While Vermont is the only New England state not bordered by ocean, this is more than made up by the fact that half of its western border is on Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain is one of the 20 largest lakes in the United States with an area of 490 square miles – approximately 125 miles long by 14 miles across. Its maximum depth is nearly 400 feet. There are 80 islands in the lake, the largest of which is Grand Isle.
Lake Champlain sits between New York and Vermont and is partially situated in Canada in the north.
Lake Champlain History
Lake Champlain is named after the French explorer Samuel de Champlain who first saw the lake while on an expedition in 1609.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the lake was important as a commercial waterway and also had significant military importance. In fact the Battle of Lake Champlain (also known as the Battle of Plattsburgh) was the last British invasion of the northern United States during the War of 1812. The British were defeated denying them any territorial claims when the Treaty of Ghent was signed ending the war in 1814.
Lake Champlain has been connected to the Erie Canal via the Champlain Canal since the Erie Canal’s opening in September of 1823, the same day as the opening of the Erie Canal from Rochester on Lake Ontario to Albany. It also connects to the St. Lawrence River via the Richelieu River and the Chambly Canal.
Today, Lake Champlain is a major destination for recreational boating, fishing, site seeing, swimming and more.
Lake Champlain Major Cities
The largest Vermont municipalities on the lake are the City of Burlington and the Town of Colchester, which is also Vermont’s second largest town. Burlington is the largest municipality on the lake followed by Plattsburgh, New York.
Things to See and Do on Lake Champlain
There are numerous things to see and do around Lake Champlain. Some of the more notable things to see and do include:
- Go to the Beach – There are numerous State Parks along the shore and on the islands of Lake Champlain that have beaches. Check out Alburg Dunes State Park home to one of the longest beaches on the lake and Sand Bar State Park one of the most visited day-parks in the State of Vermont.
- Canoe the Northern Forest Canoe Trail – A good portion of section 4 of the 740 mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail is on Lake Champlain.
- Keep an Eye Out for “Champ” – Many believe that Lake Champlain has a lake monster similar to the Loch Ness monster. Over 200 people have reported sitings. So keep a sharp watch on these lake waters. You may get a rare glimpse of a lake monster.
- Jump off a Cliff – Not for the faint of heart, but there are many places along the shoreline of Lake Champlain where one can quite literally jump off of a cliff into the lake at places like North Beach and Red Rocks.
- See the World’s Oldest Coral Reef – Yes there is a 480 million year old fossil coral reef in Lake Champlain. There are two preserves on the Isle La Motte where you can view this ancient coral – the Goodsell Ridge Preserve and the Fisk Quarry Preserve.
- Go Fishing – In the winter you can ice fish. In the spring summer and fall its more traditional fishing from the shore or in a boat. Fish to be caught in Lake Champlain include bass (large mouth and small mouth), muskellunge, northern pike, salmon, splake, tiger muskellunge, pickerel, trout (brown, lake, and rainbow), and walleye.
- Take in the Foliage – Take the fall foliage for which Vermont is so famous, and combine it with the beauty of Lake Champlain, and you have a breathtaking fall display.
- Visit a Lighthouse – Not to be outdone by coastal New England states, there are seven lighthouses on the lake in Vermont including the oldest, Juniper Island Light, which also happens to be the oldest surviving cast iron lighthouse in the United States. There are an additional six on the New York side of the lake.
- Visit a Shipwreck – There are more than 300 shipwrecks in Lake Champlain from the American Revolution, the War of 1812, to modern powerboats. Experienced divers can visit nine of these sites or take the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Shipwreck Tours where a remotely operated vehicle is deployed to show you the wrecks.
Photo credits: The picture of a Lake Champlain sunset is from Wikipedia. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic. The picture of the Lake Champlain sunset with the lighthouse is from Wikipedia. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.