Putney’s physical landscape is the structural backbone which supports the town’s ecological and cultural ingredients. It includes the components of bedrock, surficial materials, soil, water, and climate which together define the topography of the land. More details about these individual pieces are presented in subsequent descriptions.
For now, there are a couple of key notions to grasp. First, due to local variations, the physical landscape is hardly uniform; Putney’s terrain is a melange of low lying valley floodplains, rolling hills, and craggy ridges, among other features. Second, local differences in the shape and attributes of elements such as rock type, slope, and elevation help define clear patterns of where certain plants and animals can thrive, and how people inhabit and use the land. For example, calcium-rich soils derived from limestone bedrock spur the growth of wildflowers like wild leeks, bobcats often den in and around bedrock ledges, and it’s no surprise that the most productive farmland in town is alongside the fertile floodplain of the Connecticut River.
Consequently, when we look at the landscape in this way, we can begin to see its integrative nature, with the underlying topography, climate, and hydrology directly determining elements of the overlying ecology and perpetually guiding the course of human history.