For most of its long history, Brandon, Middlebury and Vergennes have relied on the Otter Creek as a highway to Lake Champlan. The creek is one of the major streams located in Vermont. Roughly 112 miles (180 km) in length, it is the primary stream running through Rutland County and Addison County.
Otter Creek rises in the Green Mountain National Forest on the western slopes of Mt. Tabor in Peru township in Bennington County, and flows southwesterly towards East Dorset, thence veering northward into Emerald Lake in Dorset township. Thence it runs northward passing through the townships of Danby, Wallingford, Clarendon, Rutland, Pittsford, Brandon, in Rutland County. On entering Addison County, it generally forms the town line between various townships. It next passes through Middlebury, Weybridge and Vergennes and eventually empties into Lake Champlain at Ferrisburgh.
Otter Creek was known to the French as "La Rivi re aux Loutres", whence the English name. On April 1, 1690 Capt. Abraham Schuyler was commissioned by the city of Albany to take a party up the Otter Creek about seven miles and there to keep watch and engage any indians. In 1731, the French began construction of a fort at Crown Point to be known as Fort Frederic. Before construction began, they founded a new settlement called Addison.
Vergennes, situated on the first falls, 7 miles (11 km) upstream from the outlet of Otter Creek, was chartered in 1778 only four years after New Haven and Hartford, and thus was the third incorporated city in New England.
The stretch of water between the mouth at Fort Cassin point, Lake Champlain (the site of the former Fort Cassin) and Vergennes is passable by boat, and is frequented by motor boats, canoes, and kayaks. Indeed, Vergennes was a shipyard of some importance in the various wars of the 18th century. Many nesting platforms have been built along the creek, so one is likely to see both Osprey and Bald Eagles in the area.
The second set of falls, the Otter Creek Falls, is in the town of Middlebury, the site chosen in 1800 to be Vermont's original seat of higher education, Middlebury College. According to Around Middlebury, Otter Creek is the longest river in Vermont and was once an important "highway" through the western part of what is now the state.
In Addison County, Otter Creek passes through significant wetlands, in particular Cornwall Marsh, Little Otter Creek Marsh and the Brandon Swamp.
Because it is called a creek, the unusual situation of a river emptying into a creek occurs several times along its length. The source and mouth are separated by 68 miles (109 km) miles distance-the (approximate) additional 44 miles (71 km) are due to meandering.