that we can to make sure that repairs are made to the crucial infrastructure that makes the trail accessible.

North Branch Cascades is one of the many places we have protected throughout the state. Although the trail was damaged, the river could function as it should. That is the goal with all of our sites, minimize the impact of human infrastructure on rivers, give the river what it needs to enter its floodplain, and provide habitat for fish and other wildlife.


Help us get North Branch Cascades back in working order. Your contribution will help:
-Support the bridges
-Repair the stairs
-Put up our kiosk
-Make additional necessary improvements

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