Favorite Destinations: Big Falls

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Although Big Falls is a Vermont State Park, it's unmarked and off the beaten path, so few people know about it apart from North Troy locals and anglers who ply the waters below the Falls.

I discovered the Falls accidentally as I pursued my obsession with gravel roads. Even then, following River Road I nearly overlooked them entirely. Since my chance discovery of them, the Falls have joined places like Lake Willoughby and Burke Mountain as my favorite Vermont destinations.

Just outside of North Troy VT, Big Falls is about half-way around Lake Memphremagog from Magog Quebec. Being half-way, the Falls are an ideal stop-over when circumnavigating the Lake beginning from the Magog end. (For details of the scenic route I take, see November 6 on my Fall 2013 Riding Calendar).

A hop skip and a jump from North Troy and Big Falls you'll also find Paddie's Snack Bar. You haven't lived until you've dined at Paddie's. Burgers, steaks, clams, Portuguese kale soup (no kidding), sweet potato french fries, ice cream and sundaes, and homemade pies are just some of Paddie's offerings, and the ladies serve it all up in a unique drive-in atmosphere. Dine on picnic tables out in the field with a view of Jay Peak, or shelter beneath the small, awning-covered deck and share small talk with locals.

The last time I ever saw my buddy Dave was when he and I and our friend Paul drove around the Lake, stopping at Paddie's and then the Falls. We planned another outing down to Burke Mountain for the following week, but it wasn't to be.

If you follow River Road past the Falls going south, you come out in Troy. How you get back to Newport from there without shaking out your back teeth on the cracked and heaved surface of VT 100 is your problem. Best bet is to return to 105 and follow its smooth curves, hills, and dips east towards Newport. Or better yet, take Bear Mountain Road and follow it to Farrar Road to Leadville Road to Lake Road. If you take 105, be sure to take Vance Hill Road (flashing light in Newport Center) over to Lake Road and Newport.

Oh, if you decide to visit Big Falls, watch your step! There are no fences, railings, or warning signs and it's a long way down.

The Missisquoi River

The headwaters of the Missisquoi River are about half-way between Lowell and Troy VT. Only three or four miles downstream as the crow flies it already has enough energy to operate a hydroelectric installation just outside of Troy.

Four miles further downstream (again, as that crow flies) the River flows through the impressive rock formations and stunning gorge at Big Falls.

Below the Falls the River continues northward past North Troy and crosses into Quebec just east of Highwater.

After Highwater the River veers northwest, then west, and finally southwest, following a course that looks somewhat like an upside-down bowl. Thus, it returns to Vermont, east of Richford VT.

After crossing the border there, the River continues southwest all the way to Enosburg Falls. About six road miles west of Enosburg the River parts company with VT 105.

Route 105 heads southwest to St. Albans and the Missisquoi flows northwest (west and then north), past Swanton VT and then empties into the Missisquoi Bay of Lake Champlain.

Roger's Rangers crossed Missisquio Bay by canoe to enter Canada and embark upon their St. Francis raid in 1759.

On its way to Swanton, the River has made a large, mushroom- shaped oxbow. Route 78 parallels the somewhat flat mushroom top. Could be another destination.