Lewis Creek starts in the forested foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains. After rushing down their western flank, the river-sized “creek” meanders on a 33-mile course across the gently sloping Champlain Valley to empty into the broad blue waters of Lake Champlain. Along the way, it drains 52,000 acres and traverses five towns in two counties.
It flows past farms and villages, through deep woods and open pastures, over ancient ledges and under more than 20 bridges, two of which are Chittenden County’s only covered bridges.
From Starksboro to Ferrisburgh, the creek is a haven for diverse wildlife including mink and otter, bobcat and fisher, kingfisher and great blue heron, native brook trout and others.Their habitats vary from mile to mile: from overhanging forests where trout dart in shaded pools, to marshy areas where peepers announce the arrival of spring, to open pastures where Holsteins graze and blackbirds and bobolinks nest nearby.
Lewis Creek has also been a focal point for human settlement. The Waubanakee Indians who lived and fished along its banks originally named the creek Sun-gah-nee-took, or the Fish-weir River. In the 1800s, Europeans cleared the land and built mills and dams to harness the water’s power. Many established family farms to cultivate the valley floor. During this time, Lewis Creek suffered deforestation, stream bank erosion, and sedimentation as the pioneers sought their fortunes.
Over the next 100 years, Lewis Creek recovered much of its original beauty. Today the mills are quiet, but the creek’s floodplains remain an important agricultural resource, and its lazy wanderings and dramatic waterfalls have become critically important to wildlife and to people seeking refuge from urban life. Unfortunately, much of Lewis Creek is located in the fastest growing county in Vermont. As the population continues to expand into rural areas, the Lewis Creek watershed is once again becoming threatened by habitat degradation and fragmentation.
For thousands of years, Lewis Creek has shaped and been shaped by its surrounding landscape and by the communities of plants, animals and people depending on it. Now it is up to us to shape and protect its future.
For more photos of the Lewis Creek Watershed, please visit our Flickr Page.
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