Jamaica State ParkThe 772-acre park is located on a bend of the West River, about one-half mile from the center of the town of Jamaica in southern Vermont. It is the center of activity for the West River whitewater events in late April and late September, as the US Army Corps of Engineers releases water from its Ball Mountain Dam. The controlled water releases produce ideal river-rafting, kayaking and canoeing opportunities. This semiannual event draws whitewater enthusiasts from around the northeast to join in the fun of paddling the class II to class IV rapids. Thousands of people also come to the park to watch the action on the West River and hike along the three-mile-long former rail bed hiking trail that gently winds up the steep valley.
The West River is also a favorite spot for many fishermen. The combination of deep slow running water and shallow fast ripples makes for some fine fishing. The park includes 43 tent/trailer sites and 18 lean-to sites that are spread throughout the campground.
(Park season: April 27 to Columbus Day; for further information call 802-874-4600)
Mount Philo State ParkLocated atop Mount Philo (968' elevation), the 168-acre park offers panoramic views of the Lake Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. A narrow, steep road provides visitors access to the top of the mountain. This is Vermont's oldest state park, created in 1924.
There are two small camping areas located at the top of the mountain and on the mountainside. Hiking trails lead from the summit to the base. Swimming is available nearby at Kingsland Bay State Park (6 miles away) or Button Bay State Park (15 miles away). There is boating, fishing, and sailing in nearby Lake Champlain. Mount Philo State Park is an excellent vantage area from which to observe spring bird migration. It is part of the Lake Champlain Birding Trail, a 300-mile-long, highway-based trail that connects 88 birding sites along the Lake Champlain shoreline and uplands in Vermont and New York.
(Park season: Memorial Day - Oct 15; for further information call 802-425-2390) http://www.lakechamplainbirding.org/
Grand Isle State ParkGrand Isle State Park is located on, and takes its name from, the largest island in Lake Champlain. The Grand Isle, about fourteen miles long by three miles wide, is also known as South Hero. The Hero Islands were named to commemorate early Vermonters who had served in the American Revolution.
Grand Isle is Vermont's second-largest state campground and boasts the highest annual visitation. With 4,150 feet of Lake Champlain shoreline, it features 117 tent/trailer sites, 36 lean-to sites, and 4 cabin sites. Lakeshore areas permit water access for swimming and shore fishing. There is a boat launch ramp for registered campers, and kayaks and rowboats for rent through the park office. Paddling opportunities abound among the Champlain Islands.
Grand Isle is an outstanding area from which to observe spring bird migration. It is part of the Lake Champlain Birding Trail, a 300-mile-long, highway-based trail that connects 88 birding sites along the Lake Champlain shoreline and uplands in Vermont and New York.
(Park season: May 18 to Columbus Day; for further information call 802-372-4300)