A limestone bluff cedar-pine forest and more than 1,500 feet of shoreline along the Winooski River compose one of the deepest crevasses in Vermont. South Burlington’s Winooski Gorge Natural Area is the location of a guided walk Saturday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Led by Vermont Master Naturalist Program’s Executive Director Alicia Daniel and consulting geographer Jane Dorney, the walk will explore the landscape of the gorge from land-use history and geology to plants and animals.
The approximately 11-acre parcel was acquired by the Winooski Valley Park District with the help of a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. According to the district, the Winooski Gorge provides habitat for over 20 bird species including the nuthatch, cardinal and black-capped chickadee. Other wildlife and plants include deer, beaver, buffalo berry and sweet fern. Several rock outcrops along the foot path include views of cliffs and the river far below.
The Aug. 31 guided walk is free and open to the public and features “the bedrock to birds” format used in the Vermont Master Naturalist Program, which began 2016 in Burlington. Since then, the program is now offered in eight towns across the Champlain Valley and central Vermont.
After the successful two-year pilot program, Sophie Mazowitz led South Burlington’s first Master Naturalist Program in September 2018. It was off and running with 12 enthusiastic participants.
This year’s Vermont Master Naturalist South Burlington Program is led by Roberta Nubile who described the Aug. 31 walk as a great “sneak preview” of the South Burlington naturalist program.
“As a student in the first Vermont Master Naturalist South Burlington program last year, I got to learn so much about South Burlington and state geology, soils, agricultural history, plants and wildlife,” said Nubile. “I am excited to bring new students in. This is a valuable program to learn about the land we live on, from bedrock up.”
The upcoming South Burlington program consists of five field trips, beginning Sept. 8, to key natural areas in the city. To apply, visit vermontmasternaturalist.org for details including costs and available scholarships. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the Sept. 1 deadline.
Meanwhile, for a first-hand, in-depth look at the Winooski Gorge, meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the parking lot off Lime Kiln Road, immediately south of the bridge over the Winooski River.
“The walk exploring the magnificent Winooski Gorge led by two experienced and engaging naturalists, Alicia and Jane, will be an excellent preview for this year’s program,” added Nubile. “I am excited to be going on the walk to learn more!”