Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s
Vermont Lake District Paddling & Fishing Itinerary:
Island Pond & the Clyde River
(Two Days & Two Nights)
In the remote northeast corner of Vermont’s sparsely-populated Northeast Kingdom lies the village,
and the lake, of Island Pond, the heart of Vermont’s Lake District, known for some of the most
beautiful lakes in all of New England. Head watered in Island Pond is the Clyde River, flowing 40
miles to Lake Memphremagog on the border with Québec. The area is rich in wildlife – moose, black
bear, beaver – and known for its abundant and diverse fisheries hosting trout, salmon, bass, and many
other species. The waterways vary from rocky headwater streams to deep coldwater lakes, providing
novice and experienced paddlers alike with conditions ranging from calm, flat water floats to
meandering river courses with occasional, easily-portaged rapids. Quite simply, Island Pond and
environs is paradise for fisherman and paddlers in search of a mosaic of off-the-beaten-path reflective
lakes and running streams.
While water and wildlife are most certainly the themes of Island Pond, the human history of this lonely
and little trafficked landscape should not be overlooked. In the late 19th and into the 20th century,
passenger trains and freight trains carrying logs and wood pulp hummed through the village. Called The
Grand Trunk Railway, the line served as an international route connecting Montreal, Canada and
Portland, Maine, with its half-way point in Island Pond. Trains run no longer, but the landmark’s
imprint on the community lives on. The town’s huge railroad depot is impossible to miss.
The following two day and two night itinerary captures Island Pond’s mystique. To adapt the itinerary
or create a custom trip, simply visit the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s online Trip Planner.
Before You Go:
Purchase online the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s Section 6 Map: Lake Memphremagog to
Connecticut River, which provides a visual guide for your paddling experience, as well as great
background information on the area’s human and natural history. You’ll also discover key
paddling and fishing information by purchasing online the Clyde River Paddling and Fishing Guide
by Luke O’Brien of the NorthWoods Stewardship Center.
Make lodging reservations for either The Lakefront Inn and Motel or Clyde River Hotel; or camping
reservations at Lakeside Camping.
Make reservations for your paddling tour, rental, or shuttle needs with either Clyde River
Recreation, NorthWoods Stewardship Center or Siskin Ecological Adventures. (Read on for information
about their services.)
If you’re fishing, make arrangements to obtain your required Vermont Fishing License, and
familiarize yourself with current rules and regulations.
Make necessary gear and safety arrangements in conjunction with your paddling itinerary.
Arrive in Island Pond in the afternoon. Begin by strolling Cross Street with its collection of shops and
views of Island Pond. If you need to purchase fishing, paddling, or camping gear for your activities,
consider shopping at Clyde River Outfitters.
Have dinner at Pickles Pub (inside the Clyde River
Hotel), featuring steaks, seafood, and burgers, or at
Friendly’s Pizza, serving pizza, steaks, pasta,
grinders, and salads. Both are on Cross Street.
You have two lodging options in the town of
Island Pond. The Clyde River Hotel, on Cross Street,
literally straddles the Northern Forest Canoe Trail,
as it is built over the Clyde River, which flows out of
Island Pond. The Clyde River Hotel, formerly
known as the "Essex Hotel", was built in 1866 and
purportedly looks much the same as it did back
Credit: Rob Center
then. Amenities such as high speed wireless
internet are available.
Your second lodging option in Island Pond is the family-oriented Lakefront Inn and Motel which offers
an array of accommodations including standard rooms, efficiencies, and luxury suites with fireplaces.
Storage of large recreational items such as bicycles is available, as is boat parking on their floating dock.
If camping is more conducive to your taste or your budget, stay at Lakeside Camping on the eastern
shore of Island Pond. There you’ll find wireless internet, playgrounds, fireplaces, picnic tables, a game
room, a convenience store, hot showers, and laundry facilities.
Day One: Paddling & Fishing the Clyde
For breakfast, head to The Lakefront Express Mart-Deli/Bakery where you can start your day with a
freshly brewed cup of gourmet coffee and breakfast sandwiches, bagels, muffins or pastries.
Next you’ll head out for a day (about 8 hours) of paddling the Clyde River. With the exception of one
short portage early in the paddle, you will enjoy a relatively calm, lazy float down this pastoral river. If
you need to rent boat; or if you have your own boat and need a shuttle, consider hiring Clyde River
Recreation. If you prefer paddling and/or fishing with a guide who can explain the natural history of the
River, make arrangements with Siskin Ecological Adventures or NorthWoods Stewardship Center.
Before leaving town, make sure to take a moment to grab picnic food from either The Lakefront Express
Mart-Deli/Bakery or Ted’s Market & Deli, both offering premium deli sandwiches prepared on freshly
baked sub rolls and breads.
On the Clyde River
You’ll begin your paddle on the Clyde River, where it exits Island Pond, and just behind the Clyde
River Hotel. Do not attempt to paddle under the Hotel as high water and unforeseen obstacles may
Just after leaving the town of Island Pond, the Clyde River meets the Pherrins River, managed as a
native brook trout fishery. If you’re fishing, you may want to fish the Pherrins before it joins the Clyde.
(To put on the Pherrins, navigable with Class II rapids for approximately two miles before meeting the
Clyde, put in on the north end of Island Pond near the iron railroad bridge where it crosses under
Route 114. Be prepared to carefully scout two additional low-clearance crossings under Route 14
before leaving town. Consult the Clyde River Paddling and Fishing Guide for a map and more detailed
About a mile after exiting Island Pond on the Clyde River, you’ll encounter a short section of Class I-II
rapids. Remains of a logging-era dam create a standing wave at the end of these rapids. The following
pool’s outlet is choked by debris; use the channel on the right. Where the river bumps into a wall of
downed trees, portage right (150 feet).
At about 3.5 miles from Island Pond, the river widens
to the “tubes” under the Five Mile Square Road.
Follow the narrow right channel through this black ash
flood plain forest, negotiating occasional beaver dams
and blow downs to Buck’s Flat. This wide wetland,
dominated by bog sedge, is an intermediate fen, which
is a rare natural community in Vermont, and
uncommon worldwide. A diversity of plants can be
viewed here: black ash, red and silver maple, white
cedar, highbush-cranberry, speckled alder, and
Credit: Clyde Smith
nannyberry, as well as sweetgale, water lily, water pipes,
and avens. Animals are no less interesting: red-winged blackbirds, great blue herons, bald eagles,
osprey, mink, beaver, river otter, and muskrat. Stay in the main channel of the river to avoid disturbing
wildlife. If you’re fishing, you’ll enjoy encounters with perch, pickerel, and bass.
At 9 miles from Island Pond, you’ll encounter the Route 105 Bridge and boat access at Ten Mile Square
Road. The river narrows again and passes through riverine forests dominated by silver maple.
Next you’ll drift past the 1,380 foot-tall Deer Hill and
then reach grazed pastures near Twin Bridges Road
and the village of East Charleston, about 11 river
miles from Island Pond. For a break, take out here
and buy snacks at the historic Charleston General
Store. Back on the River, water originating from
Echo and Seymour Lakes enters the Clyde through a
backwater on the right, providing a good location for
brown and brook trout fishing.
As you continue, you’ll note a landscape of mainly Credit: Robert Riversong
forest to the north and farmland to the south. A little
farther downstream, Center School Road crosses
overhead. Next you enjoy a particularly remote and sinuous section of the Clyde, featuring deep
floodplain forests and backwater pools and channels, including Toad Pond, all rich with wildlife. Drift
quietly and you will be rewarded. It is in this section where the debated Lake Clyde purportedly existed.
See the Clyde River Paddling and Fishing Guide for more information on this geologic mystery.
You’ll complete your paddle on Pensioner Pond, eighteen miles and a day’s paddle from Island Pond.
At 170 acres, this pond is a great spot for yellow perch, pickerel, bass, and trout fishing. If you’re being
shuttled by or returning boats to Clyde River Recreation, they will have provided instructions for how to
find their base along the waterway. Do not attempt to run the Great Falls Dam at the outlet of
Day One Evening
For the evening, return to Island Pond for a second night at The Lakefront Inn and Motel, the Clyde River
Hotel, or Lakeside Camping. Have dinner at Pickles Pub or Friendly’s Pizza.
Day Two: Paddling & Fishing Island Pond
For breakfast, head to The Lakefront Express Mart-Deli/Bakery again. Before leaving town, make sure to
take a moment to grab picnic food from either The Lakefront Express Mart-Deli/Bakery or Ted’s Market &
For your second day of paddling, you’ll spend a half to full day (4-8 hours) exploring Island Pond and
the connected Spectacle Pond. You’ll once again want to select the boat rental or guiding service that
meets your needs. See paddling service options listed under Day One; or consider the convenience of
renting directly from Brighton State Park on the southern shore of Island Pond.
On Island Pond
Two public boat launches are available on Island Pond: the municipal waterfront park at the north end,
in town; or at the state-owned fish and wildlife access located at the south end. If you are camping at
Lakeside Camping, you can launch from the premises. The waterfront park put-in boasts fine views of
the steep-sided Bluff Mountain.
At 600-acres in size and approximately two miles from north to south, Island Pond provides an
enjoyable calm-water paddle. The lake gets its name from the 20-acre privately-owned island in its
center, which is home to a rare native red pine forest. Please respect no trespassing signs. Anglers on
Island Pond will discover brown and brook trout, walleye, small and largemouth bass, pumpkinseed,
rockbass, perch, brown bullhead, chain pickerel, rainbow smelt, burbot, and fallfish.
Brighton State Park lies along the southeastern side of Island Pond, as well as the southern half of
Spectacle Pond. Plan to picnic at the sandy day use beach and bathhouse located on the southern
shore. To explore the quiet backwaters of Spectacle Pond, enter it’s inlet along the eastern shore of
Island Pond. Several of the fish species found in Island Pond also thrive in Spectacle Pond.
Completing Your Getaway
Before you leave Island Pond, make a last stop at The Lakefront Express Mart-Deli/Bakery or Ted’s Market
& Deli to pick up snacks for your drive.
Last but not least, a visit to Island Pond wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the railroad depot at
the junction between routes 105 and 111. There you’ll find a plague highlighting the Grand Trunk
International Railroad (referenced in this itinerary’s introduction).
Summary of Services & Activities
Pickles Pub (inside the Clyde River Hotel)– steaks, seafood, pasta, burgers, salads (dinner)
Friendly’s Pizza– pizza, grinders, steaks, pasta, salads (dinner)
The Lakefront Express Mart-Deli/Bakery – coffee, breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, deli
sandwiches (breakfast & picnic food)
Ted’s Market & Deli– coffee, deli sandwiches (breakfast & picnic food)
The The Lakefront Inn and Motel– offering a range of moderate to luxury accommodations
The Clyde River Hotel– a historic hotel that straddles the Clyde River!
Lakeside Camping– campground offering amenities on the shores of Island Pond
Clyde River Outfitters – paddling, fishing, and camping gear
Paddle the Clyde River on your own, or using the services of either Clyde River Recreation,
Siskin Ecological Adventures, or Northwoods Stewardship Center (full day)
Paddle Island Pond and Spectacle Pond on your own, or using the services of either Clyde
River Recreation, Siskin Ecological Adventures, or Northwoods Stewardship Center (half to full day)
Optional: Fish while paddling, either on your own, or with guides from Siskin Ecological
Adventures or Northwoods Stewardship Center.
Driving Times to Island Pond, Vermont from Major Cities
Boston 3.5 hours
Burlington, Vermont 2 hours
Montréal, Quebec 2.5 hours
Manchester, New Hampshire 3 hours
New York City 6 hours
Portland, Maine 3.5 hours
Maps and Guides:
AMC River Guide: New Hampshire/Vermont, Appalachian Mt. Club, 2002.
Island Pond Regional Recreation Map, Brighton Community Forum Recreation Committee, 2002.
Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme, 2003.
USGS Topographical Maps: Mount Mansfield (VT), Groveton (NH-VT-ME), www.usgs.gov
Canadian National Topographic System Map: Lac Memphremagog, www.worldofmaps.com
Fact and Fiction:
The Original Vermonters: Native Inhabitants, Past and Present, William A. Haviland and Marjory
W. Power, University Press of New England, 1994.
Around Lake Memphremagog, Bea Aldrich Nelsonand Barbara Kaiser Malloy, Arcadia Publishing,
Holy Old Mackinaw, Stuart Holbrook, Comstock Editions, Inc., 1987.
North Woods: An Inside Look at the Nature of Forests in the Northeast, Peter J. Marchand,
Mountain Club Books, 1994.
South of the Northeast Kingdom, David Mamet, National Geographic Society, 2002.
Disappearances, Howard Frank Mosher, David R. Godine Publisher, 1984.
About the Northern Forest Canoe Trail: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail links the watersheds of northern New York,
Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire and Maine, and is a unique thread tying together the Northern Forest Region. The 740-mile
water trail traces historic Native American travel routes through the rivers of this region, and is a living reminder our history, where
rivers are both highways and routes of communication. Flowing with the stories of Native Americans, European settlers, and the
development of mill towns and the timber industry, the Trail's rich heritage serves as a basis for widely accessible, environmentally
friendly tourism in many of the small communities along the route.
If you enjoyed this adventure, consider exploring other portions of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
Map 1 – Fulton Chain of Lakes to Long Lake
Map 2 – Long Lake to Saranac River
Map 3 – Saranac River to Lake Champlain
Map 4 – Lake Champlain to Missisquoi River
Map 5- Missisquoi River to Lake Memphremagog
Map 6 – Lake Memphremagog to Connecticut River
Map 7 – Connecticut River to Umbagog Lake
Map 8 – Umbagog Lake to Rangeley Lake
Map 9 – Rangeley Lake to Spencer Stream
Map 10 – Spencer Stream to Moosehead Lake
Map 11 – Moosehead Lake to Umbazooksus Stream
Map 12 – Umbazooksus Stream to Umsaskis Lake
Map 13 – Umsaskis Lake to St. John River
This publication is the result of tax-supported funding from USDA, Rural Development, and as such is
not copyrightable. It may be reprinted with the customary crediting of the source.