Vermont’s Big Falls

Vermont’s Big Falls
Big Falls State Park, Troy, Vermont (PotW Large)

Big Falls State Park, which lies about two miles south of the Canadian border, is an aptly-named park where the Missisquoi River cascades through a deep, narrow, cliff-lined gorge in Troy, Vermont. In terms of vertical drop, the numbers truly don’t do this waterfall any justice, for the river descends only about 40 feet over the course of the cascades (with the tallest single drop measuring roughly 25 feet). The real allure of this waterfall is its awe-inspiring power. The Missisquoi River is squeezed through such a narrow space here that it tears violently through the chasm, boiling with whitewater and sending a roaring echo up the gorge walls. In fact, the photograph above was taken from a cliff some 80 feet above the riverbed and, even at that distance, I was still being blasted by mist erupting from the waterfalls below.

The recent history of Big Falls State Park is not particularly well-documented, at least not in any articles or overviews widely-accessible to the public. For some reason, you won’t even find this parcel listed in the Vermont State Parks Division official park listing. Some time ago, a utility company owned the land and was purportedly considering the construction of a hydroelectric plant to harness energy from the Missisquoi River. As fate would have it, the company decided not to pursue the plans and ultimately transferred the land to the State of Vermont. The exact timeline is fuzzy, but at some point after Big Falls fell under the jurisdiction of the State, it was dubbed “Big Falls State Park” and opened up to the public for hiking, swimming, and fishing.

Trails here wind through wild forests beneath a canopy of sizable conifers and, unlike many Northeastern state parks which lay in the midst of bustling communities, Big Falls State Park really is quite remote and isolated from densely populated towns. This photograph of Big Falls was taken late in the Spring of 2011, when very high water levels made fishing and swimming difficult. However, during an earlier visit two years ago, I recall pulling at least a half-dozen trout from the rocky waters below the waterfalls. One member of our fishing party even cooled off by taking a dip in one of the sallower, shaded pools. Big Falls State Park may be out-of-the-way and require a lengthy drive, but it offers exceptional scenery and recreation and is sure to be worth a visit if you ever make it out to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

References & Related Information

“Big Falls State Park – Troy, Vermont”.
Waymarking.com

“Big Falls – VT”.
NewEnglandWaterfalls.com

“Big Falls”.
NortheasternWaterfalls.com

About this Photograph
Photograph of Big Falls © 2011 J.G. Coleman Photography. View more photography by Trails of Freedom Chief Researcher, Justin Coleman, at J. G. Coleman Photography.

 

5 Comments

  1. Jim Avery 6 years ago

    A bit more on the history of Big Falls.
    In the late 1950’s a company in New York was considering developing the Big Falls as a site for Hydro Electric power. Citizens Utilities Company, the local utility company in northern Vermont, purchased the land in the 1950’s to ensure that it was protected and not developed at that time. In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, the Army Corp of Engineers identified the potential to develop a massive hydro electric site that would have flooded this entire region to create a massive impoundment. This effort was later abandoned.
    In the mid 1990’s, Citizens Utilities Company decided to donate the property to the State of Vermont for the people of Vermont in perpetuity.

    • Author
      Justin Coleman 5 years ago

      Thanks for the information, Jim! We always appreciate hearing from our readers, especially when they can teach us a thing or two about some of our favorite hiking locations.

      Big Falls holds a certain mystique for me, probably because I rarely have the opportunity to head out to Troy. Since I live in Connecticut, about 300 miles away from Big Falls, I generally only visit once every year or two whenever I travel to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. There are many waterfalls in Connecticut, but very few come anywhere close to the thundering power of Big Falls and the incredibly scenic terrain which surrounds them.

      Thanks again for dropping us a line, Jim.

  2. karen jackson 4 years ago

    thanks for this! we live in northern vermont, and have a cabin up there toward the border, and i found this treasure of a site once when exploring back roads. i am really grateful for the history, from you and from jim above. it’s a treasure. we’ve had a record rainy june, and today, june 30, 2013, it was ripping through there with a great thunder. its remoteness is part of the enchantment.

    kj

  3. Craig Noyes 4 years ago

    Big Falls is definitely one of my favorite places in the world (And I’ve traveld a bit)! I’ve been there when the water was low enough that I climbed though the water right to the base of the big fall, and have been there when we had to walk over a mile in knee deep water along River rd from North Troy just to get there, and wow! What a monster of a waterfall it was that day! I was sooo glad when I showed up one day and saw the big sign “Big Falls State Park” Thanks for the post, recommend anyone to check it out! Although, as I told one tourest family that saw me climb out on the rocks around the falls and began to follow, “I’m not saying don’t go, but just understand, if you fall, that will probably be the end!”

  4. ericca milot 4 years ago

    This morning i was sitting home trying to find something close buy to go do. nut much in my area and especially for kids. my husband and i have 4 children and love the our doors. i was googling for about a hour until i found Big Falls. i set my GPS and my husband and i and our kids set out. it was tricky to find. but we found it. we went all the way thou the woods to the bottom of the falls and were able to climb al the way up. i, my self even had a swim. my children are 6,7,8,10. they climbed it as well. its was a great day spent out side. we plan on going back. with i pick nick lunch next time. and my oldest daughters class does a nature walk every year to a new place with info and history to learn. Big Falls is on my suggestion list for the first day of school. its sad that all theas beautiful mother natchers are hidden and not well known. its time to change.

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