The Colchester Bog began forming 9000 years ago after the melting of the Wisconsin Ice sheet. It formed from a former channel of the Winooski River when it was cut off from the freshwater of Lake Champlain. Early colonial settlers discovered flints and other Native American tools on Colchester Point, confirming that the Abenaki Indians were the first inhabitants of the area. The Abenaki used the unique bog ecosystems for various needs. The sphagnum moss was used for insulations and diapers. Labrador tea, sheep laurel and tamarack, which can all be found in the bog, were used for ailments such as the common cold.
The French had a small military fort on Colchester Point in the 1700’s and the Porter family settled on the land in 1804 and stayed there for generations to come. The Porters used the land surrounding the bog mostly for farming. It is supposed that the easy to reach harvestable timber was removed in the 18th and 19th centuries. For a brief period, the Porter family ran a ferry from Colchester to South Hero that was powered by horses in the hull of the ship.
In 1899, the Porters sold a strip of land in the bog to the Rutland Railroad which began running in 1901 and ended operations 1961. The old railroad bed now serves as the bike path which cuts across the bog and continues to the causeway.
In 1945, the land to the south east of the bog was bought to develop the Champlain Airport. In the 1980’s the owner of the airport fell ill and was poised to sell the land for housing development. Thanks to Vermont’s ACT 250, the sale was denied due to concerns regarding the well-being of the bog.
In 1973, the Nature Conservancy bought the Colchester Bog form the Porter and O’Brien families, and the next year turned it over to the University of Vermont’s Natural Areas for research and preservation. The Colchester Bog serves as a research area for UVM students and as a natural learning environment for surrounding residents. The Colchester Bog serves as a shining example of land conservation, remaining relatively unchanged for 9000 years and hopefully at least as many to come through the stewardship of the community.