The Green River Watershed Alliance is so pleased to support the annual New England Green River Marathon!
Hosted on the last weekend of August, runners from around the world come to this corner of Vermont and Massachusetts to test their stamina along the Green River.
In 2018 and 2019, we posed a series of place-based questions to the runners, to help break to mental slog of a marathon run. Browse our photos of the race, and see the answers below!
1. Where’s the Green River? Am I in the headwaters?
The marathon begins in Marlboro, Vermont, where many small streams also begin. These streams are the source or headwaters of the Green River. They flow southward and begin to join, forming the Green River near the southern edge of Marlboro.
2. Leaving Marlboro. What town is this?
The Green River watershed includes 6 towns and 2 states. Running southward, you went through Marlboro, Halifax and Guilford in Vermont; and Colrain, Leyden and Greenfield in Massachusetts. The Vermont/Massachusetts state line is the halfway mark of the marathon. The Green River forms the boundary between Leyden and Colrain.
3. The Green River begins! How did it get its name?
The Green River is first visible along Green River Road in Harrisville, a small hamlet in Halifax, and runs close to the roadways from here all the way to Greenfield. We haven’t yet found an answer to how the river got its name, but we know that at times it is a beautiful celadon green color. We believe this is caused by minerals running into the river from the surrounding landscape.
4. Why are these banks eroding?
The natural movement of a river over time is to meander back and forth across the landscape. While this movement has always led to the removal and deposition of sediment along its path, this pattern was intensified in August 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene when the Green River reached flood levels higher than any in recorded history. This flooding caused the riverbanks to erode, particularly in this long stretch of the river in Halifax. The erosion continues with each heavy rainstorm, causing problems downstream. Our states and towns continue to work on flood recovery and planning.
5. Why was this bridge rebuilt in 2012?
Tropical Storm Irene took out many of the roads and bridges along Green River. This bridge in Halifax was completely washed away, as was another upstream in Halifax. Although our towns managed to rebuild our roads before the first winter set in, the bridges took another year to be redesigned and rebuilt. Local residents had long detours on the back roads.
6. Entering Guilford. How many people live here?
The town of Guilford recorded 2,121 residents in the 2010 census, but only a fraction of these live on the side of town that includes the Green River watershed. In fact, the entire watershed north of Greenfield is sparsely populated and free of commercial development. No major roads cross our landscape; no stores or restaurants or town centers are located here. This is a rural enclave in a busy world!
7. Is this a C.S.A.?
CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” CSA farms sell subscriptions at the beginning of the season and patrons receive a share of the farms harvest throughout the year. The Green River watershed supports several small farms, with many of them selling directly to local customers.
8. What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land that drains rainwater or snow into one location such as a stream, lake or wetland. Watersheds are sometimes called drainage basins or catchments. The Green River watershed covers 89.8 square miles of land and includes many small streams that drain into the Green River. It is a sub-basin of the Deerfield River watershed, which is part of the Connecticut River watershed.
9. What sweet product is made from these trees?
Beautiful old sugar maples line this stretch of Green River Road. These are Vermont’s state tree, Acer saccharum, and can be found throughout the watershed. In the spring, sugar maples produce a sweet sap that, when collected and boiled, becomes the delicious maple syrup that is enjoyed by people near and far. Several families in the watershed make and sell maple syrup each year in sugarhouses on their properties.
10. Why did the GRWA choose the salamander for its logo?
The Green River Watershed Alliance formed in 2017 with the help of a Watershed Grant from the High Meadows Fund in Vermont. The steering committee wanted to choose a logo that would represent the entire watershed, not just the river. The salamander, which spends part of its life in water and part on land, seemed a perfect animal to represent this interconnectedness of water and land in a watershed. Local residents help with “salamander crossings” each year when the first spring rains arrive and the salamanders need to cross the roads from the forests to the vernal pools near the river to lay their eggs.
11. Why is this crib dam here?
The Green River Crib Dam was first built about 1811 and is a reminder of the early industries that used rivers and streams to power their mills. Green River Village included a grist mill, a sawmill, a furniture mill, and a paper mill. The dam was rebuilt based on the original design in 1999. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now owned and maintained by the Green River Village Preservation Trust.
12. Why are covered bridges called “kissing bridges”?
The Green River Covered Bridge was built in the 1870s and restored in 2016. As was typical for many covered bridges, people were charged a fine if they were caught going through a covered bridge at a pace faster than a walk. It is said that many couples slowed down in order to steal a kiss as they passed through the bridge, unseen by neighbors.
13. Why are floodplains important?
Floodplains are an important part of a river’s landscape. As rivers rise, either naturally in the spring from melting snow or in big storm events, floodplains act as natural storage facilities. They allow rivers to spread out, slowing them down and protecting people and infrastructure further downstream. Floodplains also protect water quality and recharge groundwater. Good flood planning includes protecting floodplains from development.
14. Did the river really reach this level in Tropical Storm Irene?
Yes! During Tropical Storm Irene, the Green River reached peak water levels and spilled from its banks in many locations, washing away roads and bridges. The “bankfull” height at the gauging station in Colrain is just over 7 feet. During T.S. Irene, the gauge level was recorded at double that height at 14 feet!
15. What recreational club built this bridge?
The Guilford Pitstoppers snowmobile club is one of many recreational groups that enjoy the Green River watershed. Their members rebuilt this suspension bridge in 2013 after T.S. Irene washed away their former bridge. The Pitstoppers work with local landowners to gain permission to use and maintain trails throughout Guilford. These trails are part of the larger network of VAST snowmobile trails in Vermont.
16. What’s going on here?
Many landowners in the watershed are enrolled in Vermont’s Current Use program, which aims to keep agricultural and forest land in production, slow development on these lands, and provide greater equity in taxation on undeveloped land. Eligible landowners work with certified foresters to manage their forests. This site was cleared in 2017 to serve as a log landing for property logged as part of its forestry management plan.
17. Knotweed! Where else do you see it?
Originally introduced as an ornamental garden plant, Japanese Knotweed has spread invasively throughout the Green River watershed and surrounding regions. Knotweed forms dense stands and crowds out native plants. With its hair-like roots and monoculture growth pattern, it also leads to further erosion of our stream banks and lowers the quality of riverbank habitat for wildlife.
18. Why were these stonewalls built?
When Vermont was first settled by Europeans, the forested landscape was cleared for farming. Stonewalls were built to enclose pastures, mark town and property lines, and define the edges of roads. Farmers could count on new crops of rocks brought to the surface each year by winter’s frost heaves. As farming has declined, Vermont’s forests have reclaimed the landscape, but the stonewalls remain.
19. What business operated here for many years?
Several generations of the Denison family ran the C. A. Denison Lumber Company here until 1989. Timber was harvested from nearby forests. The business included a sawmill, lumberyard and small hardware store. It served as an important resource for local residents and builders.
20. Who monitors this gauging station?
This gauging station is one of many on rivers throughout the country. It is operated by the US Geological Survey and helps scientists get accurate information on river dynamics. River height, temperature, and discharge are measured by instruments located in the river below the small building next to the road. Current and historic data for the Green River can be found at this USGS link: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=01170100.
21. How was this property conserved?
In 2018 the owners of this property in Colrain worked with the Franklin Land Trust to place 86 acres of land under permanent conservation restrictions. This preserves the land for agriculture and natural habitat and provides scenic and recreational benefits to the town and region and to the Green River watershed.
22. Why is this bridge called Ten-Mile Bridge?
The center of Greenfield is 10 miles downriver from this bridge, but runners have just 9.8 miles to the marathon finish line! The swimming hole under the bridge is a favorite summer gathering spot for local residents.
23. How much land is conserved in this watershed?
Approximately 2,700 acres of land in Vermont and 1,025 acres in Massachusetts are conserved through easements held by land trusts or as town or state forests. This equals 5.8 square miles of land or about 6% of the watershed. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife has preserved 382 acres in this part of the watershed to provide hunting and fishing opportunities.
24. How clean is the Green River?
The Green River Watershed Alliance works with the Deerfield River Watershed Alliance and the Connecticut River Conservancy to monitor 6 sites on the Green River each summer. The goal is to assess water quality and provide safe swim information. The Green River in Vermont and in Massachusetts above the Greenfield town line has consistently high water quality. In Greenfield, where the river runs through the town, tests reveal areas with poor water quality, primarily from runoff during rainstorms.
25. How does Greenfield use the Green River?
Greenfield’s public swimming and recreation area is on the Green River off Nash’s Mill Road. Greenfield also draws over 30% of its public water supply from the Green River. Their pumping station, located near the covered bridge on Eunice Williams Drive, operates from April to December, drawing 130 million gallons of water per year from the river and from the underground aquifer.
26. What happens at the Martin’s Farm?
This is a family-owned business. Over 700 tons of organic compost is produced here each year from leaves, manures, grass, recycled food wastes, cardboard and paper. The composting process takes 3 to 4 months. It’s then sold to organic gardeners and farmers in the area. Another fact -- Adam Martin runs in the Green River Marathon!