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How has the geology of Vermont affected its character? (Encore)

a photo of a mountain covered in white snow surrounded by green trees and blue sky
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
A southern view from Mount Mansfield's Sunset Ridge Trail in Underhill Center, Vermont.

On Brave Little State, a question about how Vermont’s geology shaped our character — and made us different from our neighbors.

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Matt “Beagle” Bourgault describes a phenomenon that may sound familiar: “Driving from Vermont to New Hampshire — you cross the state line, it looks different. It just seems like, ‘Oh, now we’re in New Hampshire.’ … It’s funny.”

So, is that “difference” subjective, or is there something to it? Beagle wondered if it has something to do with the landscape, and the soil. So he put this question to Brave Little State, Vermont Public’s listener-powered journalism show:

“What does the geology have to do with the character of Vermont? How do the underlying rocks, soils, [and] topography affect how Vermont is different from other New England states and from New York?”

To answer Beagle’s question, we focus on one neighbor in particular (perhaps it’s because we have a friendly rivalry). And we trace our differences all the way back to the Paleozoic era.

We originally released this episode in 2017. (Find the original episode, and explore the full web feature, here.) A lot has changed since then, but our geologic history has not.

Steve Trombulak, one of the professors featured in this episode, has since retired from Middlebury College. When we checked back in with Beagle, he told us that there haven’t been any massive geological shifts in his life since 2017. But he does have other environmental change on the brain:

“I can’t say the episode spurred me to dig deeper into geology, but I can’t but think of it when in Vermont’s mountains. When I am up there I often think of the contrast between geologic time and how quickly climate change is altering our world. I participate in Mountain Birdwatch each year, a citizen science project that looks high elevation birds in the northeast. One of the questions they are looking to answer is how climate change is affecting migrating songbirds. Sitting on the bare rocks on top of Mount Mansfield, which is one of the routes I survey, it is hard not to think of how long those rocks have been there and how quickly some of the birds may be gone. My hope is that they will adapt, but hope can be hard to come by these days.”

Beagle Bourgault, of Hinesburg, asked how Vermont's underlying rocks have shaped what kind of place it is, and made it different from its neighbors.


A colorful map of Vermont
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Agency of Natural Resources
This bedrock geologic map shows the folded bedrock that creates Vermont's long north-south valleys, as well as some “blobs” of bedrock in the Northeast Kingdom.

(View the full-sized, zoom-able map & legend at the Department of Environmental Conservation.)

A colorful map of New Hampshire
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services


A picture of a person in a blue shirt standing in yellow flowers in front of a red building
Angela Evancie
Vermont Public file
According to Chuck Wooster of Sunrise Farm in White River Junction, pictured here in 2017, the differing soil characteristics in Vermont and New Hampshire influenced everything from the states' approaches to state government to their philosophies on an income tax.
A picture of a person holding a handful of brown dirt.
Angela Evancie
Vermont Public file
Chuck Wooster holds a handful of soil at Sunrise Farm in White River Junction. Chuck says that even though many of the environmental differences between Vermont and New Hampshire have become blurred in the age of fossil fuels, many cultural perceptions endure.



Lynne McCrea edited this episode. Angela Evancie reported and produced it, along with Henry Epp, and did the mix and sound design. The re-release was supported by the Brave Little State team: Josh Crane, Myra Flynn and Mae Nagusky. This episode featured original scoring by Liam Elder-Connors, with other music by Podington Bear and the Sturbridge Colonial Militia. Our theme music was composed by Ty Gibbons.

Special thanks to Andy Friedland, Mary Searles, Paul Rumley, John Dillon and Oliver Riskin-Kutz.

As always, our journalism is better when you’re a part of it:

Brave Little State is a production of Vermont Public.

Angela Evancie serves as Vermont Public's Senior VP of Content, and was the Director of Engagement Journalism and the Executive Producer of Brave Little State, the station's people-powered journalism project.
Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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