The Lewis Deane Nature Preserve is an 85-acre forest located on St. Catherine Mountain donated to the college by Bill and Linda Osborne in 2002 (see the dedication speech and press release). The Vermont Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the land. The preserve is available for use by students and the local community for education, research, inspiration, and recreation. Located on St. Catherine Mountain, four miles southeast of the main campus, trail head parking is on the west side of Endless Brook Road, about one mile southeast of Vermont Route 30.
Since its acquisition in 2002, Green Mountain College has utilized the preserve as an outdoor classroom. Research conducted by students and faculty members at the College ranges from studies of factors explaining variation in susceptibility of beech trees to beech bark disease to baseline studies of trail conditions. A number of classes have incorporated Deane Preserve into their curricula. For example, Ecology and Botany classes have established permanent plots for long-term studies of forest dynamics. Recreation students designed a more sustainable and user-friendly trail route, and students in Images of Nature classes built the trail.
Natural processes are the main driver in natural resource management at Deane Nature Preserve. The College’s natural areas crew and groups of volunteers maintain trails and manage invasive species. A long-range management plan for Deane Preserve is in development.
For more information, check out Ruth Larkin’s monograph “Up On the Mountain”. She reviewed studies made by students and faculty during the first eight years of the preserve (see also the Compiled works of students at the Deane Preserve), revised and expanded the Deane Preserve flora, and discussed the ecology of the preserve after living for a year with her husband and young son in the home they built next to the preserve.
The dominant geographic feature in the preserve, Mount St. Catherine, formed 500 million years ago when a great series of volcanic islands collided with the modern day North America. The resulting Taconic Orogeny broke up the sea floor and deposited this region’s characteristic slate rock on top of the continent. Sand and gravel were deposited during the most recent glacial melt some 13,000 years ago and dominate the valley floor and the steep hill near the brook. Today, erosion is the dominant geological process, maintaining shallow soils and slate outcrops on steep slopes.
Deane Preserve is naturally diverse, with more than 250 species of vascular plants. (See Ruth Larkin’s “Up On the Mountain” for a more current species list, and “Flora of Lewis Deane Nature Preserve” by students in Botany, 2007.) Northern Hardwood and Hemlock Northern Hardwood Forest predominate. Sugar Maple and Ostrich Fern grow along the brook. Red Maple and White Oak trees are common on sandy and rather nutrient-poor valley flats. White Pine is common on deep glacial deposits of sand and gravel. At the base of steep slopes, nutrient-rich soils support Rich Northern Hardwoods Forest of Sugar Maple, White Ash, and Sweet Birch with American Maidenhair Fern. Upslope, look for Hemlock Forest on thin, acidic soil. As you near the top, you will see a dramatic transition to a Dry Oak Forest, where drought-tolerant trees of southern forests make a northern appearance above a carpet of Pennsylvania Sedge. Also keep an eye out for the preserve’s wildlife, which includes White-tailed Deer, Turkeys, Porcupines, and birds of the forest such as Barred Owls. Endless Brook runs along the east side of the mountain at the base of the mountain, providing habitat for the indigenous Brook Trout.
Disturbances and herbivory remove vegetation and contribute to the ecology of any ecosystem. Deane Preserve was grazed by sheep in the mid-1800’s (up to the summit), by cows at lower elevations into the 1970’s, and increasingly today by deer browsing tree seedlings and herbs in the forest. Forests returned in the late 1800’s and 1900’s to the entire preserve, except where occasional mowing prevented forest succession in the old field. Natural disturbances such as the 1938 hurricane and ice storms have damaged or killed larger trees, or targeted smaller plants under the surviving big trees during surface fires on the mountain-top in the mid-1940’s.
Endless Brook is home to indigenous brook trout. The brook snakes its way along the east side of the nature preserve, going underground as it nears Lake St. Catherine, earning the brook its intriguing name. On the slopes, seepage areas can be moist all summer, while outcrops and the mountain top experience lengthy dry periods. From the dry mountain top, visitors will see an extensive bog at the foot of the mountain, and beautiful Lake St. Catherine covering over 852 acres in Wells and Poultney.
13,000 years ago: Vermont was ice-free; sand and gravel deposits
1770’s: Possible earliest European settlement
1840’s: Peak of sheep grazing
1870-present: Forest regrowth
1938: Severe hurricane damage
1945: Lewis Deane purchased the land
1940’s: Surface fires on the mountain top
1970’s: Cattle grazing ended in the valley
2002: Land donated to Green Mountain College
All visitors to the preserve are asked to follow these guidelines:
- Leave-no-trace: carry it in, carry it out.
- Travel on foot only, except for handicapped access or approved management practices.
- Hunt only by permission.
- Engage in no illegal activities.
- Camp only in designated areas.
- Build no fires, except in designated areas.
For more information
Contact the Deane Nature Preserve committee at firstname.lastname@example.org