Pond Woods WMA--North Unit

Tips for Birding

If you carefully keep your bird records by county, be sure to use the specific hotspots in this wildlife management area so that the birds will be assigned to the proper county. The North Unit is in Addison County and the South Unit is in Rutland County.

About Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area

See all hotspots at Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area

Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a 2,273-acre parcel owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. The majority of the WMA lies in the town of Benson with five acres in Orwell. The parcel can be accessed from several points, including the east side of VT-22A, Perch Pond Road, Bishop Hill Road, and the west side of Sunset Lake Road. There is a pleasant picnic area on the east side of VT-22A just south of Perch Pond Road.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department owns only the timber rights on approximately 400 acres of this WMA. Please be respectful of the private in-holdings located between Cranberry and Walker Swamps.

There used to be a logging operation and wool-carving factory run by S. Payne in the Sunset Lake area. Because of this, the area was called Payneville. Doughty Pond was named after a resident of the town.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department acquired most of the property from the A Johnson Lumber Company in 1962. State funds generated from the sale of hunting licenses were used for the purchase.

Pond Woods WMA has an excellent diversity of upland and wetland natural communities. Located near the northeast corner of the WMA, Mud Pond is a long, narrow 12-acre pond bordered by steep slopes on the east and west. A poor fen, an open, acidic peatland dominated by sphagnum mosses, sedges, and heath shrubs, occupies less than one acre at the north end of the basin. Poor fens, which are rare in Vermont, are closely related to bogs but have some mineral enrichment. Adjacent to Mud Pond is a stunted woodland of pitch and white pine and white and red oak. Twenty-five-acre Spruce Pond is bordered by less steep slopes forested with red oak and eastern hemlock. Peatlands are to the north and south of the open water. The northern peatland is a combination of fen and lakeside bog. Connected by the southern peatland, Doughty Pond is smaller in size than Spruce Pond and has a bog at its southern end.

Bishop Hill, with an elevation of 823 feet, is just west of Spruce and Doughty Ponds. Oak Hill, located west of the southern portion of Doughty Pond, is 887 feet. Both hills and nearly all of the WMA are forested with a mix of red and sugar maple, yellow birch, beech, red oak, hickory, and hemlock. The southern portion of the WMA is lower in elevation and contains Cranberry Swamp, a poor fen, to the east and Walker Swamp to the west. The swamps have varying degrees of open water and have much aquatic vegetation. Cranberry Swamp Hill is a dry oak-hickory forest. A deer wintering area is located near Cranberry Swamp.

The assorted habitat types are a draw for several kinds of birds from waders and waterfowl to passerines and raptors. Walker Swamp is the site of a great blue heron rookery. These birds are quite sensitive to human disturbance near the colony site and are known to abandon sites, particularly when disturbed during certain critical periods. Great blue herons are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Please do not disturb them. Bitterns, rails, red-winged blackbirds, eastern kingbirds, tree swallows, and marsh wrens can be seen at the ponds and swamps. Wood, black, and mallard ducks may also use the area.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

Content from Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area guide and map

Last updated October 7, 2023