Vermont State Parks e-Newsletter                                    April 2015

Greetings Everyone,


Happy Spring! Just when we thought the snow banks were too high to EVER melt, they're gone. Well, they're going, anyway. Spring is definitely in the Vermont air. You can feel the warmer breezes, you can smell the aroma of the forest coming out of dormancy and you see all kinds of signs that the season of growth and rejuvenation has begun! 


Spring, of course, is crunch time here at Vermont State Parks. And we're tackling the challenge of preparing our wonderful park system for the summer season with renewed enthusiasm. There is so much to do to get ready. Staff need to be hired and trained, equipment and supplies need to be purchased and our maintenance staff need to get all the facilities and utilities up and running. We absolutely LOVE it. This is what we are here to do...whatever it takes to make sure you have the best park experience possible when you show up this summer. We can hardly wait to see you!


In the meantime, take advantage of some nice spring days and go ahead, get out there for a nice hike or a picnic or a nice paddle on a freshly thawed lake. See you out there! 


Craig Whipple

Director of State Parks


The Outdoor Observer: Mud Season Surprises
By: Rebecca Phelps

We are slowly watching the world melt-thick piles of familiar snow are making way for muddy earth.  In Vermont we eagerly watch the changing season after a long winter.  Every little thing is registered by our hopeful eyes.  Mud season looks like a miracle when you spent months wandering around in a world of white.  


Ranger Ethan Hard at Work

Don't get me wrong, we love winter in Vermont, but it is difficult to not get excited about seasonal changes no matter the season.  It's exciting to see turkey tracks in mud after you've been observing them white on white for so many months. It's thrilling to see the first ephemeral wildflowers poke their green heads out of wet leaves on the forest floor.  We greet morning air full of bird song with bright smiles.


Another sign of spring is the clearing of garden beds and raking of lawns. As you read this, Park Rangers across Vermont are readying state park facilities for happy park visitors.  Your favorite park is getting raked, primped and ready for a busy season of good old fashioned outdoor recreation fun.  The earliest opening parks: Wilgus, Jamaica, Grand Isle and Niquette Bay State Parks will be open before you know it. 


Shadbush Flowers

Take a visit to these early opening parks and look for your own signs of spring.  Watch for the white fragrant flowers of the shadbush. This shrub or small tree sports profuse numerous white or pinkish flowers that stand out in the early gray spring woods before leaves emerge.  It is also called serviceberry. The name shadbush comes from the timing of the bloom coinciding with the anadromous American shad run in New England streams, including the Connecticut River. Once you spot one of these pretty little trees up close, you will be able to identify them wherever you drive around Vermont in early spring.  


Bring your binoculars and take a nice slow walk through the woods to look for another bright sign that summer is on its way-the return of migratory forest birds to their nesting territory in Vermont. Early spring, before leaves emerge on tree limbs, is the best time to look for forest-dwelling birds.  In spring these songbirds molt from their drab winter colors into their bright breeding plumage.  Watch for bright flashes of color in the trees above. 


  Common Yellowthroat


A favorite early warbler is the Common Yellowthroat. The males sport black masks with bright yellow bellies.  These curious little warblers nest in edges and shrubby areas often near water.  Listen for their distinctive witchety-witchety-witchety call and stop and watch for them in low vegetation.  These inquisitive warblers will pop out of thick vegetation and investigate if you make pishing sounds.


Whether you watch the ground for bright early wildflowers, or you are looking up to see the early migratory birds, spring is the best time to get out and enjoy the world thawing out. Get out into your favorite state park and watch the woods come to life.
2015 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge
Get outside and earn a free Season Pass!

Looking for a great way to get your whole family outdoors for the summer? Looking for free day admission to ALL of our state parks for the rest of the season, and all of the 2016 season? You're in luck! Our 2015 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge kicks off this month and runs through mid-October.


The Putnam Boys Identify Buttercups


How it works:

Head to our website and get a score sheet. You can fill everything out online or print it, whichever works for you! There are tons of fun activities, ranging from making your own fishing pole to identifying animal homes, and each activity is worth points. Take a picture doing each activity and then send us the score sheet and your pictures. Kids (and anyone else!) who complete 250 points earn free day entry into ALL of our parks for the rest of the 2015 season AND all of the 2016 season, as well as a cool medallion and bragging rights. 



We try to make it easy and fun to spend your summers outdoors, and the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge is a hit every year. We can't wait to see your photos!



Racing in Vermont State Parks
by Ethan Phelps

As running and bicycle races continue to grow in popularity, Vermont State Parks has partnered with many organizations to serve as courses and venues for these fun and healthy events. This year there are 5 races scheduled so far in southeastern parks alone.

Photo Credit: Eric Montgomery

The race season kicks off with the 2nd annual Race Around the Lake at Silver Lake State Park on May 17. This year the race will feature 5k and 10k running races on paved and gravel roads and scenic trails. Highlights of this race are the scenic course and amazing post-race lunch and live music. The race is a fundraiser for BarnArts, a community-based performing and visual arts organization. Information and registration for the Race Around the Lake is available here.

Mt. Ascutney Footrace

June 6 marks the second annual West River Trail Run which ends at Jamaica State Park. This event started in 2014 as a fundraiser for The Collaborative, an organization dedicated to providing fun, healthy and educational programs for youth in the Northshire and Mountain communities in Southern Vermont. The 11-mile race follows the length of the West River Trail from its start in South Londonderry to the finish at Jamaica State Park. The course varies widely from paved town road to rough single track. Race information is available here.

The 16th annual Ascutney Mountain Run happens on June 14. This grueling race, which follows the paved Mt. Ascutney Parkway, is the fourth of eight races in the USATF-New England Mountain Circuit. Average top times in this race equal those of the bicycle race! This race was also started in 1999 to celebrate the Park System's 75th anniversary, and has been directed for many years now by our partners and friends at Penguin Cycles in nearby Brownsville. Click here for race information and registration!

July 25 marks the second annual Salmon Hole Dash 5K at Jamaica State Park. The event is part of the Town of Jamaica's Old Home Day celebration. The race starts and ends in the park and follows part of the multi-use section of the West River Trail within the park; this is a gravel rail trail. Registration for this event isn't open yet for 2015 but information will be posted on the event's Facebook page and our Events Page

Another race to note is the 100 on 100 Running Race, that starts at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and ends all the way down at the Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow. Runners will get a little taste of everything as the race takes them through forests, fields, streams, mountains, and lakes. The second to last transition takes place at our own Camp Plymouth State Park! To register, visit the website

Finally, we are in the planning stage for an inaugural adventure race at Jamaica State Park. This event would take place in the fall and be a fundraiser for the regional emergency service agency. Stay tuned to our website for more details.

I hope to compete in at least two of these events. I'll see you out there on the trails and the race course!

It's that time again...Calling Park Performers!

We are always looking for new Park Performers for our Summer Series Events! 2015 still has some spots open. If you are a musician, storyteller, birder, yoga instructor, crafter, or have another talent you'd like to share, please let us know!


Mud Season Hiking - Q&A

The season we love so much has again called it: Mud Season! With warmer weather upon us, it's easy to get excited and dash out to the parks the second you have a free afternoon-and we want you to! But we need to remind everybody about some precautions to take during these slippery times and how to safely make the most of your outdoor adventures. Here are a few common questions the Vermont State Parks get about hiking during Mud Season!  


 Fun in the mud at Little River State Park


When is Mud Season, exactly?

Early spring through the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. 

What does it mean for the trails?

When snow melts and we get rain at high elevations, it keeps trails wet and muddy. When hikers walk on them, it causes irreversible erosion. The trails (as well as surrounding vegetation) are permanently damaged, not to mention your new hiking boots.

Where should I go?

Trails at lower elevations, dirt roads, and recreation paths are great options for getting outside for a hike during Mud Season. Lower trails, particularly those that are south-facing and in hardwood forests, will be your best bets!

What should I avoid?

Trails at high elevations, conifer forests, and north faces should be avoided.

What should I be on the lookout for?

If you need to step on surrounding vegetation in order to cross parts of a trail, please go no farther. Also, be attentive to changes in trail consistency-some trails will start off dry, but start to get increasingly muddy. In these instances, please play it safe and find a different trail to hike!

Any changes in the parks during Mud Season?

Yes! Trails on Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield are "closed" from April 15th until the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. These are very fragile areas and we appreciate your cooperation in staying off the trails.

Any other areas to avoid?

YES: Stratton Mountain, Killington Peak, Lincoln Ridge (Mount Ellen to Appalachian Gap), and Jay Peak have all reported delicate conditions in the past. Please play it safe!

Ok then...where should I hike?

We're so glad you asked! Some recommended places to hike this spring are: 


Southeast Vermont:
* Harriman Trail

Jamaica State Park Trails

Southwest Vermont:

Button Bay State Park roads
Woodford State Park Trails

Northwest Vermont:

Travel Around Middlebury Trail (TAM)
Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail
Cotton Brook Area - Moscow/Stowe
Alburgh Recreation Trail
Mallets Bay Causeway
Cambridge Greenway Recreation Path
Mount Philo State Park

Northeast Vermont:

Lefferts Pond
Robert Frost Interpretive Trail
Stowe Bike Path



The Mazzilli Kids Make the Most of Mud Season


Vermont Days

The weekend event Vermonters look forward to every year...Vermont Days! This year, Vermont Days will take place on JUNE 13th and 14th, and you know what that means - free day admission to all of our State Parks for that entire weekend...why not stop by and see a free concert by the Green Mountain Brass Band at Sand Bar State Park on Sunday from 2-4pm, or enjoy some free fishing! 

2015 Operating Season!

Waterbury Center State Park by C.H. Diegel

Now that spring is here, the parks will be open before you know it. Here's a reference list of operating dates for all of the parks:

April 27 - Oct 12: Wilgus
May 8 - Oct 12: Jamaica
May 8 - Oct 18: Grand Isle
May 9 - Oct 12: Niquette Bay
May 15 - Sept 7: Stillwater
May 15 - Oct 12: Lake Carmi, Little River
May 22 - Sept 13: Camp Plymouth
May 22 - Oct 18: Underhill

May 22 - Sept 7: 

May 22 - Oct 12

Year Round: Seyon Lodge

Can't wait to see you there!!!

A big shout out to our awesome photography interns!!!

Credit: Karalyn Mark

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Vermont Parks Forever

Vermont Parks Forever- the new foundation for Vermont State Parks!

Keep an eye out for this dedicated group of park enthusiasts working to leverage private resources to make Vermont's state parks even more wonderful. Vermont Parks Forever works in close partnership with VSP staff to expand access to parks, increase educational opportunities and welcome the next generation of park visitors.  

Stay informed and help spread the word about Vermont Parks Forever!  Check out their Facebook page, follow their tweets, or sign up for their quarterly e-newsletter at


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Lake Carmi State Park by Jean Snide
This is the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks, wishing you the best and brightest of spring days, long walks, and muddy boots!

Vermont State Parks

Vermont State Parks | 888-409-7579 | 
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Montpelier, VT 05620