Sandbar Wildlife Management Area
Sandbar Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in the town of Milton, Vermont borders Lake Champlain on either side of Route 2. Most of its 1,560 acres are a refuge with no public access. However, the upland part of the WMA northeast of Route 2 is open for public use, as is Delta Island. One may also boat along the Lamoille River and in nearby Lake Champlain, or drive along Route 2 and stop at pull-offs there.
Sandbar State Park and the Sandbar Causeway to South Hero are other areas from which one may see wildlife in the refuge. Boats can be launched into the Lamoille River at the boat access off Cub Road, or into the Lake across from Sandbar State Park. The WMA is owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
The Lamoille River has created a vast delta at its mouth in Lake Champlain, and this makes up most of the WMA. It includes an abandoned channel that extends through the wetland north of the river. The channel bed is at lake level and supports lush aquatic vegetation. Earthen dikes were constructed to control water levels in the marsh.
This WMA is 70% wetland and 30% forested upland. The wetlands are a mix of open water emergent marsh and floodplain forest. The marshes contain water and yellow pond lilies, pickerelweed, sago and large-leaved pondweed, spiked water milfoil, bladderwort, duckweed, arrowhead species, water-plantain, cattail, three-way sedge, other sedge species, rushes, bulrushes, water-dock, water smartweed, buttonbush, winterberry, and one of the finest stands of wild rice in Vermont. Blue flag, sweetflag, least spike-rush and burreed grow along the shores.
Apparently the forest, based upon notes from late 1700’s land surveys, has changed little over 200 years. Some of the original sand-plain forest community still remains. Swamp white oak-silver maple forest occurs along the river in the rich alluvial soils.
There are also nearly pure stands of silver maple. Eastern cottonwood, American elm and red maple. The uplands are a mix of hemlock, white pine, northern white-cedar, red oak, aspen, gray birch, shagbark hickory, white ash, and red and sugar maple. There are a few small fields and several large forested bluffs as well. Wild rye is one unusual plant found in the refuge.
Fish and Wildlife
Remember: it is illegal to harm or harass endangered animals. Viewing them from a distance with binoculars is recommended.
White-tailed deer, red fox, gray squirrel, coyote, beaver, mink, otter, muskrat and raccoon are all commonly found mammals. Occasionally visitors may meet a cottontail rabbit or even a moose.
Waterfowl and water birds are abundant on the refuge. Breeding ducks include black, wood, ring-necked and mallard ducks, goldeneyes and hooded mergansers. A greater variety of ducks pass through during migration, along with many shorebird species. Marsh – dwelling birds like soras, pied-billed grebes and common moorhens can be heard in the cattails. Great blue herons commonly fly overhead and forage in the shallows.
Songbirds include eastern bluebird, veery, wood thrush, blue-gray gnatcatcher, warbling vireo, yellow-throated vireo and Baltimore oriole. Upland game birds are American woodcock, common snipe, wild turkey and ruffed grouse. Several impressive raptors can easily be seen at the WMA. Turkey vultures are common.
The State-endangered osprey has made a dramatic comeback in the Sandbar area. Breeding pairs of osprey have built large nests, some of which can be viewed from Route 2. Northern harriers hunt in the marshes. Bald eagles are occasionally seen here as well.
Since there is so much wetland at Sandbar WMA, it is an excellent habitat for reptiles and amphibians. Some of the amphibians that may be found include blue-spotted, spotted, red-backed and Jefferson’s salamanders, green, gray tree and northern leopard frogs,
bullfrogs, American toads and spring peepers. Milk, brown and garter snakes can also be found.
State-endangered spiny softshell turtles sometimes are seen sunning themselves along the Lamoille River. The mouth of the Lamoille River is one of the few places in Vermont where spiny softshell turtles occur, in addition to other more common turtle species.
Where allowed, you mayfish for small and large-mouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, brown bullhead, northern pike and longnose gar.
Sandbar WMA is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing, except in the refuge.
Fishing is allowed in the immediate area of the Route 2 culvert (shore fishing only), and out in Lake Champlain beyond the refuge boundary.
Sandbar was the first WMA in Vermont. The State legislature began buying land on the Lamoille River delta in 1920. Some funds were provided through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which requires a tax on firearms and ammunition. Some of the land was acquired by the Agency of Transportation and transferred to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department as mitigation for the Route 2 corridor.
Sandbar WMA is located on either side of Rte 2 in Milton, Vermont, just south of where Rte 2 crosses Lake Champlain at the southern end of the Lake Champlain Islands.
- Sandbar Wildlife Management Area
- The Narrows Wildlife Management Area
- Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s
- Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area
- Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area