Skip to main content

Reach 4: Middlesex Dam to Bolton Falls Dam (9.5 miles)

Location Distance Access
Middlesex below Green Mt. Power Dam 0 Left bank of river
Town line: Middlesex/ Waterbury 2.5 miles Right bank of river
Moretown off Route 2 3 miles Left bank of river
Waterbury 5.5 miles Right bank of river
Bolton Falls Dam: power line span the river 9.5 miles Left bank of river


Canoe Maps

Reach 4:
Middlesex Dam to
Bolton Falls Dam

Bolton Falls Dam


The put in for this section is just below the Green Mountain Power Dam. Follow the dam access road off Rt. 100B down to the small parking area adjacent to the powerhouse. (See Reach 4 map and Middlesex Dam portage map for reference.)

This section of the river runs through flat or undulating agricultural land and with the exception of the difficult rapids below the confluence of the Winooski and Mad Rivers, canoeing this stretch of the river is easy. The current is slow to moderate and the river corridor curves through cultivated land and northern hardwood forest, red and sugar maples, beech, yellow birch and some hemlock.

Off to your left, Camel' s Hump towers over the river valley from its elevation of 4,083 feet. One of the most prominent peaks of the Green Mountain range, Camel's Hump is easily recognized by its unique double humped profile which serves as a conspicuous landmark in northern Vermont.

The Mad River enters the Winooski on the left about three quarters of a mile below the dam. A good swimming hole can be found on the Mad River about one-quarter mile upstream at the end of a short rapid. Just downstream of the confluence of the Mad and Winooski Rivers is a good fishing spot.

Below the Route 2 bridge at the lower tip of a large island is a very dangerous set of rapids which must be carefully negotiated. Canoeists would be wise to take out at the junkyard above the rapids on the left and care must be taken to avoid rocks. If necessary the rapids may be portaged on the left. High cliffs rise on the north side of the river with moderate rapids continuing for some distance below.

At the end of the rapids, several old iron anchor rings can be seen in the rocks in the center and on the south shore of the river. Logging drives were common in the Winooski River Valley during the nineteenth century. Logging crews would follow these drives in adirondack style-"bateaux” which handled well in fast, narrow and ledge areas. Log jams frequently occurred in riverbends and at falls and these iron rings may have held booms to help control the timber as it flowed through this narrow section of the river valley.

About one and one-half miles downstream on the Middlesex/ Waterbury town line is a remote canoe stop which can be used as a campsite. Beach your canoe in a small inlet where the river bends around a rock ledge on the right bank. This area is inaccessible from the road. But about half a mile downstream is a highway rest stop access on Route 2 which is on the left bank of the river. There are picnic tables and trash barrels here but the site is not suitable for camping.

Two and one-half miles beyond the last roadway access is the town of Waterbury where there is a general store. You can take out on the right bank just upstream of the Route 2 bridge or at the end of Winooski Street where a small bridge crosses the river. This is a good drop-off spot, since there is a small parking area across from an electric substation and you can put in there just downstream of the bridge, where there is a path. This area is adjacent to the Waterbury Athletic Field.

About one mile downstream a railroad bridge crosses the river. Before canoeing under the bridge, take out on the left bank and scout for boulders and log jams. If necessary, the bridge can be portaged on the left. Just beyond the railroad bridge where the Little River enters on the right, is a good fishing spot.

The Little River leads upstream and is passable only to a certain point by canoe to the Waterbury Reservoir and flood control dam. This popular recreational facility is located within the Mt. Mansfield State Forest. The camping and canoeing at Little River State Park are excellent. The reservoir access is approximately a one mile hike up the dam access road from where the river becomes impassable. The Park is approximately a half mile up the road from here.

Just below the Little River outlet are several islands where Snow Geese have been sighted. Bolton Falls dam is one and one-half mile below the Little River outlet.

Bolton Falls Dam

Approximately 1000 feet before reaching the take out point, you will note orange balls attached to the transmission lines suspended over the highway and the river. A second set of orange balls suspended from a wire 15 feet above the river will be noted just before you take out, the access is located on the left side of the river.


From about Memorial Day to November 1st, there are boat barriers in the form of floating barrels located just beyond the take out and well before the dam. It is always possible that the barrels may not be in the river for reasons beyond Green Mountain Power's control.

Do not paddle beyond the take out because river conditions become very hazardous and you run the risk of being swept over the dam.

Beach your canoe on the left bank near the take out, before the barrels. The bank here can be very muddy. The steep uphill portage is marked with wooden engraved signs and is easy to follow. The total distance is about 2000 feet. This portage is difficult and takes at least one half hour. See the portage map.

The portage trail intersects a small dirt road which is the dam access road. This road may be used as a vehicular access from the River Road on the south side of the Winooski River. Parking space is available and there is a spectacular view of the falls over the dam. Green Mountain Power has put in a small recreation area here with picnic tables, garbage cans, and a port-a-pot.

The rock ledge in the Bolton Narrows is called Allen' s Rock, after Ira Allen, one of the original Green Mountain Boys. According to legend, Allen distinguished himself from his traveling companions one day by standing at the edge of the cliff and staring straight down into the narrows below without any sign of fear or hesitation. Since that day the cliff has been known as Allen' s Rock.