Island Pond, the central body of water, dominates Brighton. The Abenaki called the lake and its 22 acre island "Menanbawk" which literally means "island pond". Renamed Knowlton Pond in tribute to the purveyor Luke Knowlton who helped lay out the town in the 1780's, the pond measures one mile by two miles long (Lisa Shaw, Off the Beaten Path..., 49).
Back Pond is named after its proximity to Island Pond, separated only by railroad tracks. Just east of Island Pond is Spectacle Pond, named for its resemblance to the lenses and nosepiece of a pair of eyeglasses. Further east is Nulhegan Pond, flowing into the Nulhegan River. Nearby are three Mud ponds, and four ponds named after area families: McConnell, Beeecher, Hancock, and Sukes (Swift, 203).
Pherrins River and Lightning Brook running north and south, supply water to Island Pond. The Clyde River from the west flows in the western part of Brighton and into Island Pond. Other waterways in Brighton include Paul John, Bailey, Cold Brook, Oswegatchie Brook, McKinley Brook, Tuffield Wiley, and Clay Hill Brooks as well as Nulhegan River.
A surface water supply system meets the majority of Brighton's population needs; 647 housing units depend on public or private water company systems. Of the housing units, 101 use drilled wells, 37 use dug wells, and 98 depend on some other source.
Brighton's small named peaks are the following (from north to south): Bluff Mountain, Doliff Mountain, Rosebrook Hill, Haystack Hill, and Meehan Hill. The soil of these hills and surrounding areas was water-deposited material on flood plains, terraces, and lake plains. More than half of the terrain is deep level to steep, moderately drained. The soil is sandy and silty with low to medium lime content on the terraces and bottom lands. (Map 2, Northern VT Resource Conservation...)
The geology of the area is divided between two types of formation. Half of the formation came from the Silurian-Devonian period when slate, phyllite, limestone, quartzite, and conglomerates (to name a few) were formed. The remaining sediment came from igneous rocks and includes such material as granite, syenite, basalt and others.
In 1856, a fire swept through town and burned half a dozen of the buildings. The town rebuilt itself and added the Grand Trunk Railroad in place of one of the original buildings. In 1991, another fire occurred but this time burned down only the Common Sense Bakery, owned and operated by the Northeast Kingdom Community Church (See "Businesses" and "Northeast Kingdom Community Church" below).
Brighton State Park in Island Pond features 152 acres located on a body of water. It contains 84 sites and offers activities that include boating, boat rentals, fishing, hiking, naturalists, marked nature trails, swimming, and a nature museum. In addition, Brighton maintains the Barnes Recreation campground, locate on Route 105 near the beach. According to recent front page news from the Burlington Free Press (October 31, 1996), 1,241 acres of Brighton's land will be included in a portion of a "land deal on tap" in the Northeast Kingdom. A vast area of land in the Northeast Kingdom will be protected from development forever in Governor Dean's $2.8 million deal with Hancock Timber Resource Group (subsidiary of John Hancock Life Insurance Co.). The agreement will restrict development and secure public access to on several parcels that total 31,000 acres (three times the size of Burlington). When the agreement finalizes in December, it'll be the largest conservation project on private land east of the Mississippi. Dean worked with Senator Patrick Leahy and federal officials to work out the deal with the timber company which owns 60,000 acres in Vermont and 2 million across the country. Clearcuts will be restricted to a maximum of 25 acres and Hancock can't subdivide the land more than twelve times.
Brighton was a prolific supplier of raw lumber. In Essex County as a whole, there were vast lumber operations, at one point, housing eight mills that processed 57-foot long logs that came floating down the Nulgheagan Rivers. (Helen-Chantal Pike, Vermont Life, Summer 1981, p.62-63) The railroad provided new access to the forests and as a result, the lumber industry boomed and forests were rapidly harvested.
Over 20 working farms existed in Brighton in the 1950's but by the 1970's, only three remained. The Porter Farm was built in the 1882 and in 1982 was awarded recipient of a Century Farm Award by the State of Vermont. The State has given out many of these awards to farms throughout Vermont that have sustained themselves for at least one hundred if not more years.
Hiram Bradley Farmer was a Civil War veteran and farmer from Westmore, Vermont when he purchased the farm in 1882. He sold it in 1915 to his son Bert to became a railroad engineer. Bert lived on the farm his entire life and with the help of his wife and children, continued the farm's operations. Robert and Sandra Porter bought the farm in 1976 and now operate it as a family business. They maintain 40 milk cows, 1,400 sugar bush trees, and small-scale pulp and logging on their 230 acres. (Deacy Ford Leonard, Century Farms of Vermont, 1986, Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society)
One of the projects that the $16,000 four-year "Enhancing Community Awareness" grant is used for is the Northeast Kingdom Conservation Service Corps, established in 1995. Started as the "Bridge Program" in area schools, the project has expanded to provide young teenagers aged 12 to 15, with their energy and creativity to work. The framework balances independent research, discussion, writing, group initiatives, and hands-on natural resource lessons with conservation-oriented projects.
In 1996, the corps included 17 youth that completed a week-long training session followed by four weeks of field work. Members did everything from keeping journals and discussing conservation issues to clearing log and debris jams in the Clyde River near Island Pond. In its final days of work, the efficient, strong crew created a new nature trail in Charleston, weeded and mulched a willow sapling nursery, and finished up individual projects.