Not all wetlands are created equal. Wetlands are perhaps one of the most diverse natural systems in the world. As a result of this diversity, each wetland plays a wide variety of roles in their ecosystem.
The Vermont Wetlands Section is charged with protecting the functions and values consistent with the benefits wetlands provide for the public. The section evaluates each wetland based on its function (or service it provides). Some wetlands provide one or two functions, while others play a considerable role in their landscape. A prime example of this is the Missisquoi delta wetland complex.
A complex is a group of associated wetlands that function together as an interconnected system. The over 7000-acre Missisquoi delta wetland complex includes Maquam Bog, Long Marsh Bay, Big Marsh Slough, Shad Island, Dead Creek and Charcoal Creek, to name a few.
The Missisquoi delta wetland complex, located at the mouth of the Missisquoi River in northwestern Vermont, extends north into Highgate and south into Swanton and is part of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge (MNWR) – one of only two national wildlife refuges in the state.
Flood storage, water quality protection, wildlife and fish habitat, erosion control, and outdoor recreation are functions and values that the wetlands provide in-state residents and out-of-state visitors. The large expansive floodplains provide flood storage and surface water recharge during times of heavy water flow and drought.
The extensive marshes and fine soils provide filtration of pollutants from industry, erosion and agriculture. The dense vegetation communities slow flood waters and protect shorelines from high wave action reducing effects of erosion and limiting sediment deposition into the waters of Lake Champlain. Lowering sediment loads from entering the lake and bay area reduces phosphorus loads, which in turn reduces the occurrence of toxic algal blooms.
The diverse habitats of marshes, forested floodplains and swamps, bogs, shrub swamps, and aquatic beds provide food, shelter and nesting materials for all types of wildlife from dragon flies to waterfowl. These wetlands support complex food webs that encourage diverse and resilient wildlife populations that provide hunting, fishing, research, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Perhaps one of the most tangible values the complex and surrounding land offer are its recreational opportunities. Kayaking and canoeing the Missisquoi River-Dead Creek loop offers abundant bird watching and botanizing possibilities. Fishing is allowed all along the banks of the Missisquoi River and portions of the refuge are open to waterfowl, deer, and small game hunting. Berry picking can be done in the bog during July and August and the trail system managed by MNWR supports hiking and cross-country skiing.
Wetlands are not buggy, muddy, wastelands. They are an oasis of life that provides ample opportunities for personal enrichment and wildlife conservation for present and future generations to enjoy. The Vermont Wetlands section encourages you to visit the Missisquoi Delta wetlands and find out for yourself.
Missisquoi Delta Wetland Complex Scorecard
|Provides habitat for 17 state uncommon species and over 45 recorded state rare, threatened or endangered species of plants and animals.|
|Supports the largest floodplain in the state, which provides flood storage during high water events in the spring, summer, and fall.|
|Elected as a candidate for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance – a network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life.|
|Provides habitat of the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in the State of Vermont.|
|Provides habitat for more than 20,000 ducks that visit the MNWR, which is part of the Atlantic flyway between northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas, each year.|
|Provides high quality recreational opportunities (hiking, birdwatching, nature photography, hunting, fishing, and water sports) and economic value to the public.|