Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS)
by Anna Autilio
Lead, Environmental Educator
In 2018, we mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate 2018 as the “Year of the Bird.” August’s call to action is to discover your parks and public lands, and help protect these havens for both birds and people…
Many Vermonters are familiar with our state park system, but did you know that the VINS Nature Center connects directly to Quechee State Park? From our Welcome Center you can walk down through a beautiful forested landscape back through geologic history to the bottom of the Vermont’s deepest gorge—our “little Grand Canyon”!
The Quechee Gorge formed 13,000 years ago by a sudden rush of water draining from Glacial Lake Hitchcock, which at the time covered nearly half the state. It is 165 feet deep and cradles the flow of the Ottauquechee River. It is known to be the deepest gorge in Vermont, and many geologists marvel at the rare rock formations visible in the slanting, striated walls of the gorge.
When humans came to Quechee, a bridge was built over the gorge for trains to pass from east to west. The bridge, built in 1911 and adapted for use by motorcars in 1933, still stands over the gorge today represents Vermont’s oldest surviving steel arch bridge.
Quechee State Park was established in 1965 to encourage visitors to travel to see this natural, geologic marvel. It is one of 55 state parks in Vermont, whose recreational trails offer a great opportunity for both families new to exploring their local natural ecosystems and rugged outdoors-people looking for a real hike. From 1933 to 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked to making Vermont state parks more accessible to the public, including planting 1.2 billion tree seedlings over 1.2 million acres of state land. Vermont’s State Parks saw over 1 million visitors in 2015.
Exploring your public lands is a great idea for this summer. Get closer to the unique flora and fauna of your region in these places that belong to all of us equally. Plan a picnic, a birding trip, wading in the water, or a lazy afternoon absorbing the woods in your local state park this weekend!
Then during the school year, schedule a field trip for your class to VINS to learn more about the Quechee Gorge. VINS Science Educators lead educational 1.5-hour hiking trips down to the bottom and back through geologic time!