Observation Five

Weather: Cloudy, Cold and Slight Breeze

Temperature: 25 F

December 5, 2018


Sitting by the Winooski River, reflecting on the human history of the area, I can’t help but think of the Abenaki people and how they interacted with the river and this land. Winooski comes from the Abenaki word for onion or leek which grew on the banks of the river (Seven Days). Just thinking of the Abenaki word used to name the river reminds me of a reading from The Color of Nature that pointed out how often native concepts and language for nature were erased when European settlers oppressed them and established power over the land. I sit here and wonder, what are the native names for the trees and plants in this area? We study the scientific names for the trees (with Latin roots), but not the native names for the species.


My phenology spot has witnessed all the changes involving human history in this area. The river has been central to how humans have interacted with his land and the changes that have resulted, the food that’s grown, the towns that were established and the industry that developed. Along with this human history the land and environment was impacted. I imagine that at one time crops grew on the banks of the river in the Winooski flood plain (corn, squash) and that the Abenaki and later French settlers trapped animals who lived in the habitat. Prior to the Revolutionary War Farms were established along the river and trees were cut to build homes and create grazing areas for livestock. When the timber industry grew, the river was used to transport the logs to sawmills. The deforestation damaged the habitat for many species and increased hunting and attitudes toward certain animals led to the reduction of key species (catamount, wolf, etc).


After the Revolutionary War, towns grew along the river. Just down from this the lumber industry thrived. The river was a source of power and mills were established. The mills later switched to textile and this caused issues for the health of the river habitat. This place has a rich human history and a complicated relationship with the environment. Progress for humans brings challenges to the the natural world that we have to solve for a sustainable future. 

Source: Friends of the Winooski.

When I was first choosing a spot on google maps I knew I was looking for a place that not many people would be going to. As it turns out the spot I chose is part of a recreational area. This is a bit unfortunate because sometimes I will see some people there walking their dogs. This is fine but I was really thinking that I was not going to see any other people while I was present.


Quick Update on the Spot

I was really excited to go to my spot today. It had been a while since I had been there and I knew that it would look so much different. I was right, the snow had changed the entire look and feel of the area. Also, there was no leaves remaining on any trees except for the large Maple in the field prior to entering the woods. The tree with the vines that leans over the river looks completely naked now that the vines have dropped its leaves and shut down for the winter.

The open early winter woods

View looking down the river

The leaning tree looking all bare and cold