Visiting the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, Swanton, Vermont: With Views of Mount Mansfield, Green Mountains
Strong, natural definitions for a US state
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is a rather special place. Among the 200 species of bird present at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge are woodcock, great blue heron, bobolink, bald eagle, osprey and wood duck.
The Refuge, which works in partnership with the Audubon Society, is organized by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Visitors are strongly cautioned to keep to the designated paths and to respect the prohibited areas of the Refuge. A substantial proportion of the public trails are situated along the banks of the Missisquoi River.
The north-flowing Missisquoi River has created a delta which spreads out into Lake Champlain; the extreme northern portion of the delta stretches close to the Canadian border.
Within the Refuge are various kinds of habitat. The Maquam Bog is known as a Research Natural Area. Preponderantly, the Refuge is freshwater wetland. Species of plant include bulrush, arrowhead, white and yellow lily and smartweed. Tree species including silver maple, red maple and winterberry holly.
Visible from Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is Mount Mansfield: at 1339.7 metres (4395.3 feet), the tallest of Vermont's Green Mountains, which form both a scenic and psychological backdrop in Vermont's institutional history. In the Colonial era, what was known as the New Hampshire Grants was an area centred generally on the Green Mountains and evidenced by its name the colony of New Hampshire's practice of issuing land grants to setters in the area. However, this practice was also taken up by New York in this same area; and in the Revolutionary War an emerging, strong local identity, which related neither to New Hampshire nor to New York, culminated successively in the establishment of the independent Republic of Vermont and subsequently in the admission in 1791 of Vermont as the 14th State of the Union.
Moreover, for more than one hundred years as a US State, the Green Mountains exercised an organizing principle for the Vermont's Governors, Lieutenant Governors and United States Senators: in the local Republican Party, the 'Mountain Rule' prevailed for more than a century, whereby candidates from east and west of the Green Mountains would alternate for the nomination.
Interestingly also, during the Revolutionary Wars, it was Vermonter Ethan Allan's paramilitary militia the Mountain Boys who assisted in capturing Fort Ticonderoga on the New York shore of Lake Champlain, in 1775. Since then, the exploits of the Mountain Boys formed part of the history and folklore of American Patriots.
Although not all of Vermont's mountains strictly belong to the Green Mountain range from a geological perspective, it is impossible to conceive of the state either scenically or historically without being confronted by the looming presence of the Green Mountains, either as a physical feature or as a leitmotif.
From the physical perspective, a number of the Green Mountain peaks, including Mount Mansfield, rise to over 1290.2 metres, (4000 feet), with the result that various of them possess a tundra-type vegetation and climate, above the treeline.
The physical centrality of the Green Mountains to the State of Vermont is seen rather drastically in the course of the Missisquoi River. The River rises on the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains, flows north over the border through Quebec, Canada, and then flows back into Vermont, draining eventually at its delta in Lake Champlain, at today's Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.
Truly a special place.
The Refuge is situated at 29 Tabor Road, Swanton, VT 05488.
February 16, 2018
Also worth seeing
In Swanton itself, the prominently spired Swanton Christian Church is an Italianate Federal period building dating from 1823.
At Alburgh, the Korean Veterans' Memorial Bridge crosses Lake Champlain to Rouses Point, New York (distance: 26.6 kilometres; 16.5 miles) .
Fairfield (distance: 49.3 kilometres; 30.6 miles); here, the Vermont birth in 1829 is commemorated of President Chester A. Arthur.
How to get there:
Plattsburgh International Airport (distance to Swanton : 77.3 kilometres / 48 miles), where car rental is available, is served by a variety of airlines with many North American connections. I-87 and I-89 extend to the US- Canada border on the New York and Vermont sides of Lake Champlain respectively. The I-89 has an exit at nearby St. Albans, Vt. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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