With the recent drought-like month of June, followed by this week’s much needed rainfall, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of water in the Mad River Valley. I mean just look at the name: Mad River. This valley is named after the main body of water flowing through it, even though most of us attribute the mountains as the main features of the area. But in truth, the Mad River is vitally important to the culture and community here, especially in the summer.
So what’s the deal with the Mad River? Well the most interesting fact is that it flows north, hence why they call it “Mad”. The Mad River makes its headwaters in Granville Gulf, and then flows through the Valley before entering the Winooski River just downstream from Middlesex. The river has remained in great shape, thanks in no small part to Friends of the Mad River, a non-profit organization committed to protecting, improving, and enhancing the ecological, recreational, and community values of the Mad River and its watershed.
With the river being fairly rocky and clear, it’s well-suited for swimming. When you drive around on a hot day in the summer, you’ll see just how much people agree with that. Between Historic Bridge Street, Lareau Farm, Warren Falls, and Warren Riverside Park to name a few, there are plenty of happy bodies cooling off in the water and cars filling up the roadside parking lots. Some offer great cliff jumping, like Warren Falls, while others are more suited just for laying out in the sun and swimming. Over the past several years, Warren Falls has become quite the popular spot, so getting there early has become a must on busy days. For another list, the chamber has great swimming holes recommendations on their website too.
Side note: if you’re yearning for a more au natural swimming experience, The Punch Bowl is the local nude swimming hole right near our snowmaking pond on Route 100. I’m not here to judge how you want to ditch the heat.
Depending on the time of year, the river can also host various watersports, though in peak summer it’s typically too shallow for much floating or paddling. Fly fishing is another great option. If casting a line is something that peaks your interest, we’re hosting Trout day on Saturday, July 10th where you can learn more about the Mad River and fly fishing in general.
A typically warmer, and more watersport friendly option, is Blueberry Lake – the other prominent body of water in the Valley. It has some great hangout areas with shallows that are perfect for kids or dogs, yet it gets plenty deep enough for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Clearwater Sports in Waitsfield offers various watersport rentals. Another popular tactic is to hit up the mountain bike trails next to the lake before taking a dip.
If you’d prefer a poolside experience, the Sugarbush Health and Recreation Center has both indoor and outdoor pools. There’s an outdoor hot tub as well. Plus, new this summer we’re introducing Tropical Tuesdays at the SHaRC with cocktails, BBQ, and evening outdoor pool service until 7 PM.
Of course it’s not just summer – water is vitally important to our snowmaking operations in the winter. Our snowmaking pond for Lincoln Peak is fed in large part by the Mad River. A wet autumn bodes well for our snowmaking come November 1st. Even in the middle of winter, while we certainly don’t hope for thaws or rain, the flipside of the argument is that it helps refill our snowmaking ponds and streams in case we need to make more snow.