News Archive

Maggie Citarella’s visit to the North Branch Cascades

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

The day that I visited the North Branch Cascades was one of those great days. The weather was warm, sunny, and comfortable. My husband and I recently moved to Vermont and we were excited to visit our first swimming hole in the state. Lucky for us, the North Branch Cascades Trail boasts many swimming holes, showcasing a series of seven cascading waterfalls along the North Branch of the Winooski River.

Our immediate impression of the one-mile long nature trail and surroundings was that everything was clean, serene, and even wild. We only passed a few other people on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. As we made our way down the trail, we excitedly checked out each swimming hole and sight of the river. The air smelled sweet, the forest shaded us, and the water eventually drew us in.

We found and settled in at a bright and tranquil spot along the river that had a picturesque waterfall. The water was clear, and we even spotted a few fish and tadpoles. There was a perfectly round and small swimming hole on top of the falls that quickly intrigued us. Of course, we took advantage of this tiny spot to dunk our heads underwater and lay back on the rocks to gaze at the blue skies and trees overhead. After we cooled off, we explored other waterfalls north and south of us walking carefully in the river water. We thoroughly enjoyed letting the falls just pour down on top of our heads for a few minutes, and watching the river swiftly wash past us while we sat in all kinds of grooved rock formations.

As a new resident to Vermont, I feel grateful knowing that there are places like the North Branch Cascades out there, freely accessible and welcoming everyone. I am also happy to know that half of this trail is wheelchair accessible. The North Branch Cascades was acquired and conserved thanks to a partnership between the Vermont River Conservancy and the Vermont Land Trust. These natural areas and recreational opportunities are so special, especially with the stresses of everyday life. That’s why I feel strongly about supporting conservation efforts — whether that means following updates, volunteering, or donating. The protection of these areas is so critical for the continued enjoyment and appreciation of nature by present and future generations.

Maggie Citarella is an environmental professional and certified arborist living in South Burlington, Vermont with her husband. Raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, she recently moved from South Carolina after receiving her M.S. degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University and working for a community forestry nonprofit called TreesUpstate. With several years of experience in conservation, parks, and community forestry, Maggie enjoys getting outside and sharing her love of nature. As a Boston University alumna, she is excited to be back in New England. This fall, she is participating in the Vermont Master Naturalist Program. You can find Maggie walking her dogs, reading, or volunteering as she looks for her next opportunity. She is best reached by email at

North Branch Cascades Trail is Open!

Friday, July 24th, 2020

This has been a very popular time for the one-mile long trail along the North Branch of the Winooski River,  despite the project not being fully complete. VRC opened the trail for the public to enjoy now, knowing that special places along our rivers are more important than ever during these challenging times. Upon completion this fall, visitors will notice even more improvements to this already incredible spot. VRC is adding another composting privy near the northern parking lot, some benches along the trail, replacing the picnic table (the original one was swept away during the 2019 Halloween Storm), and a few finishing touches to the middle portion of the trail. We have heard so many great stories from many North Branch Cascades visitors, we are glad people are enjoying this spot, and we greatly appreciate the excellent user behavior and respect we have seen. Learn more about this project here. If you can help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 to fund the management of the North Branch Cascades, please donate here. Thank you!

River Access video featuring our own Noah Pollock!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Here’s a wonderful video created by Lake Champlain Basin Program and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership discussing river access and featuring our own Noah Pollock and volunteers installing timber steps at the Lamoille River and building a bridge at our North Bridge Cascades Trail!  Partnerships and volunteers are important, and we’re proud and grateful for the folks of Lake Champlain Basin Program, Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, Lamoille River Paddler’s Trail, Missisquoi River Basin Program, Dunkiel Saunders Law Firm, and Umiak Outdoor Outfitters.

Privy installed at the North Branch Cascades Trail

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

We’re so happy to see folks out on our North Branch Cascades Trail! We’re lucky to have such a beautiful (and now accessible) space to visit locally – especially this summer. While the trail is not fully complete yet, we are welcoming visitors. We recently constructed and installed a privy, thanks to Noah Pollock and a crew from Northern Forest Canoe Trails, with funding from the VT Dept of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Recreation Trails Program!

A few tips for when you’re out visiting VRC’s swimming holes:
If there is a privy available, please use it – this will eliminate human waste risk to other visitors and help keep our waters clean. Privies will not regularly be cleaned. Please bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

New Public Access to the New Haven River

Friday, June 19th, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy is pleased to announce expanded public access on the New Haven River.  With support from Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Trout Unlimited, New Haven River Angler’s Association, Praecipio Consulting, and generous support from local donors, VRC added 14.7 acres to the Saunders River Access for permanent floodplain protection, revegetation, and public access. This expanded protection means:

  • Protected water quality. This property floods almost yearly, and its floodplain vegetation actively filters and stores sediment, nutrients and organic matter from upstream sources. The revegetating floodplain forest slows the velocity of flood waters and reduces erosion during high-water events.  Because it isn’t planted in crops, less soil and nutrients are washed downstream during flood events.  Town acquisition of these 14.7 acres ensures that the newly-established riparian forest is protected.
  • Expanded public access to the New Haven River. This property will be forever protected for public access.  These lands  merged with Saunders River Access to the north – a day-use area that provides a point of entry to the New Haven River for fishing, kayaking/canoeing, bird-watching, horse-back riding, walking, and recreating. Together, the parcels comprise 54 acres of floodplain forest and 3,800 feet of frontage along the New Haven River.
  • Enhanced wildlife corridors. This vital riparian habitat for birds, amphibians and mammals will be managed and enhanced.

Thank you to the many local donors who helped us realize these goals by donating to the acquisition of the 14.7 acres of easement lands!

Kristen Underwood (Bristol Conservation Commission), Mark Martin (Vermont Housing and Conservation Board), Lydia Menendez Parker (Vermont River Conservancy) along the cobble river shore

Rivers Are For All

Friday, June 5th, 2020

The Vermont River Conservancy remains committed to our goal of public access to our rivers for all to enjoy. We believe that river access offers a connection with the natural world, a connection that transcends socioeconomic status, physical abilities, and race.

Simply put, VRC believes rivers are open to ALL.

In order to fully embrace and live our mission, VRC will oppose the systemic racism that is prevalent throughout our state, region and country. We humbly acknowledge that we have work to do to ensure we are not preventing our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members full access to the beauty and peace our river spaces provide.

James Lyall, Executive Director of ACLU of Vermont wrote these words: “Vermonters may feel a world away from Minneapolis and the sites of so many uprisings, but we are not. Every metric we have shows that Black Vermonters face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, and justice.”

Vermont River Conservancy will not let these barriers stop our BIPOC friends from enjoying all that our rivers have to offer. We acknowledge that words are not enough, and we commit our organization to consider equity and inclusion with each new project we take on, to being more deliberate in reaching out for other perspectives and thinking beyond our own experiences, and to being anti-racist in all aspects of our work.

North Branch Cascades, photo credit: Wayne Fawbush

VRC welcomes a Swimming Hole Steward for the summer!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy is very proud to host its second AmeriCorps volunteer, and to create this new partnership with Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.  With funding support from AmeriCorps, the Richmond Conservation Commission, Richmond Land Trust, and the Lintilhac Foundation, VRC’s newest Swimming Hole Steward Morgan Perlman will support our stewardship efforts at popular swimming holes in Central Vermont.  You’ll see him this summer at the Lower Huntington Gorge, the Bolton Potholes, and the North Branch Cascades greeting and surveying visitors, picking up litter and reminding you to Carry In, Carry Out any trash, implementing our management plans with trail maintenance, new signage, and environmental interpretation.  We always encourage you to leave if parking is crowded, and remind you never to park illegally as it creates safety issues for road travel and emergency responses, and it means the site is too crowded to maintain safe distances from other people.  And new this summer: to stay safe during the COVID19 pandemic, state guidance includes bringing your mask, staying in household groups of less than ten, giving a minimum of six feet space between you and others, washing your hands regularly, and keeping your dogs leashed.  Morgan’s service is not to enforce these safety guidelines, but he can happily remind you why they are so important for keeping everyone healthy as we get outside and enjoy summer!  Say hi to him when you see him, and please tell him what you like about each swimming hole – we want to know!


VRC welcomes Conservation Stewardship intern

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

We are excited to introduce our Conservation Stewardship Intern,  Tessa Schneider, to our VRC team.  In this position, Tessa will visit all of our conserved lands across the state, documenting her visits and reporting on river conditions and land use. As part of our conservation work, we monitor each of our easements annually to ensure that the terms of the easements are being upheld and to follow up on any issues. We conduct site visits for our 70+ projects with the help of an intern each summer. As a junior studying at the University of Vermont, this internship will help inform her future studies and professional interests.  Tessa looks forward to getting to know the beautiful rivers of Vermont!


Swimming Hole Guidelines for Pandemic

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

The Vermont River Conservancy (VRC) anticipates swimming holes throughout the state will see many visitors with the warm weather upon us. VRC’s core mission is protecting public access to places along rivers that are well-loved by community members and visitors alike. However, VRC’s Executive Director Steve Libby emphasizes the importance of swimming hole visitors to follow state guidelines regarding recreating on public land during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Vermont River Conservancy sees the unique role swimming holes play in communities throughout Vermont,” Libby says, “these are places to enjoy the peace that a river can provide, to cool off on a hot day, and to recharge your mental well-being during these unsettling times. VRC protects swimming holes for public enjoyment, but we rely strongly on the respectful behavior of visitors to ensure these sites can remain open during the pandemic, and are cared for and maintained for years to come.”


Visitors to swimming holes protected by VRC will find signs guiding proper use of the site during the Covid-19 pandemic, including:

  • Don’t go to public swimming holes if you are sick.
  • Avoid crowded trails and swimming holes that do not allow a minimum of six feet of distance. If a parking lot is crowded, please go elsewhere.
  • Leash your dog.
  • Avoid risky activities, so as not to put more strain on hospitals and emergency responders.
  • Be mindful of the popularity of these sites and don’t linger too long, to make space for others to be there.
  • Do not wear a mask while swimming, but do bring a mask with you for walking along the trail.

If you enjoy Vermont’s swimming holes, please consider a donation to VRC to help protect special places along our rivers for public use for years to come.

VRC Awarded Wild & Scenic Funding

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Vermont River Conservancy received an $10,000 Upper Missisquoi & Trout Rivers Wild & Scenic grant as part of the River Community Grants Program, to create a management plan and conduct site improvements for a public access site on the Missisquoi River. Several years ago, VRC worked with landowners Bruce and Anne McKay to help realize their vision of merging a portion of their property with the Village of North Troy parcel below Big Falls State Park, to improve public access and increase conservation benefits of this important land on the Missisquoi River (link to completed project details here). With the Village’s recent approval at the end of 2019, this property will be conserved by VRC and transferred to the Village with an approved management plan and site improvements in place in 2020, for people to enjoy access to the river and fishing hole below Big Falls.

The McKay Big Falls parcel is dominated by Silver Maple – Ostrich Fern Floodplain forest, which visitors pass through to arrive at the open field / well-head area and move on to the River Cobble Shore below the Falls. In 2019, after years of leaving the metal gate on River Road closed and locked, the Village of North Troy opened the gate allowing public access to the site. Whereas before, limited parking in the pullout on River Road kept site-use low, vehicular access to the property’s driveway and lower field allowed public use to increase substantially. Allowing public access is the intent of conserving the McKay Big Falls parcel, but it must be done with proper management and site improvements.

Without any management in place, vehicles were able to drive to the water’s edge and near the well head, camping and campfires were unchecked, and no signage provided visitors with site rules. These actions can damage sensitive areas quickly and intensively. Designated parking and campfire locations are important management decisions, and can allow for desired uses while protecting natural resources. VRC understands how many people enjoy accessing the river here, as originally intended by the McKays, and wants to ensure it is managed well for long-term enjoyment.

The Village of North Troy depends on the public’s respect of this property and ensured respect for the water well head area and infrastructure. VRC will vet community needs and concerns so that the management plan robustly supports hassle-free future ownership by the Village of North Troy. Management planning will address topics including: Naming of property, signage, parking, trails, dogs, litter / trash, vehicles, picnic areas, campfires, loitering, human waste, seasonal uses, hazards, river buffer vegetation, invasive species control, flooding, erosion, long term maintenance and seasonal site stewards.

VRC collaboratively manages several popular swimming and fishing holes and river access parks throughout Vermont. Partner and funding support from the UMATR River Community Grant Program will help ensure VRC can initiate this process with a strong partnership and collaboration from the Village of North Troy. Community involvement is critical for a successful plan with the goal of river access to this beautiful spot on the Missisquoi River to be enjoyed by all.

Latest News

Maggie Citarella’s visit to the North Branch Cascades

The day that I visited the North Branch Cascades ... more »

North Branch Cascades Trail is Open!

This has been a very popular time for the one-mile ... more »

River Access video featuring our own Noah Pollock!

Here’s a wonderful video created by Lake ... more »

Privy installed at the North Branch Cascades Trail

We’re so happy to see folks out on our North ... more »

New Public Access to the New Haven River

Vermont River Conservancy is pleased to announce ... more »

Rivers Are For All

The Vermont River Conservancy remains committed ... more »

See All »