Vermont State Parks e-newsletter                                     February 2017
Winter dogsled & marriage proposal at Little River State Park 

Hello Everyone!

Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks 
Welcome to our winter newsletter. As you can see, people absolutely love their state parks any time of year! Winter in Vermont offers some very special opportunities for getting outdoors and state parks are there for you to enjoy all sorts of winter fun. I continue to encounter people who believe the parks are "closed" until spring. Not so! We encourage everyone to spend time in their favorite parks and experience their summer-time special places when they are so quiet, peaceful and blanketed in snow. It really makes for an interesting and invigorating outing. So, go for it. You'll be glad you did.

It's also the time of year when our staff are busy getting organized for next summer. There's a lot to do and all hands are on deck working to make your upcoming visit special. One of the most important tasks is to find and hire the very best staff. We know that your experience and our success both depend on continuing our tradition of high quality service with friendly and helpful Vermont State Parks employees and volunteers. Consider joining our team for this fun and rewarding work next summer!

When you finish reading this newsletter, walk away from your computer, bundle up and head outside for some winter fresh air and fun. See you out there!           

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks
The Outdoor Observer
Gaining The Edge On Winter Weather 

-By Rebecca Roy
Hardy Vermont State Park fans have been out exploring their favorite parks, even in the sometimes chilly, sometimes icy winter world we are experiencing this year. My friend Amy, who loves state parks so much she completed our Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge with her little daughter last year, was recently hiking around in Underhill State Park. Amy came back with wonderful memories of the smell of a fragrant spruce, fir forest in winter, and a photo of an unidentified lichen specimen.

Lichen spotted recently at Underhill State Park 

To cope with harsh winter weather, and to prevent harmful freezing, most plants in Vermont lose leaves in autumn, and enter a dormant period. Deciduous trees, herbaceous plants, wildflowers, and many shrubs spend the winter leafless, waiting for spring. However, there are some hardy organisms possessing adaptations giving them the edge on winter weather. The winter landscape is like a cold desert, freezing temperatures bring an unavailability of water.

I was running in Gifford Woods State Park last week, I forgot my water bottle, but I was able to eat snow off low hanging, snow laden pine branches. Trees and plants do not have the luxury of eating snow to get moisture, so they have adaptations to help them handle the limitations of the winter landscape. Coniferous, needled evergreen trees like pine and fir, have hard, waxy coatings on their needles, ensuring they do not lose precious water through their needles. This waxy coating also protects them from freezing. Ice crystals can destroy plant cells, anyone who has ever had a too cold refrigerator freeze fresh lettuce leaves knows what I mean.

Lichens are an example of another hardy organism that is adapted to the harsh winter weather of northern New England. Lichens gain their ruggedness from the symbiotic relationship combined in this small organism. Lichens are a single organism are made up of a fungus and some algae in a mutualistic relationship.  Mutualism means both organisms benefit from the combination. Neither the fungus, nor the algae could survive harsh winter weather, but together they can thrive and grow during winter months. The algae provide the form of the lichen, while the algae provide food and nutrients-through photosynthesis.

Lichens grow very slowly, and often in very inhospitable environments. I've seen lichens grow on tree branches, rocks, and gravestones. Lichens play important roles as winter food for herbivores, by breaking down rock into soil, and reducing erosion by growth on new soil. Although very hardy, growing in places inhospitable to other organisms, lichens are very sensitive to air pollution. So if you spot lichens, you know you are breathing clean air, like Amy was the other day in Underhill State Park.

I recognized the lichen Amy found immediately, as British Soldiers Lichen ( Cladonia cristatella). British Soldiers Lichen identification was one of my earliest nature lessons from my science teaching father. He used to pick it to bring to my mom as "flowers," so I knew how to spot it from an early age. The red you see on the British Soldiers Lichen is not a flower of course, it is the fruiting body of the organism, I learned that fact later. Now that you know how to spot this hardy resident, look for it on your next walk in the Vermont winter woods at your favorite state park. 
Guest Blog: Winter Camping at Burton Island State Park by Matt Parsons

Burton Island is a 253-acre park off the southwestern tip of Hathaway Point in St. Albans Vermont, in Lake Champlain's 'Inland  Sea'. The park is accessible only by boat in the summertime. The state's passenger ferry makes the 10-minute trip from Kamp Kill Kare State Park. All Vermont State Parks are open from November 1st to April 15th. People wanting to camp in the off-season need to submit a request at least three days in advance and wait for approval. The reason for this is that there might be construction, logging or some other project going on that they wouldn't want campers in the middle of.  Learn more about off-season camping here.

This adventure took place in February so I would be crossing the ice. I was laid off from the concrete construction business that year, was single at the time and the winter doldrums were setting in. A sure-fire way for me to kick the midwinter blues is to get out and explore. In Vermont we are privileged to explore the parks in the off season at no charge, providing we respect the property and pack out what we pack in. This is a policy that I appreciate and believe in. On a Tuesday morning I decided to traverse across the solid ice to Burton Island and explore.

It was a cold and grey kind of day. A day that most people in my situation would stay in for. Perhaps it is my Vermont heritage, but that kind of thing drives me to do things differently than most. I packed my day pack, dressed accordingly and headed out the door. The gate to Kill Kare was open and I was able to drive my car to the parking lot. It had been a particularly cold winter and there was ice as far as the eye could see. Seeing a few ice fishermen assured me that the ice was safe. I avoided the pressure cracks and proceeded to make a beeline for the island.

Once on land I strolled the campsites and lean-to areas at the northwest side of the island. At one of the last lean-to's I spotted some firewood left over from the summer camping season. A seed was planted! As I hiked the rugged shoreline trail on the west side, I began entertaining the idea of a winter sleep-over. It wasn't a picture perfect day but the rugged landscape made up for the lack of sweet light a photographer longs for. I snapped a few pictures with my point and shoot as I wandered along.

This was my first time visiting Burton Island. My first time adventures usually end up as some sort of reconnaissance mission for something more spectacular. This trip was no different. All I could think about on the way back to the car was the lean-to and the easily available firewood. A campfire is essential to my camping experience. The fact that it was just sitting there beckoned to be enjoyed. I finally resolved to return and began formulating a plan.

In a short few weeks I began putting together my gear for a winter overnight camping experience. This would be my first time since I was a kid in Boy Scouts. I am a mere novice but I am keenly aware of my basic skills and the simple gear that I possess. That is one reason why the lean-to and available wood appealed to me. What I lack in ability and gear, I make up for with creative determination. A trait common to us native Vermonters.

This whole idea brought back memories of camping on the Long Trail with my dad and Boy Scout troop #53. That is probably why I began talking it over with my 11 year old son. He had no experience but seemed willing to trust the old man. This was during a time in our lives together that I would stretch my kids' fortitude. Fortunately they enjoyed spending time with me and trusted doing whatever dad wanted to do.

The day arrived and we put all the gear in the car. I waited until afternoon so that we wouldn't have too much idle time that could possibly bore my son. It was a moderately cold and overcast day but there was slush on top of the ice. I packed our boat sled in the parking lot as I had rehearsed at home. I threw my pack over my shoulders and we began to trudge the approximate 1 mile to our shelter.

David soon began amusing himself in the slush. Before I knew it he was doing a "Pete Rose slide" into the slush and skating along like an otter. It was amusing to watch and I actually got a chuckle out of it. Then reality struck! There was no way that this boy was going to enjoy a winter's night of camping in cold wet clothes. I quickly reasoned with him and decided to turn back.

We returned home and began to thaw out. In an unspoken moment we came to understand that David's heart wasn't in it and mine was. He decided to go back home to his mom's which he seldom did. I agreed and planned to go at it alone the following day with his blessing.

I had already explored the island so I employed the same strategy of an afternoon start. The conditions were the same as the day before. I quickly assembled my gear and hit the ice again. Fortunately the shelter had 1 side facing the West which protected me from the prevailing winds. The open end faced the North but was sheltered slightly by trees.  The best I could hope for now was to have mother nature show favor and trust in my skills and gear.

I un-assembled my gear from my sled and began the nesting process. The one thing I like about camping is that there is no right or wrong way to camp. I am casual about all my outdoor activities. I tend to buy the core things I need of good quality and make up for the rest with determination and Yankee ingenuity. On this trip I packed an air mattress and my warmest sleeping bag along with a full-blown 2 burner cook stove. Heavy by most hikers' standards but my "cargo sled" helped. My stay was going to be short and I didn't pack any MRE's. I packed a medium sized cooler that contained my dinner, bacon, eggs and coffee for breakfast. These are essential staples to my morning ritual. As long as I am willing to do the work, I will pack what I like to make my time enjoyable.

I moved the picnic table into the shelter so that I could cook and eat in the shelter. Once my digs were to my liking I focused on the firepit. There wasn't enough hard wood for the night. Fortunately there was a down tree that I remembered from my reconnaissance mission weeks before. I brought a hatchet and a saw and used my sled to transport the wood back to camp. With a little newspaper, some dryer lint and a bottle of lighter fluid I was quickly warming my chilled bones by the fire. Not exactly how the extremists do it, but I'm NOT an extremist.

Now it was time to relax! I broke out my folding camp chair and bundled up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. Darkness soon settled in and the temperature began to drop. Peace and quiet has a whole different sound out on the ice. The winter wind howls through the barren trees and the ice pops and snaps as it gives birth to more ice. Even in the dark eeriness their is a sense of Peace that overrides the haunting sounds.

Just as I got settled in and accustomed to this new-found peace, a fox ran into sight about 50 yards out. I watched it come from the interior of the island. As it headed toward the open ice, the fox stopped in mid trot and stared at me in curiosity. I imagined him wondering what I was doing out here in the off-season on such a cold night. Crazy human! Appearing satisfied that I was not a threat, the fox resumed heading to the open ice. I presume it was headed out to find a tasty remnant from a day of ice fishermen. I was grateful and satisfied to have seen some wildlife on the island. I stirred around the campsite until I felt tired.

My nighttime ritual was complicated by the dropping temps. I laid on top of my sleeping bag and preheated my bed. In a few minutes I slipped into the sack and proceeded to doze off. In the middle of the night a chill began to set in. The wind increased and shifted to coming from the North. Still in my clothes I opted to use a tarp and some bungies to cover the front of my shelter. The extra work assured me of a warm and complete rest. The tarps folded up nicely in my cargo sled and proved to be beneficial.

To say the morning was crisp is an understatement. My breath was heavy as morning fog as I tested the air from my warm sleeping bag. Hot coffee was my incentive to jump out of the sack and run to the cook stove. I stirred the coals into flame with what wood I had left. Hot coffee and a roaring fire warmed me inside and out as I sat in my camp chair. I used a menagerie of cooking equipment that I threw together to make my traditional breakfast. On the framework of the shelter I spotted a work of art. Somebody had taken two clam shells from the shore and fashioned them to sticks. The distinctively different sizes indicated that someone had once set a fancy table ( or at least I imagined.) The lavender-colored shells made them extra fancy. If I'm ever stranded on an island without utensil I will know what to do.

Hot breakfast went down the hatch. I sat at the picnic table inside the lean-to and savored the silence. This was a personal achievement for me.  I felt like I was one of the few people who ever dared to venture out on this island to camp in the winter. On the way back to the mainland I began to reminisce of the last 24 hours. Each step closer to the car made me feel I like I had beat Old Man Winter at his own game. I felt more accomplished that I did it with random equipment I had laying around the house. The fact that I did it my way rather than the way of an extremist made me glad that I'm a Vermonter.

About Matt: 

Matt Parsons was born and raised in Northwestern Vermont. Matt says that he is proud to live in a state that recognizes the importance of its natural resources, and has been a Vermont State Parks volunteer photographer and blogger for many years. 
We're Hiring For The 2017 Season
Come work with us! 

Work in the beautiful Vermont outdoors with some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. Park visitors constantly give our staff rave reviews, and park employees tell us that working for the parks is both rewarding and meaningful. If you have a great attitude and work ethic, and great customer service skills we'd love for you to apply. 

We are currently recruiting park managers, interpreters, attendants, and more. Part-time and full- time positions available statewide. Jobs are seasonal, temporary positions and as such do not have benefits and paid vacation. 

Please apply through our website.  Go to the online portal and click on the"How to apply" link on the top left of the page.

Brand-New Cabins Now Available To Reserve on Burton Island State Park

Summer 2017 spots still available 

Popasquash cabin 

Burton Island is one of Vermont's most popular state parks, and now there is even more to love about this island in Lake Champlain. The new, universally accessible cabins are located on the secluded east side of the island, away from the main campground. Each cabin has one futon and a set of bunk beds, a table with four chairs and an electric outlet. Cabins sleep up to four people. Restrooms with hot water and showers are located a short distance away adjacent to the marina. A picnic table and campfire ring with grill are provided for each cabin. The cabins are named for nearby islands in Lake Champlain: Sunset, Savage and Popasquash.

Cabin interior 

Off the tip of St. Albans Point on Lake Champlain, Burton Island State Park has a unique maritime feel unusual for land-locked Vermont. There are many premier waterfront campsites, a lively marina, bistro, and trails to explore on foot or bike. The vehicle-free roads add to the island's charm. 

Lake Champlain view from Sunset cabin

Most people who visit Burton Island say that the park has its own relaxing mystique that's hard to resist. "Burton Island is a very special place," says Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks. "When you're out there you really do feel like you're in a different world. We hope that by adding cabins, more people, perhaps those with small children, or others who would like to try camping but are looking for a less rustic experience, will give it a try."

At this time, Burton Island cabin reservations must be reserved through our central call center, toll-free at 1-888-409-7579. 

All reservations must be made for 7 nights, Saturday to Saturday. As with all other sites, reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
Fantastic Turnout For Vermont State Parks' First Day Hikes 

On January 1st, Vermont joined many states in offering free, guided First Day hikes in state parks across Vermont. 

The Otter Creek Audubon Society led a bird-watching walk at Button Bay State Park 

This year, Vermont State Parks hosted 9 different hikes. Locations were spread out across the state, and included diverse parks such as Mt. Ascutney, Underhill, Niquette Bay, and one of our newest park additions, the Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park in Hubbardton. 

We also want to give a shout-out and a huge THANK YOU to our volunteer guides (including outdoor leaders and naturalists) who generously offered their time and expertise to lead hikes. 

Plenty of company at at Niquette Bay State Park hike in Colchester 

First Day Hikes have become a tradition for some. If you missed your chance this year don't worry, park admission is still free in the off-season... and mark your calendar for 2018!

West River view at Jamaica State Park 
Vermont State Parks Are Seeking Campground Volunteers 

In addition to park employees, the Vermont State Parks are also seeking seasonal volunteers for various parks. 

Camping volunteers commit to at least a 6- week stay, work 30 hours per week, and receive a free campsite for their stay (including hook-ups), and free admission to all other state parks while they are volunteering. 

Please visit our website for latest list of parks with openings  and instructions on how to apply.

Ways To Enjoy Vermont State Parks In Winter 


Cabin fever has set in among a certain segment of the population, not helped by the cloudy weather of late. But there are still plenty of ways to get outside. 


Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of winter, courtesy of Vermont State Parks: 


  • Try sledding at one of the park roads. Mt. Philo and Mt. Ascutney are perennial favorites with long and winding slopes, but plenty of parks have more gentle hills for the whole family to practice on. 


Tubing at Mt Ascutney State Park 


  • Snowshoeing or fat biking at Seyon Lodge State Park. The Lodge itself is open year-round, with multiple groomed trails. The Groton State Forest is rightfully popular in summertime, but has a completely different feel in the winter months! 


Skiing into the sunset

  • Go for a nature walk. The beauty of this is that you can go anywhere! Walk around a frozen lake, watch for animal tracks or winter birds, and just stop and enjoy the stark, still beauty of winter in Vermont. 


  • Build a snowman or have a snowball fight.. also can be done anywhere.. primary ingredient permitting!


Snowman on duty at Woodford State Park


Calling All Park Performers! 

We are seeking park performers for our 2017 season! 

If you are a musician, storyteller, birder, crafter, or have another talent that you would like to share with us, let us know! 

Contact: l
Get Ready For Spring- Buy Your Park Passes Now 

Park passes are an inexpensive and practical way to enjoy the parks for the entire season. An individual pass costs $30 and admits one person into any park all season long. Punch passes are also $30, provide 10 day use entries, and best of all, never expire! 

A 2017 Vehicle Pass can be purchased for $90 and provides unlimited day use access for up to 8 people in one vehicle, at any park, all season long. A second pass, for a vehicle registered to the same household, is available for a discounted price of $50. 

Order passes online at, or call us toll- free at 1-888-409-7579. 

Quick Links 

Vermont State Parks

Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge 

Button Bay State Park

Burton Island State Park

Camel's Hump State Park

Gifford Woods State Park

Jamaica State Park

Kamp Kill Kare State Park

Little River State Park

Mt. Ascutney State Park 

Mt. Philo State Park

Niquette Bay State Park

Seyon Lodge State Park

Silver Lake State Park

Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park

Underhill State Park

Woodford State Park

Green Mountain Club

Camping Tips & Tricks

Off Season Park Use



Cabins & Cottages

Vermont State Parks Merchandise

VT State Parks Blog



General Info



Playing in the snow. Sitting by the fire. Good friends. Hot meals. Candles and Cozy blankets. 
The Danish call it hygge. We call it winter in Vermont. 
-Vermont State Parks 

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