The Sleepers River Research Watershed (SRRW) in Vermont, USA, has been the site of active hydrologic research since 1959 and was the setting where Dunne and Black demonstrated the importance and controls of saturation-excess overland flow (SOF) on streamflow generation. Here, we review the early studies from the SRRW and show how they guided our conceptual approach to hydrologic research at the SRRW during the most recent 25 years. In so doing, we chronicle a shift in the field from early studies that relied exclusively on hydrometric measurements to today's studies that include chemical and isotopic approaches to further elucidate streamflow generation mechanisms. Highlights of this evolution in hydrologic understanding include the following: (i) confirmation of the importance of SOF to streamflow generation, and at larger scales than first imagined; (ii) stored catchment water dominates stream response, except under unusual conditions such as deep frozen ground; (iii) hydrometric, chemical and isotopic approaches to hydrograph separation yield consistent and complementary results; (iv) nitrate and sulfate isotopic compositions specific to atmospheric inputs constrain new water contributions to streamflow; and (v) convergent areas, or ‘hillslope hollows’, contribute disproportionately to event hydrographs. We conclude by summarizing some remaining challenges that lead us to a vision for the future of research at the SRRW to address fundamental questions in the catchment sciences.