Photos by Julia Purdy
Penstock above the trail, with Lake Dunmore visible in the
On a late midwinter afternoon the 3,000 foot-plus peaks of the
Green Mountain ridge above Lake Dunmore-Moosalamoo, Worth,
Monastery, and Romance mountains-glow frosty-white against a pale
pink sky. Golden sunlight slants through the stands of mature
pines and hemlocks along the trail, contrasting dramatically with
the blue sky light pouring down onto whipped-cream mounds of snow.
To the left, the black waters of Sucker Brook plunge downhill
between caps of snow and submerged boulders.
This is the Silver Lake Trail, which winds up the steep
escarpment to Silver Lake in the Moosalamoo National Recreation
The Silver Lake Trail parallels the scenic Falls of Lana, but
this cascade was not named for someone's lost love. During the
patriotic fervor that accompanied the Mexican War of 1848, the
cascade was christened in tribute to General John E. Wool, a war
hero of that conflict. ("Lana" means wool in Spanish-much more
romantic than Sucker Brook!) The trail traces the 1878
carriage road that once brought fashionable guests to the religious
retreat known as Silver Lake House-a self-sufficient compound that
included a rambling, three-story building, boathouses, and 2,500
acres of fields, orchards, and woods.
Silver Lake House was the divinely-inspired dream of Frank
Chandler, who envisioned uplifting camp meetings at Silver Lake,
which he had inherited. Silver Lake House's glory days lasted into
the 1920's, when financial woes and ill health forced Chandler to
move into town. The unoccupied building burned to the ground
in 1938, possibly during a Middlebury College fraternity hazing
party. In 1949 Frank II deeded the hotel's lands to the Green
Mountain National Forest.
All that remains of the hotel are a few half-buried foundation
stones and the beach itself. Today, the site is free and open
to the public for camping, swimming, canoeing, and picnicking,
although it is closed to motorized vehicles below the parking area
on Silver Lake Road off the Goshen-Ripton Road.
One hundred years ago, Silver Lake was at the heart of an
ambitious hydroelectric project of the Hortonia Power
Company. This homegrown system was an impressive feat of
engineering at the time. The vertical elevation between a
reservoir and the generating station is known as the "head" - the
higher the head, the stronger the force of the water that drives
the turbines at the bottom. At the time of the system's
construction in 1916-1917, Silver Lake's 676-foot head was the
highest one east of the Mississippi, and it is still the highest in
Then, as now, a mile-long, 3-4' diameter tube called a penstock
carried water to the tiny brick power station on the shore of Lake
Dunmore. The Silver Lake Trail passes under the impressive,
elevated penstock, which hums faintly, like a distant beehive. The
tall water tower at Silver Lake absorbs temporary spikes or "burps"
in water pressure due to seasonal fluctuations in stream
flow. With another mountain stream, Dutton Brook, added more
recently to the water supply, the expanded Silver Lake system draws
from a watershed of 10 square miles.
Eventually needing to access more water, Hortonia began
construction on the Goshen Dam, which bankrupted the little utility
company in 1923. At that point Central Vermont Public Service
Corporation (CVPS) acquired the system. They finished, the
Goshen Dam created Sugar Hill Reservoir on Sucker Brook, resulting
in a 3-tier gravity-feed system. This system has remained in place
since then, with some modernization and upgrades. It qualifies for
the National Register of Historic Places.
With more folks getting into the backcountry for recreation, and
with the recent creation of the Moosalamoo National Recreation
Area, Silver Lake and Goshen Dam have become popular destinations
to access whether by bicycle, snowmobile, or foot power.
Today, Green Mountain Power (formerly CVPS) and the USDA Forest
Service partner to offer a network of trails, fishing, swimming,
picnicking, and camping within the setting of a clean, perpetual
energy resource. Generation Asset Manager Mike Scarzello
considers providing safe public recreation at these sites, the "fun
part" of his job.
Photos by Julia Purdy
Snowman surveys Sugar Hill Reservoir from the top of Goshen
The Silver Lake station is one of twenty hydro plants that
contribute about 6.5 percent of GMP's total power production
throughout Vermont. Mike Scarzello says that the Silver Lake
station can handle 60-70 cubic feet of water per second and
operates 12-16 hours per day, depending on seasonal stream
levels. An upgrade in 1988 enabled remote operation from GMP's
Rutland headquarters. Its generator produces 5.3 million k.w.h.
annually, or "enough to turn on at least 50,000 100-watt
light-bulbs," according to Beth Eliason, environmental engineer at
GMP. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
estimates that the same output by other means would cost an extra
$62,500 per year.
The Silver Lake station is licensed by FERC, which imposes
rigorous permitting requirements, including a Historic Properties
Management Plan. Biology, aesthetics, water chemistry and
quality all go into the mix. In addition, Silver Lake is certified
as a small, low-impact project by the Low-Impact Hydropower
Institute, a non-profit organization that oversees environmental
issues involving hydropower production.
Silver Lake itself is a 110-acres serene water at 1,300-foot
elevation. It's a known site of previous Native American
activity-many artifacts have been discovered here.
On this particular day, snowmobilers picnicking at the dam
built a snowman and watched as pools of water formed on the ice on
Sugar Hill Reservoir through the afternoon. A group of
cross-country skiers from nearby Blueberry Hill Inn dropped by to
admire the view. Earlier, a lone moose had wandered across the
access road, made a loop, and wandered back. Porcupine, raccoon,
bobcat and bear make their homes here, as well as grouse, owl,
hawk, and hosts of migratory birds.
To reach the Silver Lake Trail/Falls of Lana Trail: From
Rochester or Brandon, take VT-73, then VT-53 from the general store
in Forest Dale and drive 5.5 miles.