The land is open during daylight hours.
For information about the farm, contact Ben Waterman at (802) 861-6506.
What happens at Bluffside Farm today is the direct result of what residents of Newport said they wanted to see on the land. Food is being grown, nature is being cared for, and people can explore, get exercise, and hunt.
In 2015, we bought the farm—the largest undeveloped property within the city. We asked the community to imagine what it could be and how it could serve Newport. Three priorities emerged: recreation, farming, and nature. Since then, we have been acting on these priorities together with community members.
The land was the homestead of the Scott family for six generations. They managed apple orchards, dairy cows, a maple sugarbush, and more. When we bought this farm, it was the last large piece of farmland left in the city. Today, the farming tradition continues. A local farmer hays the fields and neighbors grow their own food in the community garden.
When we bought the farm, it hadn’t been open to public recreation. It also sat between two unconnected recreational paths that, if connected, would span seven miles from downtown Newport to the Canadian border.
The opportunities were incredible, but also daunting. Today there is a one-mile ADA accessible recreation trail that connects these trails.
There are also many informal paths through the woods. In winter a local ski group uses the farm to expand their trail network.
Video of trail building
The site has sensitive wetlands, bluffs, and lakeshore, and hosts many birds and animals. It also has a long history.
Over a mile of natural sand beach, a rarity on Vermont lakes, can be found on the farm.
Abenaki people have lived in this area for thousands of years. Mamhlawbagok, the Abenaki name for the Lake Memphremagog, means “at the expansive lake.” The lake was an important waterway crossroads within the western Abenaki homelands.
Remnants of Native American presence and early colonial settlement activity are also evident. Protection of these natural features and cultural resources were high on the list of people’s wishes.
We’re continuing to listen to local needs and have expanded our work to include restoring natural features and working with the local schools.
Walkers enjoy trails through fields, woods, and shoreline and birdwatchers can catch sight of nesting eagles. In the fall, deer hunters can add their name to a hunting lottery. And in the winter months a local ski group has extended their network of ski trails to the farm. From a 1,000-foot long sandy beach to woods that suggest places much further south, Bluffside Farm has many natural features to explore.
Bluffside Farm is surrounded by Lake Memphremagog on two sides and residential neighborhoods on the other two. True to its name, the farms sits on a bluff above the lake.
During the most recent post-glacial period, a large glacial lake covered this area and left deep sandy deposits. These deposits are high in nutrients due to organic matter left behind from glacial melting and the post-glacial lake.
This strongly influences the plants and trees that are found at Bluffside Farm.
Within Bluffside’s woods, you will find red oak, red pine, white pine, hemlock, bracken fern, wintergreen, and northern white cedar. Most of the woodland resembles those found in southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which is rare in northern Vermont.
Mostly likely this forest type is here because of the combination of the sandy soils and the moderating “lake effect”.
The beach is one of the farm’s most ecologically interesting features. It’s over 1,000 feet long and stretches below steep wooded slopes and dramatic bluffs along the farm’s southern boundary. It is very unusual to have a beach of this size in Vermont, outside of Lake Champlain.
Though most of the beach is sparsely vegetated, some of the plants that grow here include speckled alder, poison ivy (yikes!), willows, cordgrass, ground-nut, yellow nutsedge, and jewelweed.
Just behind the narrow beach ridges, there are two small shrub and forested wetlands. Here you can see silver maple, white pine, red maple, black ash, young red oak, black willow, speckled alder, white meadowsweet, witch hazel, cattail, ground-nut, and scouring-rush.
The eastern side of the property slopes down to a shallow cove. It is separated from the main lake by what may have been an old beaver dam. At the source of the cove, there is an alder swamp and additional small wetlands nestled in the adjacent woods.
In these wooded areas, you can find plants such as sweetgale, bracken fern, northern white cedar, eastern hemlock, and red oak. Near the old beaver dam, there are areas of aquatic vegetation, with plants including the invasive giant grass phragmites and the native aquatic plant water-willow.
We’ve been slowly restoring a wetland at the end of Scott’s Cove that had been filled in over the years with construction debris. Excavators dug the debris down to the original wetland soils and removed 100 dump trucks of fill.
Local Abenaki community members worked with us to develop a planting plan that centered on three plants important for ceremony, medicine, and basketmaking: sweetgrass, red osier dogwood (also called red willow), and shrub willows.
On a mild October day, volunteers gathered for a big planting day. We excitedly “unboxed” the first 25 sweetgrass plants that had been shipped to us. And we prepared the site by placing tobacco grown at the Abenaki community garden at the Bluffside farm, and then got to work.Video of wetland restoration
In spring 2023, we planted a wetland garden near the restored wetland area. Here, visitors will find examples of plants chosen for the restoration project along with botanical signs in up to four languages.
Sweetgrass is one of the plants featured. It’s long been managed or cultivated by indigenous people across the northeast and responds well to tending. Some other plants include red osier dogwood, used for basketry, edible elderberry and blueberry,
These plants will increase biodiversity and habitat for wildlife and pollinators. We look forward to watching this area return to its natural state. Please stop by the site if you visit the farm!
Invasive plants and insects are becoming an increasing threat to native Vermont species. We inventoried the invasive plants at Bluffside and have been working on ways to control them.
In addition to phragmites, other nonnative invasive plants have found a foothold in the forests, wetlands and waters surrounding the farm.
Nonnative, invasive terrestrial plants including Japanese barberry (pictured), bush honeysuckles, and reed canary grass are abundant in some parts of the forests and wetlands.
In the summer of 2015, the invasive algae starry stonewort, was found by a kayaker in the cove (this was the first documentation of this invasive species in Vermont).
A foggy morning on the lake, a mysterious and beautiful plant, a wildlife sighting, vibrant fall foliage… we’d love to see what you see!
Share what you find on your social media accounts and tag #BluffsideFarm in your post.