Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exploring Centennial Woods

Located in Burlington, Vermont and adjacent to the University of Vermont, Centennial Woods is a small patch of nature (around 65 acres according to the university website) that is owned by UVM and used for research and for recreation by the public.  The woods are small and frequently visited, but they are full of very neat places to explore.  I wander around in this area as often as I can, sometimes several times a week, and during all seasons and types of weather.  It is one of my favorite places.  It also shares some interesting similarities to Schenley Park in Pittsburgh.


A bit of background information:  Like most of Vermont, the Centennial Woods area was heavily logged in the past, and consists of second- or third- growth forest.  It is in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, which has the mildest weather in Vermont (though it is still colder than most of the continental US including Pittsburgh)  There is a trail map here, and a google map here:

View Centennial Woods in a larger map

There are several ways in which Centennial Woods is similar to Panther Hollow Run in Schenley Park of Pittsburgh.  The park is a forested area surrounded by development, with two branches of a creek coming together, both of which are affected by compacted soil and urban runoff.  Many of the same plants and animals use both areas.  In both cases, deforestation occurred, and trees were later planted, and in some cases are still found in places they would not naturally occur.  Both are also directly adjacent to a university and used for research.  There are some obvious differences as well.  Centennial Woods occurs in a glaciated area, and is situated on an old delta into a glacial lake.  The soil is well-drained and nutrient poor.  Panther Hollow Run is situated right in the middle of an old glacial lakebed; the soils are not as well drained but are nutrient-rich.  Because Centennial Woods is colder and has different soils, there are a lot more conifers (white pine and Eastern hemlock, mostly) than in Schenley Park.  Schenley Park, in turn, has several more southern species, including tulip tree, Eastern Sycamore, buckeye, and mulberry; those species do not occur in Centennial Woods (with the exception of a few miserable tulip trees that were experimentally planted and are not able to thrive or even reproduce).  There is one other major difference.  Although both areas have streams that experience urban runoff, Centennial Woods has large detention basins to absorb some of the runoff before it gets into the creek.  Panther Hollow Run, on the other hand, loses most of the water in its upper watershed to the stormwater-sewer discharge.  Thus although the creeks are relatively similar in size, Centennial Brook contains a more consistent amount of water (note that there are also climate differences that add to this).

Well, that's enough text for now!  Here are a few photos of my visit:

Centennial Brook
Centennial Brook after a day of rain.

Signs of Fall
Sumac starting to change color - Vermont fall comes early!

Coppiced Red Maple
Red maple 'fairy ring' probably resprouting from a tree that was cut or otherwise died.

Black Cherry Bark
Black Cherry, a species that is common in both Centennial Woods and Schenley Park.  It has beautiful bark and also has very high quality wood used for veneer and furniture.  (the trees in Centennial Woods and Schenley Park are not being harvested as timber - just to be clear about that!)

American Chestnut
An American Chestnut!  This tree was once dominant over almost all of the eastern United States.  In the early 20th century a disease called Chestnut Blight was accidentally introduced to North America.  In just 50 years, this tree was almost completely removed from the landscape.  It can survive as a shrub or small tree, but may eventually die off completely unless efforts to find or breed resistant individuals are successful.  You can read more about it here.

Here is a map with more photos of my explore yesterday.  Click on the dots to see the photos!