Vermont State Parks e-newsletter                         September 2016 

Greetings Everyone!
Craig Whipple,Director of State Parks 
We had a great summer hosting all of you at your state parks! The weather was mostly fabulous and we will be once again approaching 1 million visits for the year. That's 1 million times people have spent the day or night in the Vermont outdoors, enjoying time with their friends and families, relaxing, having fun, and being relieved from their stresses of everyday life. We are happy you joined us. 

Now is the time we shift gears with cooler nights, clear days and Vermont's world class bright foliage colors. It's a great time to be outdoors camping or just taking a stroll through the woods. Half of our campgrounds are still fully operating through Columbus Day weekend so there is lots of room for your late season adventure.

Our hats go off to all our staff who help make your experiences memorable. From the Park Managers and Attendants to the Interpreters to the maintenance crews that hold everything together for us. Thanks to all for being part of the Vermont State Parks team.

Now, everyone, get out from in front of this screen and head outdoors! You'll be glad you did!

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks

An Autumn Walk Around Lake Shaftsbury 

by 2016 guest blogger Tara Schatz

Lake Shaftsbury State Park is nestled among rolling hills and dense forest in Southwestern Vermont. It's not exactly a destination for tourists, but the locals make good use of the park in the summer, when they come with coolers, sand toys, and toddlers to make the most of the little sandy beach and perfectly shallow water.

I stay away in the summer - too many people for such a little park, and dogs aren't allowed at all when the season is in full swing. I lean toward dog-friendly most of the time. My dog is my favorite hiking companion.

When the gates close after Labor Day, the park belongs to me and a handful of dog and nature-lovers. It's usually warm enough to swim until late September, and the mile trail around the lake is the perfect little adventure for restless dogs and their human companions.

I visit Lake Shaftsbury once a week or so in off season. I know its charms so well, that I often forget to bring my camera. Last week I remembered and thought to capture a bit of fall's fleeting beauty. It's a good thing, too, because today the rain is coming down in sheets, the wind is blowing fiercely, and fall seems all played out.

Visiting Lake Shaftsbury State Park:

The park is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day for swimming, paddling, hiking, and camping. Dogs are not allowed when the park is open. The campground here is small and quiet, and there is a delightful cottage for rent right on the water that sleeps six. It's a great place for kids, with a sandy beach, snack bar, playground, canoe and kayak rentals, and a nice nature trail.

If you visit during the off season, you'll have to park your car outside the gate and walk in. There are no amenities available and usually no people either. A resident bald eagle or osprey will usually put on a show early in the morning and the sun will play hide-and-seek in the trees as it rises. It's a lovely place to capture the foliage in the fall or to strap on snowshoes in the winter. If you're traveling through on route 7 from Bennington to Manchester, Lake Shaftsbury is totally worth a stop - stretch your legs and enjoy some of Vermont's hidden beauty.

You can read more about Tara's many adventures at her blog,
Congratulations To Our Parks of the Year!
Park of the Year awards were given out at our annual meeting on September 8th. This award is given out yearly to a park in each region of the state, and is based on a number of factors: hospitality, staff relations, safely, facility, tool and equipment care, and report/ record keeping. 

The winners are:

Southeast Region:

Southwest Region:
Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh

Northwest Region:
Lake Carmi State Park in Franklin 

Northeast Region:

Did you know: Rare plants live at Alburgh Dunes and Niquette Bay
Let's help preserve them! 

Wright's Spikerush- spotted recently at Alburgh Dunes and Niquette Bay.

The next time you're walking along a Burlington-area beach, watch your step and keep your eyes peeled- one of the plants that you're seeing might include a rare Wright's Spikerush, a tufted member of the sedge family. This species is found at several beaches locally, but known to be growing at less than 20 locations worldwide. 

Many of us were not happy with this dry condition this year, but these rare beach plants need dry summers to grow! During wet years, the seeds stay dormant underwater. When the lake level drops during dry seasons, the seeds are exposed to air and are ready to germinate. Wright's Spikerush seeds can like dormant under lakes for decades.

Walking or biking on the beach can damage these tiny plants, which grow just below the high water line. Walk above or below, on bare sand, to avoid doing damage.

Other rare beach plants that you may spot include the reddish-purple Water Hemp and Awned Flatsedge.

Beaches that host rare plants like Wright's Spikerush, include popular spots like Leddy Park and North Beach, and two of our state parks- Niquette Bay and Alburgh Dunes.

Location of Wright's Spikerush at Alburgh Dunes

What to look for: Wright's Spikerush like moist, low, grassy areas of beach that are less heavily trafficked. 

For more information about Wright's Spikerush and other rare plants found in Vermont, contact Vermont Fish and Wildlife department at, or at (802) 828- 1000.

Random Acts of Camping Wraps Up For 2016 

Once again our Random Acts of Camping promotion was a success. Five lucky visitors to day use parks over the summer won free camping stays at any state park in Vermont. Congratulations to our last Random Acts winner of the season, Liliana!
New Mountain Bike Trails Open at Little River State Park
Three new miles of mountain bike and multi-use trails officially opened at Little River on September 23rd, and more trails are planned for the future. The new trails will be maintained in partnership with the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance, a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA). 

See you out on the trails! 

Official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the park
September 2016

Northern Harriers 
By Rebecca Roy

Things change this time of year. Squirrels are scurrying to stash as many acorns as possible. Muskrats are adding cattail stalks to their nests. Migratory birds are starting to fly south. Autumn is a time of change, and if you get outside, you can witness it first-hand.

Northern Harrier in flight 

I've enjoyed a summer of seeing Northern Harriers. These large hawks are distinctive because they fly low over fields and marshes, capturing small birds and mammals with sudden pounces. Harriers are very long and slim raptors with a large white patch at the base of their tail.
Harriers are the only hawks that primarily use hearing to catch prey, they fly low listening and looking for these small animals in tall grasses and thick marsh plants. Hunting by sound is a characteristic Harriers share with owls. Harriers have an owl-like facial disk, a face designed to catch and funnel sounds to the birds' ears, although they are unrelated to owls.

I saw one last week at Kingsland Bay State Park, but Harriers will be departing Vermont soon to head to their winter homes in the southern United States. Some of the Harriers I've seen recently probably nested in Canada, and stopped here in Vermont for a mouse or two on their trip south.

Golden Crowned Kinglet

Many of the birds breeding in the summer Vermont woods start to leave this time of year for warmer winter climates. Even our beloved state bird, the Hermit Thrush, departs Vermont for a warmer winter experience. Those brightly colored warblers we enjoyed watching in May and June now have on drab feathers, the bright plumage of breeding season faded as the need to blend in and camouflage is more important than showing off this time of year.

Enjoy a great show by kicking back in the Vermont woods, and watch these avian travelers fly south. You will watch a flock of Cedar Waxwings make short work of crab apples on a wild apple tree, and Harriers and other hawks move in large flocks over our mountain tops.

Kent Pond by Gifford Woods State Park in autumn 

Meanwhile our woods will be full of our winter resident birds-our little friends the Black-Capped Chickadees, Kinglets, Nuthatches, and hardy owls. Autumn is a time of transition, and you can appreciate the changes by getting out into it. Plan a trip to Gifford Woods, Woodford, Underhill, or Ricker Pond State Park and watch the birds fly by.

Parks Open Past Labor Day 
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It's not too late to get out into the parks for some end-of-season camping, hiking and of course, leaf- peeping. Here is the full schedule for fall 2016. 

Fully Operational Until Oct. 10th

Mt. Philo

Fully Operational Until Oct. 16th

Fully Operational Until Oct. 17th

Fully Operational Until Oct. 22nd

Coolidge State Park day use area in fall
Ways to Enjoy Your Parks in Fall- Some Ideas
It's that time of year again.. hoodie and sweater weather! Here are a few park-themed suggestions to help you make the most of autumn:
  • Drive to the top of Mt. Ascutney- great views all year round, especially in fall. The more adventurous can also hike up. 
  • Climb the fire tower at Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington. Fun fact- you can see three states from here: Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont (really!)
Climb the fire tower at Molly Stark

Mt. Philo in Autumn
If you don't spot any birds, at least there's the view..
Vermont Parks Forever 

Partnering for the Future of Vermont State Parks!
Vermont Parks Forever (VPF) began in 2013 as the charitable foundation to benefit Vermont's amazing state parks!  Since then, we've been hard at work (mostly behind the scenes) partnering with Park staff, generous donors and park enthusiasts to make our parks even better.  
stone hut
The old Stone Hut on Mt. Mansfield 
In 2016, VPF helped bring on a new state park in Springfield and funded free park passes for foster families.  We also helped raise funds to rebuild the famous Stone Hut on Mt. Mansfield that burned down in December 2015, and the reconstruction is well underway.  We are proud that our work directly benefits Vermonters, visitors and our beloved parks.  

For more exciting news, visit us at to sign up for our e-news, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter:
Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter 
We greatly appreciate their support and yours!

Enter Our Campfire Cook-off Contest and Win!

Deadline to enter extended to Columbus Day

Submit a video of you preparing your favorite outdoor cooking recipe and you can win a prize package that includes camping, firewood, ice and Vermont products -- plus, the best prize of all: bragging rights.

Send videos, along with a written recipe to by October 10, 2016.

Individual and team submissions are welcome. Cooking
needs to be done over wood or charcoal. You can grill on a BBQ, either at camp or at home, but no gas cooking is permitted.

Bonus points will be awarded using healthy and local foods.

Recipes and videos will be shared online and winners will be chosen via online voting.

Good luck!

Quick Links 

Vermont State Parks

Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge

Campfire Cook-Off

Random Acts of Camping

Vermont Mountain Bike Association

Waterbury Area Trails Alliance

Alburgh Dunes State Park

Branbury State Park

Brighton State Park

Button Bay State Park

Coolidge State Park

Elmore State Park

Emerald Lake State Park

Gifford Woods State Park

Grand Isle State Park

Green River Reservoir State Park

Jamaica State Park

Kettle Pond State Park

Kingsland Bay State Park

Lake Carmi State Park

Lake Shaftsbury State Park

Little River State Park Molly Stark State Park

Mt Ascutney State Park

Mt. Philo State Park

New Discovery State Park

Niquette Bay State Park

Ricker Pond State Park

Smugglers' Notch State Park

Underhill State Park

Waterbury Center State Park

Wilgus State Park

Woodford State Park

Backroad Ramblers Blog

Camping Tips & Tricks


Vermont Parks Forever


Cabins & Cottages

Vermont State Parks Merchandise

VT State Parks Blog


General Info

Rising sun from Mt. Philo by Stan Semuskie
This is the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks
Don't hibernate just yet! Stay outside, and get lost in the leaves, or the stars, or a corn maze.
-Vermont State Parks 

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