A watershed is an area of land where all of the rain, snowmelt, and water flowing downhill drain into the same body of water – a river, stream, or lake. Water slides down the sides of the area from the highest point to the bottom of the watershed, like a basin filling with water. On its way, the water travels over the land – across fields, forests, back yards, streets and roads, or seeps into the soil and travels underground (becoming groundwater).
The next time it rains or the snow melts, think about the path the water coming from your home travels. If you live in the White River watershed, it eventually joins the White River and from there travels to the Connecticut River in White River Junction, Vermont. Four major watersheds make up the State of Vermont: the Connecticut River watershed (of which the White River watershed is part), the Lake Champlain watershed, the St. Lawrence watershed, and the Hudson River watershed.
The White River watershed encompasses 710 square miles, draining portions of Addison, Orange, Rutland, Washington and Windsor Counties, including 50,000 acres of the Green Mountain National Forest. The White River originates in the Town of Ripton on the slopes of Battell Mountain, then flows southerly and easterly before merging with the Connecticut River in the Town of Hartford. The 56-mile main stem of the White River has 5 major tributaries: the First Branch, the Second Branch, the Third Branch, the West Branch, and the Tweed River.
The White River is significant for being one of the last free-flowing rivers in the State of Vermont, and is the longest un-dammed tributary to the Connecticut River, which is an American Heritage River. The White River watershed is also a designated Special Focus Area of the US Fish & Wildlife Service Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.