Otter Creek: artery of history, wildlife

OTTER CREEK - For most of its long history, Brandon, Middlebury and Vergennes have relied on the Otter Creek as a highway to Lake Champlain. The creek is one of the major streams located in Vermont. Roughly 112 miles (180 km) in length, it is the primary stream running through Rutland County and Addison County.

Otter Creek rises in the Green Mountain National Forest on the western slopes of Mt. Tabor in Peru township in Bennington County, and flows southwesterly towards East Dorset, thence veering northward into Emerald Lake in Dorset township. Thence it runs northward passing through the townships of Danby, Wallingford, Clarendon, Rutland, Pittsford, Brandon, in Rutland County. On entering Addison County, it generally forms the town line between various townships. It next passes through Middlebury, Weybridge and Vergennes and eventually empties into Lake Champlain at Ferrisburgh.

Otter Creek was known to the French as "La Rivi re aux Loutres," whence the English name. On April 1, 1690 Capt. Abraham Schuyler was commissioned by the city of Albany to take a party up the Otter Creek about 7 miles and there to keep watch and engage any Indians. In 1731, the French began construction of a fort at Crown Point to be known as Fort St. Frederic. Before construction began, they founded a new settlement called Addison.

Vergennes, situated on the first falls, 7 miles (11 km) upstream from the outlet of Otter Creek, was chartered in 1778 only four years after New Haven and Hartford, and thus was the third incorporated city in New England.

The stretch of water between the mouth at Fort Cassin point, Lake Champlain (the site of the former Fort Cassin) and Vergennes is passable by boat, and is frequented by motor boats, canoes and kayaks. Indeed, Vergennes was a shipyard of some importance in the various wars of the 18th century. Many nesting platforms have been built along the creek, so one is likely to see both osprey and bald eagles in the area.

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