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Sandbar Wildlife Management Area

Sandbar Wildlife Management Area

 Sandbar Wildlife Management Area

Description

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. Sandbar Wildlife Management AreaHowever, 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.

 

Habitats

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.

wild Rye Sandbar wma

Wild Rye

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.

 

 

Sandbar Wildlife Management Area shagbark hickory

Shagbark hickory

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.

Osprey

Osprey, or Fish-hawk

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,

Sandbar Wildlife Management Area Spiny softshell turtle

Spiny softshell turtle

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.

 

Usage

Sandbar WMA/Rte 2 Causeway culvert

Sandbar WMA/Rte 2 Causeway culvert
Click Image to Enlarge

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.

 

Notes

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 Map

Sandbar WMA Map
Click Image to Enlarge

Directions

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.


 

 

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The Narrows Wildlife Management Area

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area

 

Description

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a 429-acre tract of land owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. It is located in the “Dresden Narrows” section of Lake Champlain, west of Cold Spring Road in the town of West Haven.

The Narrows WMA is next to about 350 acres of conserved farmland and in the vicinity of two large natural areas owned by The Nature Conservancy.

Habitats

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area calcereous cliff

Calcereous cliff community

The Narrows WMA has 81 acres of wetlands that are part of a series of large wetlands in this region of Lake Champlain. They are known collectively as The Narrows Marshes. The Narrows WMA has many interesting features including 5,456 feet of Lake Champlain shoreline, hosts several rare plant species, and offers examples of natural communities such as a calcareous cliff community. Calcereous cliffs are typically composed of limestone or dolomite and have a higher ph.

 

Keep in mind that plants should not be picked or dug up regardless of their abundance.

 

Twenty acres of the WMA are on an island, which is accessible most of the year by a narrow land bridge; however, during times of high water it is a true island. The island is composed mainly of upland hardwood forest with a small clearing. It also hosts an abandoned  two-story house in the clearing that is estimated to be about 150 years old.

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area shagbark hickory

Shagbark hickory

The WMA has 348 acres of upland hardwood forest, including 15 acres of old fields and several old orchards providing excellent habitat for birds and mammals.

The hardwood forests are mostly red and sugar maple, yellow birch, beech, red, chestnut and chinkapin oaks, shagbark hickory, hophornbeam, apple and scattered white pine. The ledges and cliffs have softwoods such as white and red cedar, hemlocks, and red and white
pines.

Two of Vermont’s largest trees are found on this WMA. One is a shagbark hickory that is 88 feet tall and has a diameter of 48 inches. The other, a chinkapin oak, is a New England Champion Tree. It is 60 feet tall and is 40 inches around.

 

Fish and Wildlife

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area - fisher

Fisher

The Narrows WMA is a rich habitat supporting a variety of animals: beavers and muskrats in the wetlands, white-tailed deer taking advantage of the abundant food in the old orchards, gray squirrels gathering nuts in the forest. Predators such as coyotes, red foxes, bobcats and fishers can be found throughout the WMA. At dusk and dawn in the summer, brown bats are found devouring insects.

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area - Hooded merganser

Hooded Merganser

The wetlands are home to several species of birds including wood ducks, mallards, black ducks, hooded mergansers, red-winged blackbirds and common snipes. Osprey platforms have been placed off shore to give offer nesting sites. Ruffed grouse and woodcock prefer habitat like the old fields that are slowing transitioning into forestland. Turkey will also use the old fields and orchards for their food.

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area - Five lined skink

Five-lined skink

The Narrows WMA also hosts a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Most notable is the five-lined skink. This is an endangered species in Vermont, and is the only species of lizard found in Vermont. The WMA has several species of snakes including eastern rat and common garter snakes.

 

 

 

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The wetlands and moist woodlands support a host of amphibians species such as spotted and red-backed salamanders, eastern newt, leopard, green, pickerel, bull and gray tree frogs, spring peeper and American toad. Painted and map turtles may also be found.

 

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area -Freshwater drum or Sheepshead

Freshwater drum or Sheepshead

Adjacent Lake Champlain offers large and small-mouth bass, walleye, brown bullhead, catfish, northern pike, chain pickerel, white and yellow perch, black and white crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill and unusual species , such as sheepshead, gar and bowfin,

Usage

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.

Notes

The Narrows Wildlife Management Area map

The Narrows WMA Map
Click Image to Enlarge

George Spiegel conveyed the 716-acre Spiegel Sanctuary in West Haven to the Vermont Land Trust in 1995 in memory of his parents, Charles and Lena Spiegel. In 1997 the Vermont Land Trust conveyed 429 acres of the 716-acre property to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to become The Narrows WMA.

There is a  bronze plaque inlaid in a large boulder in the parking lot pays tribute to Charles and Lena Spiegel, stating that “they found freedom and happiness in New England”.

Directions

Access The Narrows Wildlife Management Area by boat on Lake Champlain. A parking area is located near the sharp turn on Cold Spring Road

 

 

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Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Spring is finally here and wildlife enthusiasts are dusting off their binoculars and heading out looking for birds as they migrate into the Lake Champlain Basin from the south. Some of the best bird-watching opportunities are on the area’s wildlife management areas, or WMAs. 

Wildlife management areas are owned by the States of Vermont or New York and managed for wildlife habitat and for wildlife-based recreation such as hunting, fishing and bird-watching. 

Paul Hamelin, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologist who coordinates habitat management and access on Vermont’s WMAs, believes that while there are opportunities for birding at every WMA, a few stick out to him as particularly good places to spot birds. 


“Dead Creek WMA in Addison is perhaps the crown jewel of birding in Vermont,” said Hamelin. “An incredible two hundred bird species can be found there, particularly ducks, shorebirds, and hawks. And each spring and fall, thousands of snow geese touch down at Dead Creek on their annual migration.” 

 

Dead Creek has trails and a lookout platform, but Hamelin suggests a canoe or kayak for best access. A new Dead Creek Visitor Center is scheduled to open this October. 

On the other side of the state, Hamelin recommends Wenlock WMA in Ferdinand, which has the endless bogs and boreal forests that the Northeast Kingdom is known for in a tidy, 2,000-acre package. He recommends people check out the new boardwalk and viewing platform at Moose Bog. 

“Wenlock is a great place for birders to check off four of Vermont’s premiere boreal bird species; the Canada jay, boreal chickadee, black-backed woodpecker, and state-endangered spruce grouse,” said Hamelin. “You might also get lucky and see another state endangered bird, the rusty blackbird, which is sadly becoming increasingly rare in the northeastern U.S.” 


For a rare bird sighting in southern Vermont, Hamelin recommends Birdseye Wildlife Management Area in the towns of Ira, Castleton, and Poultney.Wildlife management areasThis WMA, formerly known as Bird Mountain, recently increased by nearly 3,000 acres. At the center of the WMA is Birdseye Mountain, a large hunk of rocky cliffs that are home to the world’s fastest bird, the peregrine falcon, which can dive to over 200 mph. 



“Peregrine falcons are the star of the show at the Birdseye, but there are also fantastic opportunities to see and hear warblers, thrushes, and sparrows,” said Hamelin. “After the peregrine nesting season is complete in mid-August, there is a well-worn goat path that takes brave souls up the rocky slopes of the cliff face for fantastic views of the newly conserved ridgelines.” 

Vermont’s wildlife management areas are found in every corner of the state and there are birding opportunities at every one of them this time of year. Birding is inexpensive and is an easy activity to get started in. Hamelin recommends people check out their nearest wildlife management area this spring.


Access to Vermont’s wildlife management areas is free, but birders can help the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in its effort to conserve habitat for birds and other species by purchasing an annual Vermont Habitat Stamp, available for $15 on the department’s website at vtfishandwildlife.com. There is also more information on birding opportunities on wildlife management areas on the Fish & Wildlife Department’s website. 

 

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Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area

Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area

Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area signMontys Bay WMA is located on Lake Champlain’s western shore in Beekmantown, New York. This WMA contains two parcels of land acquired in 1966 with funding provided by the Park and Recreational Land Acquisitional Bond Act of 1960 and the Environmental Bond Act of 1972.

 

Habitat

Montys Bay WMA totals 318 acres in those two parcels. One piece includes a hardwood swamp at the south end of Montys Bay; the other features wetlands and agricultural uplands bordering Riley Brook.

On the parcel east of the Lake Shore Road, is an old-growth silver maple-ash swamp. It covers most of the edges of Point Au Roche swamp, like a horseshoe that grades into shrub swamp and emergent marsh at the south end of Montys Bay. Access to the marsh is from the western right of way – off Harmony Lane – by using the parking area. A short 500 yard foot trail leads to the stand of trees.

Black Duck at Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area

Black duck

Entering the flood plain you’ll notice massive cottonwoods, oaks, and silver maple; this is probably one of the oldest forest stands along Lake Champlain. This old growth forest provides hollow nesting cavities for tree nesting species like wood ducks and songbirds. Hollow trees used for winter dens by raccoons, squirrels and other animals.

The wildlife management area west of the Lake Shore Road hosts an active agricultural field. Every five years, farmers bid on the rights to the 110 acres of prime farmland to plant crops needed in the local dairy industry. Lessees must observe basic requirements or restrictions for good farm practices that are not in conflict with wildlife management for the Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area plan.

 

Fish and Wildlife

The shallow waters of Montys Bay offer fishing opportunities for yellow perch, sunfish, largemouth bass, bowfin, northern pike, pickerel, and bullhead. The foot trail from the parking area at the end of Harmony Lane provides access to Lake Champlain for fishing from shore, or for ice fishing.

Bowfin

 

Seasonal migrations of waterfowl delight wildlife observers. Spring rains and high lake water from winter’s thaw fills troughs and potholes in the area’s grain fields attracting many varieties of puddle ducks and other migratory birds. In fall, these fields are stop-overs for flocks of Canada and snow geese as they make their long journey south from their northern breeding grounds.

Snow geese at Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area

Snow geese at Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area

Usage

Montys Bay WMA operates year-round for the primary purposes of wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. New York State DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife manages Montys Bay WMA for wildlife conservation and wildlife-associated recreation (hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing/photography).

The following activities are not permitted in Montys Bay WMA:

  • Unless specifically stated, using motorized vehicles, including:
    • all-terrain vehicles
    • snowmobiles
    • motorboats
  • Swimming or bathing
  • Camping
  • Using metal detectors, searching for or removing historic or cultural artifacts without a permit
  • Damaging or removing gates, fences, signs or other property
  • Overnight storage of boats
  • Cutting, removing or damaging living vegetation
  • Construction of permanent blinds or other structures such as tree stands
  • Littering
  • Storage of personal property

 

Notes

Ticks are active at temperatures above freezing, but especially so in the late spring and early fall. Deer ticks can transmit Lyme and several other diseases.

Also, practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles when using state land. Enjoy the outdoors responsibly and reduce the impact on the natural resources.

 

Directions

Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area map

Montys Bay Wildlife Management Area map
(Click map to Enlarge)

Take Exit 40 of the Adirondack Northway (I-87). Turn east on Spellman Road; follow Spellman Road east 0.5 mile to State Route 9. Turn right on State Route 9 and take Route 9 south for 0.4 miles to Point Au Roche Road. Turn left on Point Au Roche Road (County Route 22) and follow Point Au Roche Road 1.7 miles east to Lake Shore Road. Turn left on Lake Shore Road.

  • To access the agricultural lands and surrounding forested swamplands: Take Lake Shore Road north for 1.6 miles to a parking area on the left side of the road
  • To access the shore of Lake Champlain and the silver maple swamp: Take Lake Shore Road north for 0.2 miles and turn right on Cemetery Road. Take Cemetery Road 1.7 miles to Dickinson Point Road, then take Dickson Point Road north for 1.7 miles to Harmony Lane. Turn left on Harmony Lane. The parking area is on the left 0.1 mile, just pass the 90° turn in the road.

Please note: Harmony Lane is a private road, please do not park on the road. 

 

 

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Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area

 

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area

Description

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area is located in Vermont’s northwestern corner in the town of Alburgh. Its 1,151 acres are mostly marshland, with a small upland component. It’s owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The property extends from the Canadian border south to the mouth of Mud Creek in Lake Champlain’s Ransom Bay. The heart of the marsh can only be accessed by small boat.

History
The area around Alburgh and Swanton has a long history of occupation by Native Americans, notably the Abenaki Tribe. Both Anglo-Europeans and French Canadians later settled in this part of Vermont. Alburgh was chartered to Ira Allen in 1781; the town was named after him. Early settlers were mostly occupied with clearing forest and farming in the rich Champlain Valley soils; the latter is still the main land use in the Mud Creek drainage.

This WMA is a patchwork of many small land purchases. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department made its first acquisition in 1953, using Pitman Robertson funds. The Nature Conservancy facilitated some of the most recent land acquisitions.

Habitat

Mud Creek is a sluggish stream that begins in Canada and flows south to Lake Champlain. There is a water control structure that has raised the water level and created more marshland.
Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area sand beachMud Creek WMA is a mix of cattail-dominated emergent marsh, deep bulrush marshes and forested swamp. Forest swamp communities include red maple-black ash, spruce-fir-tamarack and red maple-northern white cedar.At the mouth of the Creek there is a small section of lake sand beach.

A rare plant called Torrey’s rush occurs in the marsh, as well as other interesting plants such as matted spike-rush, yellow water-crowfoot, nodding trillium and cattail sedge.
Vermont’s endangered spiny softshell turtle is sometimes a summer visitor.

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area is home to spiny softshell turtles

spiny softshell turtle

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area is home to Torrey's rush

Torrey’s Rush

Fish and Wildlife

Wildlife

Some mammals that might be encountered are white-tailed deer, gray squirrel, raccoon, beaver, muskrat, mink and otter.

Birds

American coot at Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area

American coot

There are excellent birding opportunities for wetland species such as pied-billed grebe, least bittern, sora, Virginia rail, American coot and common moorhen. The endangered black tern has nested here. Wetland-dwelling songbirds include eastern kingbird, belted kingfisher, marsh wren, swamp sparrow and northern waterthrush.

Upland game species in the WMA are ruffed grouse, turkey and woodcock. Breeding waterfowl include Canada goose, black and wood ducks, mallard, hooded merganser, blue-winged teal and goldeneye, with other species during migration.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Many species of herptiles can be found at Mud Creek WMA. Look for blue-spotted, spotted and red-backed salamanders, newts, and green, pickerel, northern leopard and wood frogs. The rare western chorus frog may also be present. Turtle species include snapping turtles, painted and northern map turtles. State-endangered spiny softshell turtles are sometimes found near the mouth of Mud Creek. Northern water and garter snakes are also present.

Fish

Fishing is allowed on the Controlled Hunting portion of the WMA through September 1st. Yellow perch, bullhead and northern pike are some species that may be caught.

 

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area pond

Usage

Mud Creek WMA is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing. Hunting and trapping are allowed using a controlled permit process. Hunting in the Controlled Hunting Area is by permit only.

Fishing is allowed on the Controlled Hunting portion of the WMA through September 1st. Yellow perch, bullhead and northern pike are some species that may be caught.

Notes

Video of Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area

Directions

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area map

Mud Creek Wildlife Management Area map
Click map to enlarge

 

Take RT 78 west from I-89 in Swanton, VT. From the Northway (I-87) take RT 11 in Champlain, NY east to RT 2, then take RT 2 to the stoplight at the intersection of RT 78 and turn left.

The best access is from RT 78 as it crosses the Creek, where there is an old railroad bed that has been made into a biking and hiking path. There are times when access along the path is restricted.

Please read and follow  the posted regulations.
Green Woods Road in Alburg cuts through the northern end of the WMA.

 

 

 

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