Vermont State Parks e-newsletter                                April 2016
Entrance to Branbury State Park 

Greetings Everyone!

Welcome to the Spring edition of the Vermont State Parks newsletter. Winter is
 still trying to fade into our memories as we scramble to get our state parks and trails ready for the summer recreation season. There's a lot of work to do but we are certainly up for the challenge. We always look forward to your visits and we'll be ready for you! 

In the meantime, get a jump on summer by getting outside and hiking on some of the lower elevation trails, exploring some of the spring-time wonders of the woods and, of course, making your camping reservations. Our reservation records tell us this could be a very busy season so don't delay any longer. Dust off that camping equipment, get it all organized and ready     
to go. Summer will be here before you know it! 

See you out there.

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks

The Outdoor Observer 

Spring 2016
By: Rebecca Roy
The first warm spring rainy night in Vermont is known as "The Big Night," because amphibians begin to wake up from their winter resting spots, they crawl out of the leaves, pull their bodies out of the mud, and start heading for a spot to lay their gelatinous eggs. In Vermont we eagerly wait for any small signs of spring, and nothing says spring is here like the quack-like calls of wood frogs filling the woods. I started hearing them a week ago in the Vermont woods.

Wood Frog in Springtime 

Usually you hear wood frogs first in the earliest weeks of spring, they are closely followed by spring peepers, and then other frogs begin joining the symphony. Other amphibians, such as salamanders, do not make any noise, but you may see them trying to cross the road on The Big Night. They too need to find a nice seasonal vernal pool to lay their eggs. All amphibians lay their eggs in water, because amphibian eggs hatch into tadpoles. That is a distinctive characteristic of amphibians, they begin life in water. Many frogs also live in water as adults, but wood frogs are terrestrial.

Wood frog coloration matches their habitat for camouflage, they are brown like the leaves they hide in. One distinctive feature for identification is a darker brown "mask" over their eyes. They spend their days looking in leaves on the forest floor for insects, worms, and slugs to eat. Their tadpoles, hatching later in the spring, are gregarious. Scientists discovered that sibling wood frog tadpoles tend to gather up together in their vernal pools.
Woodford State Park- A good place for frog-spotting

Wood frogs are the only frog species that can live north of the Arctic Circle. They have interesting adaptations for dealing with cold weather. They spend the winter huddled under leaves on the forest floor, they stop breathing and freeze completely. They have special antifreeze in their bodies that prevents ice crystals from forming inside the cells of their bodies. Instead, ice forms outside of the cells, which prevents damage to their cells. They spend all winter this way, and begin to thaw when those warm spring rains start again.

Take a walk in the early spring woods, and listen for the calls of the wood frogs, and other frogs of spring. Great places to hear wood frogs right now include Little River, Lake Carmi, Woodford, and Jamaica State Parks. 

April Showers Can Bring April Flowers, Too

Despite the (shall we say) variable conditions so far this month, it's exactly that time of year to head into the woods and look for growing things! Spring ephemerals are the first flowers you will find in the woods, and favor deciduous hardwood forests. They are usually not large but hardy, and well adapted to withstand cold and variable conditions of early spring. Ephemerals bloom early, often before the snow has completely gone, and complete their life cycle before the trees leaf out, taking full advantage of full sunlight on the forest floor and insulation provided by least years' leaves on the ground.

Dutchman's breeches at Niquette Bay State Park by Thomas Moran 

Here are some spring ephemerals to watch for, and suggestions on where to look:

Hepatica: This tiny, fresh-smelling flower is one of the very first to appear in the woody areas in spring. Hepatica grows low to the ground and can be pink, white, purple, or blue. If you look closely, you will see that hepatica is furry! These tiny hairs on the stem are another protection from early spring temperatures. You can find hepatica at Niquette Bay.

Trout lily: This is a common spring ephemeral, and can be found in large colonies. The name comes from the coloring of the yellow flower and brown speckled leaves. Try to find trout lily at Coolidge State Park.

Trillium. Trillium is a spring ephemeral that can tolerate extreme cold, and comes in many colors, including red and white. Unlike hepatica's pleasant smell, red trillium has an unpleasant odor, which explains why it's sometimes called "stinking Benjamin". Look for trillium in Gifford Woods State Park.

Painted trillium at Camel's Hump State Park
Bloodroot: A white flower, sometimes with a pinkish tinge. Bloodroot likes moist, well-drained soils in shady woody areas, and can grow in large colonies. Bloodroot has a history as a medicinal plant, and as a natural dye. It has been spotted near the trails around Branbury State Park and in the adjacent Green Mountain National Forest.

Dutchman's breeches: Common to a large part of the eastern U.S, this distinctive flower likes well-drained soil and often grows along limestone ledges. Bees especially like dutchman's breeches, and in fact the feeling is mutual. The flower heavily relies on bumblebees for pollination, since the bee's long legs and snout are strong enough to get inside the "pants" of the Dutchman. Look for this one at Niquette Bay.

Places to go:

Common sense warnings:
  • Stay on paths and try not to disturb plant colonies.
  • Clean up after your pet. The nitrogen and phosphorus in dog poop doesn't "fertilize" fragile plants- it can kill them!
  • Don't pick flowers. Not only is it illegal to do so State Parks, it destroys the seeds that would cause the plans to grow year after year.
For extra credit, keep one eye out for invasive plant species such as buckthorn, barberry and shrub honeysuckle. that also bloom early, but unlike spring ephemerals take a full season to complete their life cycle.

Mud Season Survival Tips 
Breaking news: it's still Mud Season in Vermont! At least on the trails, anyway.
 Our infamous 5th season is the nemesis of hikers, walkers, bikers, and everyone who dislikes muddy cars, pets,boots and children (a large group of folks, certainly). This also means issuing our yearly warning about being careful to avoid muddy trails at this time of year. without damaging vegetation and causing erosion.
Trail at Jamaica State Park

Mud Season Golden Rules:
  • If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn around.
  • Plan spring hikes in hardwood forests at lower elevations. Avoid spruce-fir (conifer) forests at higher elevations.
  • Camel's Hump and Mt Mansfield trails are closed from snow melt (now) until late May. Stay below 3000 feet during these times of year.
Luckily there are plenty of other options for hiking and walking that we can all enjoy this time of year.  Paved park roads are good options. Mount Philo and Mt. Ascutney have paved summit roads, so you can still enjoy a summit view without getting muddy boots. is also a great resource and trails database for all kinds of activities: hiking, walking, mountain biking, and so on, for all of Vermont and the Upper Valley.

Mud is also an underrated construction material. Consider that mud formed into bricks and dried is a common and practical construction method in many parts of the world. The remains of mud-brick ziggurats (a type of terraced pyramid) built thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia are some of the oldest structures in the world- and are still standing today. Take a moment and consider how much mud is freely available this time of year, and how few pyramids Vermont has currently. Pyramids never go out of style, am I right? 

Finally, it's good to keep things in perspective. Parts of Eastern Europe have two mud seasons- one in spring, the other called by seasonal heavy rains in fall. Local travel becomes notoriously difficult or impossible, and in fact the local translation of the seasons is simply "time without roads." 
For more information about mud season hiking, visit the Green Mountain Club's website at:

and our blog:
Stone pavilion on top of Mt. Ascutney
Game On! Venture Vermont Challenge 2016


The 2016 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge kicked off this month on April 1st. Every year, families from all over Vermont participate in the outdoor scavenger hunt, earning points while taking part in fun and exciting outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, fishing, identifying plant and animal species, and more. Last year, there were over 250 participants who played in the parks, got outside, and discovered new things about Vermont's natural landscape.

If you've done Venture Vermont in the past, we have all new activities for 2016. This year you have the opportunity to:
  • learn 3 new bird calls
  • find and photograph animal homes 
  • construct a musical instrument from natural materials
  • make your own slip & slide

To join in, download a scorecard from our website and check off different activities as you complete them. Remember to take photos of yourself doing all of the activities. When you reach 250 points, you are eligible to receive a VIP token and free day use in the parks for the rest of the current season and the following year. Good luck! 
Schedule Some Free Time: Vermont Days 2016
Vermont Days will be held June 11th and 12th this year! Day use is free at all State Parks so come and hike, picnic, swim, play, and relax all weekend. Also catch the Green Mountain Brass Band perform at Sand Bar State Park on Sunday, June 12th from 2-4 pm.

Other Vermont Days activities include free fishing in every body of water in Vermont on Saturday June 11th, free entry to Vermont historic sites, and free admission to the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier!

For more information about Vermont Days' activities and events, visit:

Hangin' out at Alburgh Dunes State Park
by Raven Schwan-Noble

2016 Parks Operating Dates 


Can't wait until Memorial Day? Some of our parks are open earlier! Here's the full list of our early bird openers: 

April 29- Oct. 10: 

Wilgus State Park

May 7th- Oct. 10th:
Niquette Bay State Park

May 13th- Oct. 10th: 
Jamaica State Park

May 13th- Oct. 17th:
Grand Isle State Park

May 15th- Oct. 15th:
Elmore State Park 
Calling All Park Performers!

There are still openings for park performers this season!  

Townshend State Park jam session by Matt Parsons

We are always looking for parks performers for our Summer Series Events. If you are a musician, storyteller, crafter, birder, yoga instructor, or crafty sort, or if you know someone who is, please let us know! 


Thanks to our Photo Interns!
Thomas Moran grew up in Rhode Island but went to school at UVM. Photography and cinematography have recently become big part of his life. Thank you Tom, for the lovely picture of dutchman's breeches at Niquette Bay

Raven Schwan-Noble has a love of photographing life around her. Born in Southern California, she has called Vermont home for the last 42 years. A graduate of the New York Institute of Photography, Raven is rarely seen without her Canon 40D camera. Thanks for the shot of Alburgh Dunes, Raven! 

See more of Raven's work at

Matt Parsons is a native Vermonter. He has been going to the parks with his family his whole life. He has many fond memories of times in the parks, and says he is proud to live in a state that recognizes the importance of its' natural resources. Thanks for the photo of Gary playing guitar at Townshend, Matt! 

Quick Links 

Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge

Branbury State Park 

Brighton State Park

Coolidge State Park

Elmore State Park

Gifford Woods State Park

Grand Isle State Park

Jamaica State Park

Lake Carmi State Park

Little River State Park

Mount Ascutney State Park

Mt. Philo State Park

Niquette Bay State Park

Quechee State Park

Sand Bar State Park

Smugglers' Notch State Park

Stillwater State Park

Townshend State Park

Wilgus State Park

Woodford State Park

Vermont Days

Vermont History Museum

Green Mountain Club

Camping Tips & Tricks



VT State Parks Blog

General Info

Early Blooming Trillium 
Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!" - Robin Williams

This is the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks.  See you out there!
-Vermont State Parks 

Vermont State Parks | 888-409-7579 | 
 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2
 Montpelier, VT 05620