Your Vermont Lake Bucket List

Here’s your summer guide (and just about every reason we can think of) to head to the lakes of Vermont. 

Depending on how you count them, Vermont has more than 33 lakes, ranging from the 271,000-acre Lake Champlain down to tiny 20-acre Spruce Lake in the Deerfield Valley. And then there are ponds, reservoirs and…well, who’s really counting? The number doesn’t matter. What does is that there are plenty of them and good reasons to visit nearly every one. Here are a few, as well as all that’s new in water sports around the state.

UP YOUR SUP GAME

The beauty of an SUP is you can launch it pretty much anywhere and, in fact, some folks have even hiked up to

If you want to try an SUP, Umiak has demos and fun races weekly at the Waterbury Reservoir and on Lake Champlain, as do a number of other shops. Photo courtesy of Umiak.
If you want to try an SUP, Umiak has demos and fun races weekly at the Waterbury Reservoir and on Lake Champlain, as do a number of other shops. Photo courtesy of Umiak.

Sterling pond at the top of Stowe’s Spruce Peak to paddle around. However, it’s far easier to rent or bring your own and join in a group paddle. Umiak Outfitters rents paddleboards on the Waterbury Reservoir, as well as  at Burlington’s North Beach. Paddlenorth VT is based out of Lake Elmore, but will deliver demos and Noah Labow (who also coaches the UVM Freeskiing Team) coaches at nearby lakes. Also in Burlington, Paddlesurf Lake Champlain has demos and tours out of Oakledge Park.

Vermont Ski and Sport, based out of Jamaica where it has a giant warehouse of boards, focuses on race training. It will deliver boards and a coach anywhere in New England. Closer to home, CEO Jonathan Bischof often teaches at the Stratton snowmaking pond or Lowell Lake and, for advanced paddlers, the West and Connecticut rivers. “When you learn the technique of a paddle stroke it really changes how you enjoy the sport. We like to teach the stoke of stroke,” say Bischof, who also will do free online coaching (you send a video).

All that coaching will come in handy if you plan to compete for $3,500 in cash and prizes at Stand Up for the Lake, off the Burlington waterfront on August 5. The WPA-sanctioned SUP event is put on by WND&WVS, Vermont’s epicenter for board sports. The Burlington shop (which is affiliated with surf-inspired restaurants The Spot and Spot on the Dock) hosts intro to SUPs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, as well as SUP polo on Thursday nights and SUP race clinics on Wednesdays. Count on WND&WVS owner Russ Scully, a veteran SUP racer who’s done the Maui to Molokai race, to be stiff competition.

WINDSURF, KITESURF OR FLYBOARD

WND&WV’s is also the place to learn to windsurf, with regular classes Saturdays and Mondays and rentals whenever the wind kicks up. But if you want to learn to kiteboard head north to St. Albans to Northshore Kite ‘N Paddle. That’s where Jerri and Curt Benjamin, as well as their kids, Jordan and Erian, (all certified instructors), will teach anyone (beginners or better) how to kiteboard, right off their house, or at Delta Park. If flyboarding (think skiboots that are waterjet propelled) is something you want to try, you don’t need wind to do so. Flyboard of Vermont will strap you in and shoot you up in the air at the Snowshed pond at Killington this summer or at Smuggler’s Notch.

Canoe camping on Green River Reservoir Green Mountains, Vermont, USA ©Brian Mohr/ EmberPhoto - All rights reserved
Island life at Green River Reservoir. Photo by Brian Mohr/ EmberPhoto 
CAMP ON AN ISLAND

Campsites are usually located near water, but how many are surrounded by water? In Vermont, more than you think. In addition to the popular spots such as the Vermont State Parks-managed sites on Burton, Knight and Woods islands (all located between St. Albans and South Hero), and New York’s Valcour and Schuyler islands, there are several less obvious and smaller islands you can camp on. Just off the Colchester Causeway, Law Island has several primitive campsites. Near Morrisville, quiet Green River Reservoir has several island campsites and Marshfield’s Molly’s Falls Pond (one of Vermont’s newer state parks) has Raven Island where you can camp. The Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail (Connecticutriverpaddlerstrail.org) also lists a number of islands you can camp on mid-stream, including Fiddlehead, Howard and Stephan’s islands, the last of which even has a sandy beach. To reserve a campsite, see vtstateparks.com

CATCH A BIG ONE

Vermont is home to more than 88 species of fish, ranging from tiny to the 6-foot 9-inch sturgeon that washed ashore last August. While you can’t fish for sturgeon (the species, which can live to be 150 years old, is protected) there are plenty of other lake monsters out there, many in unexpected places. The largest lake trout? A 35-pound lake trout pulled out of Lake Willoughby in 2003. The largest pike? A 30-pounder caught in Glen Lake, near Castleton. Biggest bass? Lake Dunmore’s 10-pound largemouth. How about the 35-pound channel catfish Robert Scott caught under his dock on Lake St. Catherine? If you want to improve your chances, Vermont Fish & Wildlife stocks sixteen ponds and lakes with trophy trout. And if you go just by the numbers, your best bet might be Wilmington’s Lake Raponda (800 stocked), Miller Pond in Strafford (600) or Bennington’s Lake Paran (500).

SKINNY DIP

There’s nothing illegal about skinny dipping, or even lounging around in the buff in the Green Mountains. But if you are looking for some eau naturelle where you will be in company of others who are au naturel, Vermont has you covered. This spring, naturists and others who liked to frequent the beach at the south end of Lake Willoughby clashed with state officials over planned improvements to the area. The Vermont Department of Forests Parks & Recreation is proposing to put in public restrooms, better parking, improve trails and make the south end handicap accessible. While this may seem like good news to most, those who are looking for a true nude beach may have to head as far south as Wilmington, where The Ledges on Harriman State Reservoir is legendary among the no-tan-lines crowd.

Featured photo by Nathaniel Asaro