Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park preserves a site which witnessed the birth of the American conservation movement. The boyhood home of George Perkins Marsh, a politician and diplomat considered to be the first American environmentalist is here. Marsh’s father, Charles, built the house in 1805. Later, Frederick Billings expanded the mansion and established a managed forest and a progressive dairy farm on the estate. And finally, Billings’ granddaughter Mary, along with her husband Laurance Rockefeller donated the property to the federal government in the 1990s, creating Vermont’s only National Park Service Unit.
When Charles Marsh built the original home in the early 1800s, it was a Federal style brick building. His son George grew up there and developed an appreciation for nature while exploring the woods of Mount Tom. George developed a philosophy of land stewardship and published Man and Nature in 1864. This work laid the foundation for the conservation movement in the United States. Conservationists advocated for the responsible and sustainable use of natural resources.
Billings’ Woodland Park►
Frederick H. Billings grew up close to the Marsh Estate in Woodstock Vermont. The writings of George Marsh, as well as time spent in the redwood forests of California, inspired Billings to actively advocate for conservation of the country’s natural resources. After making his fortune out west, Billings moved back to Vermont and found the land depleted. Deforestation and erosion reminded him of the Gold Rush devastation he’d left behind in California.
Billings bought the Marsh farm and additional surrounding land. He was determined to restore the forests of Mount Tom and develop a sustainable timber and agricultural business. He planted European tree varieties designed to thrive in the managed forest and built carriage roads and trails for recreational use of the park.
Billings created The Pogue, a manmade lake and reservoir on Mount Tom, by dredging and damming the swampy area that had previously been there. Today there are about 20 miles of trails in the park using the old network of carriage roads and trails.
Dogs and horses are welcome on any of the trails. We had our two dogs, Trudy (a young Catahoula) and Lily (an elderly Cockapoo,) with us. We decide to follow the NPS ‘Hike #3’ from the mansion to the Pogue. This hike is described as a moderate 2.5 miles. I think it was closer to 4 miles in reality, but we may have taken an extra leg in the beginning.
The hike mainly uses Mountain Road, a well-maintained carriage road that is steady and steep all the way up to the lake. Just before we reached The Pogue, we saw these two gravity-fed water fountains on either side of the trail. We wondered about them, but with no rangers on site due to Covid-19, we couldn’t find any information. Turns out, they are for horses…I guess you can’t carry a bottle and collapsible dish for a horse.
The loop around the Pogue is flat and less than a mile. But since we’d had to carry Lily part of the way up the hill, we just took a water and photo rest before heading back down. For the return route, we took the left fork where the path split and wound up by the Forest Center side of the park. The Forest Center is a newer building, used for educational purposes, and is adjacent to the 1876 Wood Barn.
- Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller: Mansion
- Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller: The Pogue
- Billings Farm and Museum
- Ottauquechee River
Location: 54 Elm St, Woodstock, VT 05091
Designation: National Historical Park
Date Designated/Established: August 26, 1992
Date of my visit: 7/30/2020