ABOUT OUR WATERSHED
Photo Credit: Jessica Boone
For over 10,000 years, this region has been called N’dakinna, “our homeland” by the Wôbanakiiak, the People of the Dawnland. A large community made their home at Mazipskoik, the Place of the Flint, where chert near the bay was harvested to make tools. European colonizers mispronounced Wôbanakiiak as Abenaki and Mazipskoik as Missisquoi.
The original name of the river is Wázowategók, which translates as either “the river that turns back” or “the crooked river.” Abenaki paddlers traveled the full length of the river, which first flows north, then arcs toward the south before flowing west to the lake.
The Missisquoi River Basin is the 855 square miles outlined in the map where all precipitation and surface water drain into the Missisquoi River.
The mainstem of the Missisquoi River runs 88 miles from the headwaters to the river delta. From the confluence of the Burgess Branch and East Branch in Lowell, Vermont, the Missisquoi River flows north through the towns of Westfield and Troy before crossing the Canadian border 25 miles downstream. The Rivière Missisquoi, as the river is known in Québécois, meanders in a gentle arc for about 15 miles through the very southern edge of Canada’s Quebec Province. The Missisquoi River then returns to Vermont in East Richford and meanders west for about 48 miles through the towns of Richford, Berkshire, Enosburgh, Sheldon, Highgate and Swanton. The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge protects the delta, where the river branches out and drains into the Missisquoi Bay of Lake Champlain.
Land use practices over the past few centuries have degraded water quality in the Missisquoi River and Bay. Deforestation cleared the riparian forest, which led to riverbank erosion without the tree roots to hold soil in place. During log drives, large timbers were floated downstream and they damaged riverbanks along the way. Dams changed the flow of the river, and disrupted habitats. Agricultural runoff, especially from the early days of synthetic fertilizer, has increased the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus in the river ecosystem.
In order to improve water quality and restore habitat, the Missisquoi River Basin Association collects water samples, plants trees, removes invasive species and promotes stewardship and education.