Swim, paddle or picnic at reservoir in Waterbury

Waterbury Reservoir’s many campsites include a number accessible only by boat or trail.

August knows how to heat up in Vermont and we all need a swimming spot, not to mention a camping spot, a motor boating spot and a paddling spot. Waterbury Reservoir has it all. Free Press Reporter Molly Walsh caught up with Lucas Griggs, a park ranger at Waterbury Center State Park, Brian Aust, interpreter at Little River State Park and Terry Wendelken, park ranger at the reservoir.

BURLNGTON FREE PRESS: Waterbury Center State Park is a popular destination in the summer. What can people do there?

LUCAS GRIGGS: Waterbury offers a variety of different activities, like swimming, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, standup paddle boarding and, of course, picnicking. But, this is the first year programs are being offered here, too. Every weekend this summer park staff has organized free park-based programs for children and adults, including scavenger hunts, sand castle competitions and even a few water balloon fights. All of the upcoming park programs are listed on the events page at vtstateparks.com.

Peyton Peduzzi, 5, of St. Albans, plays on the beach at Waterbury Reservoir this week.

BFP: On a hot day the beach draws many people, including families. Is this a good place for children?

LG: Absolutely! The water is clear and clean, and has a very gradual slope, so it’s ideal for little ones. There is also a universally accessible trail that leads to a historical look out, which is about a 20-minute walk for a toddler, and has benches along the way to stop at and watch the frogs by the water. (One of my favorite things to do at the park is run up the park’s big hill with my 3-year-old and roll down the other side.)

BFP: Paddlers come to the reservoir, as do motor boaters. What sorts of rules do you ask people to follow so these different types of watercraft float along happily along together?

LG: Waterbury Center State Park gets busy with boaters of all kinds, and rules keep everybody happy and organized. The water is governed by state laws and regulations, indicating appropriate vessel course and speed. The reservoir also has clear markers indicating no wake zones and swimming areas. From the moment you arrive at the park you are guided through proper boating procedure and water etiquette. For more information about boating regulations check online at http://www.boat-ed.com/vermont/studyGuide/101049, or http://www.vtstateparks.com/pdfs/waterbury_boating.pdf

BFP: There are a number of campsites on the reservoir. How are they accessible and how far in advance do people need to book? How much does it cost?

TERRY WENDELKEN: Campsites are available at Little River State Park for standard park entrance/overnight fees, also remote camping is available first-come, first-serve for the established remote site locations. Remote sites are accessible by motorboat, kayak, or canoe. There are also sites that can be walked into.

A hill overlooking the reservoir is popular spot for picnicking and reading.

LG: You’re right, as of right now there are quite a few campsites on the water, and most of them are water access only. Campers load up their boats with themselves and all of their camping gear, and head out to find an open site on a first come first serve basis. At this point, it’s all free. These sites were established over decades by avid remote campers who understood the essentials for a great campsite. Over the next few years Vermont State Parks will be working with those campers to improve and maintain the sites for perpetuity.

BFP: What’s the water temperature right now on the reservoir?

LG: As of right now the water temperature is 78 degrees at the beach and 72 degrees farther out. Perfect for water sports.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

BFP: Tell us a little bit about the history of the reservoir, when it was constructed, why and how it operates now.

BRIAN AUST: The history of the reservoir starts with the precursor to Green Mountain Power. In the late 1910s, a new power company was searching for good places to build hydroelectric dams. Herb Pike, the last owner of the vast Ricker Farm, was the first of the Little River area residents to sell his farm to the nascent power company in 1921. After several years of acquiring properties, the great November 1927 flood changed everything. A very rainy autumn led up to the Great Flood of 1927. On November 3 and 4 it rained nine inches upon a saturated landscape devoid of the vast forests that had been cleared over the previous 130 years. The runoff surged the Little River into such a powerful force that where it meets the Winooski River (along present-day U.S. 2), that it forcibly blocked the Winooski from draining downstream, pooling its waters backward and inundating the town of Waterbury under 15 feet of water. Fifty-five people were killed by flood waters along the Little and Winooski Rivers alone and over 80 died statewide. This put a temporary pause to the power company’s plans.

After surveying the area for a potential flood control dam in 1928, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 delayed any work until the advent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. One of these, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), was requisitioned by the State of Vermont in the mid-1930s to build a variety of public works projects and state park facilities. The few remaining residents of the area were compensated for their properties which were acquired via eminent domain with the backing of the U.S. government because their road to town would be cut off by the new reservoir. The Waterbury Reservoir Dam was constructed by the CCC as part of a three-dam project to protect Vermont towns from catastrophic flooding. When regional flooding raises the level of the Winooski River to 417 feet above sea level, the dam’s steel floodgates are lowered to catch high rain waters flowing into the reservoir, which is the released over time at a safe and manageable pace. After its completion in 1938, Green Mountain Power returned to work with the existing structure toward creating the hydroelectric plant that was completed in 1951.

While the reservoir was built to protect towns south of the dam from high water levels, the body of water along with the two state parks contained within Mt. Mansfield State Forest was given back to the people of Vermont as a recreational resource. In 1962, Little River State Park was built and in 1985 Waterbury Center State Park was added to the list of 52 Vermont state parks.

Monica Boyd of Northfield blows up an inflatable while her daughters Olivia, 7, and Natalie, 5, eat lunch at Waterbury Reservoir.

BFP: I understand the water is drawn down in the winter and allowed to increase in the summer. What’s the water level now?

LG: The water level during the summer is about 590 feet which gives the reservoir a surface area of about 863 acres.

BFP: Does the dam generate any power? If so, how much?

BA: Yes, Green Mountain Power generates hydroelectric power at the dam. The facility generates 5 megawatt hours, servicing about 4,000 homes.

BFP: Okay, I have to ask. How long has the park been using composting toilets and what kind of feedback are you getting from visitors about them.

LG: The composting toilets were added in 2001 and since their addition they have been a source for conversation, and an opportunity to share information about clean, low impact waste systems. Once visitors get past the initial question of not flushing the toilets, they usually appreciate the positive effects of a composting system and forget they are different at all. Composting units like that used at Waterbury Center State Park do not produce any pollution, and are easier to maintain than conventional waste systems. Another benefit of using composting toilets is that they use little or no water. By comparison, conventional toilets add up to 5 gallons of drinking water to about one ounce of waste so it can be flushed into an expensive septic or sewer system.

BFP: How is the fishing in the reservoir? Biggest fish taken there, as far as you know?

LG: The reservoir is a hot spot for smallmouth bass. In the north near Cotton Brook on a cool evening, you will find several shoreline fishermen, and on the water the shallows are great places for fly fishing from a kayak or a canoe.

The largest fish this year that I know about was a 15-inch Smallmouth bass, and you can see a picture of the fish and the 8-year-old that caught it hanging outside of the contact station at Waterbury Center State Park. I’ve heard some fishing stories of rainbow trout twice that size.

BFP: Tell us about the guided tours and other events the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation offers at the reservoir.

BA: Little River State Park operates a Nature Center and offers a variety of programs, paddles and hikes. Some of these are: “Birds By Ear” a Sunday Afternoon Hiking Series, the “Sunset Aquadventure Paddle” and “The Good, The Bad & The Really, Really Itchy.” A full calendar is available at http://www.vtstateparks.com/images/little-river-programs.jpg

LG: This year is the first year Waterbury Center State Park is offering programs. Some of the more notable programs that have been held so far are: Ghost Stories with Smores: Playing with Nature Scavenger Hunt; Lets Go Fly a Kite; and Sand Castle Competitions. Other events this year were free concerts by a Bagpiper playing traditional Scottish music and the Vermont Brass Band playing English folk music. Later in the month there will be, the first ever Waterbury Center State Park Olympics, on the 16th and 17th. Find more information at Vermont State Parks check online at http://www.vtstateparks.com/htm/events.htm

BFP: Where can people find out more about the reservoir? And what’s the admission?

LG: The price of admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children 4 to 14, and anyone under 4-years-old gets in free. And the best place to look for more information is vtstateparks.com, or Vermont’s new GoRanger app.

BFP: Is there a washing station for boats that are trailered in? What’s that for?

LG: Yes, there is a washing station for boats. Waterbury Reservoir has five main access points, and one of them is the heavily used access point at Waterbury Center State Par. There is a washing station near the water and we encourage all boaters to wash their boats in order to protect Vermont’s beautiful lakes and reservoirs from invasive aquatic species, like Eurasian watermilfoil and brittle naiad. We have been working with Ann Bove, Aquatic Invasive Species Program, Department of Environmental Conservation, to help get the word out about prevention through washing and checking your boat after each use.

BFP: Please share any personal anecdotes about spending time at the reservoir.

LG: One of my favorite days on the reservoir was Father’s Day this year. As the ranger, I arrive early to the park to prepare all the little things for the day, and usually at around 9:30 a.m., a half an hour before the park opens, there is a line at the gate. This year on Father’s Day the line started with one car at 8:00 a.m. I noticed the car and decided to let them know the park doesn’t open for another two hours, and when I got to the gate I found a Cuban man and his young daughter laughing, holding a soccer ball. I told them the hours of the park, and the man smiled and said, “My daughter asked me last night what I wanted to do for Father’s Day, and all I wanted to do was come play ball with her at my favorite spot in my favorite park. So she got up early today, to make sure we could sit under the tree we always sit under.” Being a recent father myself this story touched me and after talking to the two of them a little more I found out that the man and his large family come to the park every weekend and they always sit in the same spot under a rather shady tree. I opened the gates early for the two of them and listened to their laughter while I prepared the park for the busy day.

About Waterbury Reservoir

The Reservoir is the ninth largest body of water in the state of Vermont. There are two state parks located on the Reservoir: Little River State Park and Waterbury Center State Park.

Waterbury Center State Park lies on the easterly trivium of Waterbury Reservoir, a quarter mile off Vermont 100. It is primarily a day use park located on a 90-acre peninsula with 22 picnic sites, tables, grills, swimming beach, nature trail, trailer boat ramp, boat rentals, concession area and restrooms. A new, universally accessible trail was constructed in 2010 that includes two accessible fishing platforms.

Little River State Park State Park primarily consists of a campground with 81 tent/trailer sites, 20 lean-tos and five cabins. This is central Vermont’s largest and most popular campground. Three of the four restrooms include hot showers. A sanitary dump station is available, but no hookups. Within the campground, there are swimming beaches, play areas, a boat launch, ball field, and boat launch and boat rentals for campers. Adjacent to the park are 30 miles of hiking trails for campers and day users that take in the rich cultural and natural history of the area.View CommentsWhat Attracts Successful Men to Women from Philippines?Dating.com|SponsoredThere are thousands of Canadian jobs available!Canada Immigration Express|SponsoredTubod: Online Jobs in the USA May Pay More Than You ThinkOnline Jobs|SponsoredEverybody In Philippines Is Enjoying The Newest Netflix Shows – With A VPNTheTopFiveVPN|SponsoredLanao Del Norte is actually full of single handsome guys. Check them out on this free dating sitePerfect-Dating.com|SponsoredWhy women find older men so attractiveDatemyage.com|SponsoredEnjoy Netflix Now Without Any RestrictionsTheTopFiveVPN|SponsoredShe Sticks a Rose Stalk Into a Potato and Look What Happens a Week LaterTips and Tricks|SponsoredHow to Think Like a CEOChatfuel|SponsoredDo You Speak English? Work a USA job from home in PhilippinesWork from Home | Search Ads|SponsoredDeal of the DayTons of Coach Crossbodies Are on Sale for Less Than $100 Right NowREVIEWEDView DealRecommendations are independently chosen by our editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.RecommendedThe quarry below Lime Kiln Road in ColchesterLIFEWhen The Ex-Police Dog Kept Barking At A Tree, Authorities Rushed To The SiteArticles Vally|SponsoredBaby Keeps Waking Up With Scratches, Mom Checks Camera And Calls CopsBedtimez|SponsoredMore Local StoriesFOR SUBSCRIBERSCityPlace Burlington sued by developers of RedstoneNEWSConstruction: Ready to roll on Shelburne Road – 2021 SeasonNEWSCairns vandalized at UVM farm in S. BurlingtonNEWSUS to Canada exchange rate at its least favorable in five yearsNEWSHappily Sharing My Recipe With You! Hair Regained Its Colour!Colour Keep|SponsoredThe 5-Minute Guide to Mastering the Instagram AlgorithmChatfuel|SponsoredGetting Hair Transplant in Tubod Might Be Cheaper Than You ThinkHair Transplant Clinic | Search Ads|SponsoredIf you own a mouse, you have to try this strategy game. No Install.DeltaWars|SponsoredMore Local StoriesHow do I appeal my South Burlington Vermont home reassessmentNEWSVermont teen’s messages in a bottle goes from Rhode Island to AzoresNEWSSkunks seen in daylight aren’t always rabid. What BPD says to do.NEWSNorth Atlantic Rail plan: Burlington, Vermont mayor voices supportNEWSMore StoriesHow do I appeal my South Burlington Vermont home reassessmentNEWSU.S.-Canada border status: Closed. Checklist for those who can travel.NEWSFamous women who have ties to VermontENTERTAINMENT