The only New England state without a seacoast, Vermont traditionally has been the region’s most important agricultural state. Since World War II, however, Vermont’s economy has become increasingly diversified, with recreation and manufacturing assuming greater importance.
The first European settlement in present-day Vermont was in 1666, when Pierre de St. Paul, sieur de la Motte, constructed a blockhouse on Isle la Motte in Lake Champlain. The settlement was temporary, however, and the first permanent settlement was by the English in 1724 at Fort Dummer (present-day Brattleboro). Vermont was admitted to the Union as the 14th state on Mar. 4, 1791, after having existed as an independent republic for 14 years.
Land & Resources
Vermont’s highest point, Mount Mansfield (1,339 m/4,393 ft), lies about 30 km (19 mi) almost due east of Burlington. The lowest elevation is along Lake Champlain, which lies at 29 m (95 ft) above sea level and drains northward into the St. Lawrence River. Vermont has 80 peaks exceeding 900 m (3,000 ft).
Occupying much of northwestern Vermont, the Champlain Valley lies quite flat close to the lake and was in fact at various times an old lake or seabed during the periods of higher water levels brought about by Pleistocene glaciation. Heavy clay soils mantle much of the area, often making drainage a problem. Toward the mountains to the east, relief gradually increases, and dairy farming gives way to other land uses.
The narrow Valley of Vermont, located south of the Champlain Valley, is traversed by U.S. Route 7 extending from Bennington in the south to Brandon in the north. The valley was a major settlement route into Vermont, and marble is quarried in the north.
The Taconic Mountains extend along the border with New York west of the Valley of Vermont. The highest summit is Mount Equinox near Manchester (1,163 m/3,816 ft). Slate is quarried along the western side. To the east of the valleys and extending the entire length of the state, forming its backbone, are the GREEN MOUNTAINS. The mountains occasionally separate into two parallel ranges, and the western summits are higher.
The largest and also most diverse physical region in Vermont, the Vermont Piedmont, occupies most of the eastern portion of the state and includes the valleys of the White, West, and Black rivers, all of which drain into the Connecticut. With elevations less than 600 m (2,000 ft), the piedmont was an important area of early hill farming. Most farms have long been abandoned, and much of the land has reverted to forestry and recreational uses, although dairy farms still exist.
The Northeastern Highlands region, often referred to as the Northeast Kingdom, is a small, wild, and isolated mountainous area north of St. Johnsbury. It is geologically closely related to New Hampshire’s nearby White Mountains. The highest summit is Gore Mountain (approximately 1,000 m/3,330 ft), and nearly all of the region lies above 600 m (2,000 ft).