That ‘Big Sky’ feeling in Vermont

I heard a man from New Hampshire talk about the views in the North Country recently. He had just returned from driving through the Missisquoi River Valley in northern Vermont, where he was reminded of the scenic vistas that used to exist when you drove north in Coos County in his home state.

The mountains rising up behind the lush green agricultural Missisquoi River Valley can bring on that “Big Sky” feeling you normally find associated with the western U.S., or in this man’s case – Coos County. I experienced that feeling recently on a paddling and biking trip with my kids that included canoeing from Enosburg Falls to Sheldon Junction on the Missisquoi River and biking on the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail.

The working lands, mainly dairy farms, protect the views. In recent years, the farms have worked closely with organizations like the Missisquoi River Basin Association on riverside plantings to help prevent erosion and sedimentation of the river. However, the fields across the valley are a defining characteristic allowing us to see for miles and appreciate the mountains and valley from both the river and the roads.

This section of river has a nice mixture of class I-II rapids and flatwater. Several nice and remote campsites are available between Richford and Sheldon Springs, making it possible to start higher up the river for a fun overnight despite its lack of deep wilderness.

In addition to the wide-open vistas, the river is home to a wide variety of wildlife. On our trip, we saw a kingfisher, herons, beavers, muskrat, and even a juvenile bald eagle.

An added bonus to this trip is the nearby Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, which runs along the water. I have been on a quest for rivers with family friendly bike shuttles, and this is certainly one. The rail trail served us again, and I was proud of my 5- and 8-year-old boys for pushing through both the six-mile paddle and the five-mile pedal back to Enosburg Falls.

We took out at the Kane Road bridge in Sheldon Junction because of its proximity to a MVRT parking spot and for its easy river access.

Put in: Bridge of Flowers and Light, Enosburg Falls, VT

Take Out: Kane Rd Bridge, Sheldon Junction, VT

NFCT Maps 4 and 5