Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quechee Gorge

Did you know that New England has its own (little) Grand Canyon and that it's in Vermont?

Quechee Gorge collage

The 1.4 mile long Quechee Gorge (say KweeChee) on the Ottauquechee River has been called Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon. It's one of New England’s most popular natural wonders — best of all, you can see it FREE. (Just avoid the touristy souvenir shops in the nearby Quechee Village.)  

quechee gorge1

Quechee Gorge can be seen from the Quechee Gorge Bridge on Vermont Route 4A in the Town of Hartford. The drop from the Quechee Gorge Bridge to the bottom of the gorge is roughly 165 feet.

How did it happen?
It was formed by glacial activity when the climate cooled (about 100,000 years ago) the Laurentide Ice Sheet formed in northern Canada, flowed south over New England, burying the Ottauquechee River underneath ice and snow. The ice sheet has been estimated to have been at least 1 mile thick.
quechee gorge2As it started to warm up, some 13,000 years ago, the ice sheet started melting, but instead of flowing straight into the Connecticut River like before, it flowed into the arm of a huge lake, Glacial Lake Hitchcock and backed up behind a dam of gravel left by the ice melt.  When the dam broke, the Ottauquechee River turned south wearing away the bedrock until it cut all the way through creating a huge waterfall and the gorge. 

Quechee Gorge is now part of the 612-acre Quechee Gorge State Park. The land was originally owned by the A. G. Dewey Company, a major wool processor in the 19th century. Dewey established a mill about 1869 and  became a successful wool processor, employing as many as 500 people, who lived in the mill village. Water from the falls and the mill pond just above the gorge powered the facility. In 1841, Dewey began making reworked used wool called shoddy. By 1936, the mill was the oldest one in the country making shoddy wool; it was used to make Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees baseball uniforms, and U.S. Army and Navy blankets. The mill closed in 1952 and relocated to Enfield, New Hampshire. Over the next several years, nearly all of the mill houses and buildings were demolished. Remains of mill and dam can still be seen at the head of the gorge.

Quechee was known for a picturesque covered bridge at the site of the old Quechee mill. In 2011, the bridge was severely damaged by flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. Irene did more damage in one day to the state's old bridges than is typically done in a decade. Many of them had stood for more than 100 years. The bridge is under repair (image from Burlington (VT) Free Press pre-Irene).

Quechee bridge


Sandra said...

nope, did not know they had their own grand canyon, it is beautiful and i love the bridge and am glad they are repairing it. they don't make them like that anymore.

Anonymous said...

How interesting. A beautiful place; one I would love to visit!!

possum said...

Oh, I had forgotten all about that place. What a fun trip!

grammie g said...

HI B...Thanks I think...whew my stomach, I am not crazy about looking down from high places!!
Beautiful sight though!! I have traveled a lot of country roads there and so many old wooden bridges!!
Hope this can be repaired !!

Out on the prairie said...

What a lovely area, I would love to visit here.

Anvilcloud said...

Good stuff. It would be nice to visit in person someday.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place!
Interesting fact about the A.G.Dewe Company too!

Have a great day!

Claire King said...

Lovely pics and very nice description. You may just educate me, yet.

Ginnie said...

I'm embarassed to say, as an old New Englander, that I've never heard of it. Thanks and hope you're having a good Thanksgiving.

Montanagirl said...

Wow, their own Grand Canyon---that's really cool! Love that bridge in the last photo.

Unknown said...

Thanks for writing us up! Here's a little factoid for you: the Ottaquechee is dammed near its mouth at the Connecticut River. The dam was put in after the 1927 flood to limit the consequences of flooding downstream on the Connecticut; it is designed to hold back a 100 year flood and stands over 100 feet above the usual water line, perhaps 3 miles from the end of the gorge. The day after the Irene flooding I stood on the bridge and looked down to water just 30 feet below, and the entire gorge was filled with latte-colored water. Shocking sight! As for the bridge in Quechee, go to YouTube and search on Quechee Bridge and you will find some amazing videos of the flooding and the work constructing the new bridge. On Facebook look for Parker House Inn, Simon Pearce, or Quechee Lakes Recreational Community.

Julie Hargreaves said...

Beautiful photos

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