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The only one...

Published on November 13, 2016 by sbonfigli

Only one in the entire state of Vermont and it's only a mile away from our vacation rental homes. Without it, tall boats wouldn't be able to sail or motor between the broad lake and the inland sea of Lake Champlain. What is it?

Drawbridge sign in The Champlain Islands

Drawbridge sign in The Champlain Islands

It's a draw bridge!


The "draw bridge season" ended on October 15. The traffic signal should shine green 24 hours a day until next May 15...unless repair work is planned on the bridge.

The bridge has been having its issues. In summer 2015, there were several times when the bridge got stuck in the open position. This is great for tall boats, but the cars on the only throughway through the Islands were not happy!

In early 2016, the drawbridge operations changed from every 30 minutes to every hour to minimize draw bridge movement. By the end of the season, it seemed that they were back to their 30 minute schedule.

There are changes coming. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is holding a meeting Tuesday, November 15 in North Hero to share the preferred design alternative and probable construction approach to handle this quirky draw bridge. The last I heard is that it would be maintained as a draw bridge.

The impact of the draw bridge is minimal if at all to us and our guests since the major places we visit regularly are on the Grand Isle side of the bridge or to the south of us. It's easy for us to plan trips to the north and ensure that we miss the scheduled draw bridge openings. In fact, I wasn't even aware that the draw bridge got stuck in 2015 until I read about it in our local paper even though the bridge is only one mile north of us and the bridge was stuck open for a couple of hours!

Regardless of its problems, I find the draw bridge captivating. I encourage our guests that kayak to paddle to the draw bridge and watch its movement from below. Then paddle underneath as cars drive over listening to the deep rumble of tires passing over the metal grid. When kayaking to the other side of the bay, listen as this same rumble travels so easily over the lake. You can tell the difference when an 18-wheeler travels over the bridge compared to a passenger car. I often watch and Mississippi-ly count to see how long it takes the sound to reach me. Knowing the speed of sound, I should be able to calculate how far away I am from the bridge. One of these days I may actually do the math! For now, I'll just enjoy the peacefulness of the lake and the majesty of the draw bridge.

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