Written by Emma Stuhl
In 2011, the precipitation from Tropical Storm Irene washed away bridges and flooded streambanks and neighborhoods, even tearing some homes from their foundations. The storm, which garnered national media attention, demonstrated the extent to which water can shape the landscape and the lives of Vermonters. Whether thinking about how water gradually erodes a hill, or how it carves new river channels during massive flooding events, water has shaped the topography of New Haven. Water also played a key role in the formation of New Haven’s hidden physical features, like the bedrock and surficial deposits, which were formed, respectively, in an ancient tropical sea and in glacially dammed Lake Vermont.
One large river runs through New Haven, the aptly named New Haven River. It flows west from Lincoln and Bristol across the southern part of town and into Otter Creek, which acts as part of the western border for the town. The New Haven River is a popular fishing and kayaking location. A smaller river, Little Otter Creek, flows from the center of town north into the nearby towns of Monkton and Ferrisburgh. New Haven is peppered with other small streams throughout the town, all of which eventually drain into a larger river and then into Lake Champlain.
There are four sizable wetlands in New Haven, including a cedar swamp in the northeast corner of town. Several vernal pools, which fill with water during the spring snow melt and then dry up in the summer, provide breeding habitat for some amphibians, such as wood frogs and spotted salamanders. These amphibians rely on seasonal vernal pools because there are no hungry fish in them that would eat the eggs and tadpoles. New Haven’s diverse wetlands are important ecosystems as they mitigate floods, filter water, and are home to countless species.