East Creek Wildlife Management Area
East Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in west-central Vermont is in the towns of Orwell and Benson. The property is along East Creek and is in two separate parcels. The northern parcel is most easily accessed by boat from Lake Champlain via the mouth of East Creek. The southern parcel has a parking area by the dam on Mt. Independence Road in Orwell, and on the Cook Road. A small part of this WMA is preserved as a refuge and is clearly marked and signed. The 419 acres comprising the WMA are owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Mount Independence is just to the west of the mouth of East Creek. There was a companion fort to Fort Ticonderoga here, and the area was strategically important during the American Revolution. The fertile part of the Champlain Valley drained by East Creek has been farmed
since early European settlement. Parcels of land that make up the WMA were acquired from neighboring farmers. The first one-half acre was bought from Wilford Brisson in 1955. The State of Vermont sometimes bought good farmland and then swapped with farmers for wetland parcels.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) owns much of the remaining wetland in the lower reaches of the Creek. Thus, between TNC and State ownership, much of the East Creek wetland complex is conserved.
Funds to buy land for the WMA were provided by the Pittman-Robertson Act, which created a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition.
East Creek flows north, draining a low-lying part of the Champlain Valley. Mt Independence borders the west bank of the river mouth. Other small, steep hills separate the river valley from Lake Champlain. During glacial maximums, when Lake Champlain was larger, Mt Independence was sometimes an island, and East Creek a part of the lake.
Wild Rice at East Creek WMA
The parcel along the South Fork of East Creek is a broad-leaf emergent marsh created by three impoundments, with a narrow upland border. The northern parcel nearer the mouth is a natural emergent marsh with water levels that are regulated by Lake Champlain’s level. The area has Vermont’s largest narrow-leafed cattail marsh, with a good deal of wild rice as well.
Some uncommon plants occurring in the East Creek marshlands are lake cress, slender naiad, green dragon, sweet joe-pye weed, false hop sedge and cat-tail sedge.
Fish and Wildlife
Beavers, muskrat and otter are found in the wetland; while fox, coyote, mink, white-tailed deer and cottontail rabbit inhabit the nearby upland. Small mammals are abundant, and include wetland species such as the star-nosed mole and water shrew.
This rich wetland supports many birds and a great variety of species.
There is good birding for wetland species including rails, American and least bitterns, green and great blue herons, common moorhens, ospreys and northern harriers. Canada geese, black and wood ducks, mallards, blue and green-winged teal, and hooded mergansers inhabit the marsh. Marsh wrens, red-winged blackbirds, eastern kingbirds and Baltimore orioles are some of the many songbirds that can be found. Ospreys are beginning to nest by the Creek. Bald eagles can also be seen.
The large aquatic salamanders known as mudpuppies may be found in East Creek. Also present are snapping, painted and northern map turtles, bullfrogs, green and pickerel frogs, and
northern water snakes. Near the edges of the wetland, newts, northern two-lined salamanders, milk, smooth green, garter, and brown snakes may be encountered. Eastern rat snakes used to be found here but are now rare.
Lower East Creek has a variety of warm-water fish associated with Lake Champlain. This includes large-mouth bass, northern pike, channel catfish, yellow and white perch, and black crappie. Upper East Creek contains brown bullhead and smaller species such as the golden and black chin shiner have been found.
Remember it is against the law to harass or harm endangered species.
East Creek WMA is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.
East Creek WMA map
(Click Image to Enlarge)
The northern parcel is most easily accessed by boat from Lake Champlain via the mouth of East Creek. There are two access points to East Creek from Lake Champlain: Buoy 39 Marina, south of East Creek, and Larabee Point Fish and Game access, north of the creek. The marina is privately owned; there is a fee for launching your boat here.
To Buoy 39 Marina: Take Route 22A to Orwell. Follow Route 73 west to the “Y” to Mount Independence Road. Buoy 39 Marina is at the end of Mount Independence Road. From here it’s a 1.25-mile, approximately half-hour paddle north on Lake Champlain to East Creek.
To Larrabee Point Fish and Game access: From Orwell, follow Route 73 west and then north to Hough Crossing. Go about three more miles to just south of the ferry crossing. It’s a one-mile, approximately half-hour paddle south on Lake Champlain to East Creek.
The southern parcel has a parking area by the dam on Mt. Independence Road in Orwell, and on Cook Road.
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