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East Bay Wildlife Management Area

East Bay Wildlife Management Area

East Bay Wildlife Management Area

Description

The East Bay Wildlife Management Area encompasses 38 acres in the Washington County town of Whitehall, New York. The WMA is north of the Sciota Road (County Route 10).

East Bay Wildlife Management Area signThe land was purchased from Donald and Ann Touch in 1984 with money from the Environmental Bond Act of 1972. The area, known locally as part of Finch Marsh, lies in a narrow river valley among steep sided hills. A scenic; ledge borders the northern portion of the property. The rest of the marsh to the west and northwest are lands owned by the Nature Conservancy. The neighborhood around the marsh is used for agriculture and rural residential purposes.

Habitats

The majority of the parcel is emergent marsh. Emergent marshes are areas that have approximately six inches of water during the growing season or permanently. The dominant plants are “emergent” species such as cattails, arrowhead, pickerel weed, rush and smartweed to name a few.

The wetland portion of the property has also been designated as a flood hazard zone. Flooding occurs not only during heavy rains and intense spring thaws, but also during periods of prolonged Northerly winds in which the water from Lake Champlain is displaced to the south.

Fish and Wildlife

East Bay Wildlife Management Area muskrat

East Bay WMA muskrat

Emergent marshes are considered the most valuable of our wetland areas and East Bay Wildlife Management Area is no exception. Here, waterfowl can be found in abundance, using the area for resting during the spring and fall migrations and for rearing young ducklings during the summer months. Hunters can find should look for mallards, black duck, teal, merganser and wood ducks. Trappers will find that the high productive quality of the marsh is such that it produces a high population of muskrats. During the winter months, muskrat houses can easily be seen protruding above the ice and snow. These valuable and prolific furbearers also share their wetland home with beaver, mink and otter.

East Bay is home to a diverse fisheries community and a popular fishing hot spot in both the summer and winter months. Fisherman can expect to find bass, crappie, walleye, pike, catfish and panfish in relative abundance. Two hand launches are located a short distance from the parking area off of Sciota Road (County Route 10).

East Bay WMA is an identified Bird Conservation Area (BCA). New York State Bird Conservation Areas are state-owned lands and waters designated to safeguard and enhance populations of birds in New York State. These areas provide important habitats for birds. In spring and summer, many birds rely on these areas for breeding, food, and shelter. Some birds winter at BCA’s, while others use BCA’s as resting and feeding areas during migration. BCA’s are designated as they support one or more of the following: An unusually high diversity of bird species; large concentrations of one or more bird species; endangered, threatened, or rare bird species; or an exceptional or rare bird habitat.
A variety of wildlife can be seen in the area.

Usage

East Bay WMA hardwoods

East Bay WMA hardwoods

The primary purposes of East Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is for wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. The WMA is open year-round, but parking lots are not plowed in winter months.

East Bay WMA is managed by DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife for wildlife conservation and wildlife-associated recreation (hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing/photography). Funding to maintain and manage this site is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration or “Pittman-Robertson” Act, which is acquired through excise taxes on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment.

Notes

The following activities are not permitted in East Bay WMA:

  • Using motorized vehicles, including:
    • all-terrain vehicles
    • snowmobiles
    • motorboats
  • Swimming or bathing
  • Camping
  • Kindling fires
  • 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
East Bay WMA map

East Bay WMA map
(Click Image to Enlarge)

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

 

 

Directions

From Whitehall, take US Route 4 east for 1 mile. Turn left onto County Route 9A and proceed 1 mile to end. Turn right onto County Route 9 and proceed ½ mile. Turn left on Stalker Rd. and proceed ½ mile to end. Turn right on Sciota Rd. (County Route 10) and proceed for ¼ mile. The WMA and parking area is on the left

 

 

 

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East Creek Wildlife Management Area

East Creek Wildlife Management Area

 

Description

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.

 

History

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.

 

Habitats

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

Water shrew

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.

Common moorhen

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

mudpuppy

Mudpuppy

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.

 

Usage

East Creek WMA is open to regulated hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.

Directions

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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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.

 

 

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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