Vermont State Parks e-newsletter                                              May 2017
Boats at the ready at Waterbury Center State Park. Photo by Jesse Keck. 

Greetings Everyone!

Craig Whipple,
Director of State Parks 
Wow, spring seems to have really sprung quickly around here! It's a beautiful time of year in Vermont. As we look out over the hillsides, farms and forests that are all bright, fresh and turning very green, we look forward to a summer of fun in the outdoors. It is certainly a very busy but rewarding time for all of us here at Vermont State Parks. Our amazing maintenance crews are finishing up some off-season construction projects while they are preparing all the utilities and other behind-the-scenes facility stuff that is critical to functioning parks but...that nobody sees!  Our hats go off to these heroes of the park system. 

Last week, we held our annual Park Manager spring training program, which is our time to spend a few days with the key folks that will be managing the parks (and YOUR visits) all summer long. I can tell you they are highly qualified, enthusiastic and passionate about making sure your experiences are as good as they can be. We'll be ready for you!

See you out there!      

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks

The Outdoor Observer:
Keeping an Ear out for Thrushes

-By Rebecca Roy

While Park Managers are working hard to get ready for summer in Vermont, many birds are working hard to make homes for their babies.  Migratory birds have been returning to Vermont over the last couple months and they are singing beautiful songs throughout the forests and fields.  One group of migratory birds you can see and hear in many Vermont State Parks are the Thrushes.
Robin's nest at Mt. Ascutney State Park 

Thrushes are medium sized birds that are well known for their beautiful songs. One common thrush is the American Robin, easy to recognize because of their big red bellies.  Robins are building nests in trees (and maybe even in leantos) across Vermont right now.  The female robin builds a nest from the inside out-starting with dead grass and twigs woven into a cup shape.  She then reinforces the nest with soft mud and lines the inside with soft grass.  You can see robins hunting for worms in grassy areas of many parks including Button Bay and Wilgus State Parks. 

Warbling Vireo. Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Warbling Vireo. Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Many thrushes sing unique songs because they can sing more than one note at a time.  Perhaps you have been camping near the brook at Jamaica or Stillwater State Parks and heard an ethereal song of notes spiraling downward.  This song, sounding sort of like "veer-y, veer-y, veer-y" in downward notes is from the Veery- a thrush that lives near stream areas.  This brown bird, about the size of a Robin, is not flashy to look at but the song it produces is incredible to hear.  Right now Veeries are building cup nests of dead leaves, bark bits, and small roots at the base of a tree near running water. 
The most beloved thrush in Vermont is the Hermit Thrush.  Although it was heavily debated by the 1941 Vermont legislature, the Hermit Thrush was designated as the Vermont State Bird effective June 1, 1941.  The main debate centered on the migratory nature of the Hermit Thrush.  Legislators questioned whether a state should recognize a bird that spends summers in Vermont and winters in the southern United States. Whether you agree with this designation or not, you must admit that hearing these birds in the Vermont woods is a real treat.
Hermit Thrush- note white belly with brown spots  

Hermit Thrushes are brown forest birds about the size of Robins with brown spots on their bellies.  Just like the Veery, the Hermit Thrush can sing more than one note at a time.  You can hear the haunting Hermit Thrush song in the morning and the evening in most Vermont woodlands.  The song starts with a long single note, and then spirals upward.  Listen for it while you eat dinner or breakfast on your next trip to any Vermont State Park, including Maidstone, Molly Stark and Woodford State Parks. Hermit Thrush nests are similar to veery nests, made of small twigs and roots and set on the ground at the base of trees. All three of these thrushes have light blue eggs, although Veery eggs are sometimes spotted.  Watch carefully for these nests during your next walk in the woods. 
Just like migratory birds, we all want to return to our summer migratory spot-Vermont State Parks.  During your next visit, take a moment to stop and listen in the forest and you will not be disappointed in the symphony you hear.  

Guide to Hiking in Mud Season

Resources to help hikers enjoy Vermont's fifth season 


Time to dust off your boots and get outside! 

Everything is beautiful in Vermont in spring... except for the mud. During Mud Season, we ask hikers and walkers to avoid muddy trails. Spring rain and snow melt cause soggy conditions, and when walkers use these trails, it can lead to soil compaction and erosion, damaging the trail and keeping it muddy longer. Help to preserve the trails this spring by sticking to recreation paths, dirt roads, and trails at lower elevations. And, all new this season, we are posting weekly updates from our trail crews on the latest conditions and trail closures. This all can be found here. 


General Mud Season Hiking Guidelines:

  • If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn back and find another place to hike.
  • Plan spring hikes in hardwood forests at lower elevations.
  • Avoid spruce-fir (conifer) forest at higher elevations and on north slopes before late May and from the end of October until frozen or snow covered.
  • Camels Hump and Mt Mansfield trails are closed from snow melt (now) until they dry out. Please do not hike here. Stay below 3000 feet during these times of year.

Some recommended places to hike this spring are:

For a full list of suggested hiking trails, pl ease visit the Vermont State Parks' Mud Season Hiking Page here.


For addition information about mud season, visit the Green Mountain Club's Mud Season Hiking Guide.

Searching For Spring Flowers  

What to look for; where to go 


One easy way to avoid muddy trails, stretch your legs and enjoy breathing in spring air is to go for a walk in the woods to spot spring wildflowers. Here are a few suggestions of places to spot these colorful signs of spring.


The delicate pink of Hepatica in bloom 

Niquette Bay State Park, Colchester VT


This is one of our first parks to open (on May 6th) and (totally coincidentally) is one of the best places to look for flowers too! Look for hepatica, dutchman's breeches, violets and colonies of trillium. 


Townshend State Park, Townshend VT


Elegant lady slippers (in the orchid family) in pink and white have been spotted at Townshend and at Fort Dummer State Park a but further south in Brattleboro. 


Pink lady slippers in bloom 


Mt. Philo State Park, Charlotte VT


Another good place to find flowers like trillium and bloodroot. Bonus: the paved park road up the hill is a good walk in mud season- the views of the Champlain Valley are beautiful any time of year. 


As the name implies, bloodroot has a deep red root 

Coolidge State Park, Plymouth VT


Look for trout lily and other spring blooms in the woods of the 21,000 acre Coolidge State Forest. Trout lily is aptly named- the mottled green leaves rising from the dull brown forest floor really do resemble speckled fish scales. 

Dutchman's Breeches at Niquette Bay
Park Passes Make Wonderful Gifts 

Vermont St ate Parks  passes are a wonderful and inexpensive  way  to en joy the parks all season long!
Individual   passes are  $30  per  person and are good for day-use at any
Vermont State Park  for  the  entire season. Punch cards cost $30, and  provide 10 day-use entries for an adult or  child, and best of all, they never expire! Vehicle  passes  are good  for the entire  season, and  entitle the owner to unlimited  day use for themselves and up  to eigh t people in their vehicle.   

Park passes make great gifts for graduation, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or any outdoorsy person in your life. To order a pass visit our website or call 1888-409-7570.

Calling Park Performers!


We are still 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! 




Featured Photo Intern
Jesse Keck is a Fine Arts Landscape photographer  based out of the Champlain Valley of Vermont . He has lived in New England for over 15 years. He and his wife enjoy hiking in the Green Mountains, camping in Vermont State Parks, Geocaching, and biking by the lake. 

To view more of Jesse's work, please visit his Facebook page, Jesse Keck Photography.
Join The Fun- The Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge 

The  2017 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge  officially kicked off last month on April 1st. Every year, families from all over Vermont participate in this fun outdoor scavenger hunt, earning points while taking part in exciting outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, fishing, identifying plants, and more. Last year, there were over 200 participants who played in the parks, got outside, and discovered new things about Vermont's natural landscape.
Challenge: Catch & release 2 types of fish

There are all-new activities for Venture Vermont this year, including watching the sunrise from a summit, building a solar cooker, and learning to identify  invasive species. 

Join in the fun; download a scorecard here 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. 


Challenge: Hike to a summit 


Also, there are weekly bonus activities posted on our Facebook page and on the Venture Vermont page on our website. 


Good luck, and happy venturing in 2017! 


Schedule some free time this summer: Vermont Days Weekend will be  June 10th and 11th, 2017

Vermont Days will be held June 10  and 11th  this year!  Day use is free at all State Parks so come and hike, picnic, swim, play, and relax all weekend. Swing by Waterbury Center State Park on Sunday at 2:00 pm to enjoy the music of the Green Mountain Brass Band!


Other Vermont Days activities include free fishing in every body of water in Vermont, 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:


2017 Park Operating Season

Spring at Emerald Lake State Park 

May 1 thru Oct. 9

May 6 thru Oct. 9

May 12 thru Oct. 9**
** Jamaica is open May 5-7th ONLY for white water release event

May 12 thru Oct. 16
Grand Isle

May 19 thru Oct. 9
Green River Reservoir
Kettle Pond
Lake Carmi 

May 19 thru Oct. 16
Gifford Woods
Smugglers' Notch 

May 19 thru Sept. 4

May 19 thru Oct. 22
Little River

May 22 thru Oct. 16
 Mt. Ascutney

May 26 thru Sept. 17
Camp Plymouth

May 26 thru Oct. 16

May 26 thru Sept. 4
Alburgh Dunes
Big Deer
Boulder Beach
Burton Island
Crystal Lake
Fort Dummer
Kill Kare
Knight Island
Knight Point
Lake Shaftsbury
Lake St. Catherine
Lowell Lake
Sand Bar
Silver Lake
Woods Island

May 26 thru Oct. 9
Button Bay
Emerald Lake
Half Moon Pond
Kingsland Bay
Molly Stark
Mt. Philo
New Discovery
Ricker Pond
Waterbury Center

Dec. 1 thru Apr. 15
Stone Hut 
Year Round
Molly's Falls Pond
North Hero
Seyon Lodge
Taconic Mountains Ramble
Holiday in Jamaica (Vermont)
Sample Weekend Itinerary

Park sign in Jamaica village
S ummer is just around the corner and now is the time to start planning your next camping trip. Try Jamaica State Park, officially open on May 12th. Jamaica is a good base in southern VT, an hour south of Rutland, and an hour's drive north from the Massachusetts border. 

Plan Your Weekend at Jamaica

Friday Evening: 

Arrive, set up camp & dinner. 

Explore the park, try the camp playground, then walk down to the Salmon Hole swimming area to cool off in the West River.

Saturday Morning:

Breakfast in camp. 

Attend an interpretive program at the nature center.  A wide variety of programs are offered, check the nature center for a full schedule. 

Lunch in camp. 

Hamilton Falls is a gorgeous spot to spend and afternoon 

Saturday Afternoon: Adventure Time!

Choose your own adventure. Pick one:

1) Hike to Hamilton Falls. 
One of the most impressive waterfalls in Vermont. A 3 mile hike from the park. Start in the park grounds, follow the West River Trail for 2 miles, then take the follow the sign for "Hamilton Falls Trail" for another mile. A popular spot for wading and sunbathing, but be careful- the rocks can be slippery and dangerous. 

2) Fishing or kayaking on the West River

3) Give mountain biking a try at nearby Mt. Snow in Dover, or ride the lift to the top of Stratton Mountain for great views of the southern Green Mountains. 

Saturday Evening: 

Return to your site, dinner in camp, s'mores, and relax after a long day. 
Sunday Morning: 

Breakfast, break camp, pack lunches to go, check out of park. Take one last dip in the Salmon Hole on your way out. 

Stop by Jamaica Village on your way, walk through town, and grab a coffee and a pastry from the Workhorse Cafe. 

Jamaica has lean-tos and tent/ RV sites

Vermont Parks Forever:
The 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
Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter  
We greatly appreciate their support and yours!
Quick Links 

Vermont State Parks

Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge

Button Bay State Park

Branbury State Park

Coolidge State Park

Ft. Dummer State Park

Jamaica State Park

Maidstone State Park

Molly Stark State Park

Mt. Ascutney State Park

Mt. Philo State Park

Niquette Bay State Park

Stillwater State Park

Townshend State Park 

Waterbury Center State Park 

Wilgus State Park

Woodford State Park

Vermont Days

Vermont History Museum

Green Mountain Club

Camping Tips & Tricks



Vermont State Parks Merchandise

VT State Parks Blog


General Info

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mountain flowers
Spring is nature's way of saying, "let's party!"
-Robin Williams 

Vermont State Parks 

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