Boating History

An excursion into history

One of the Adirondack Coast's best shoreline excursions is heavily steeped in history.

Immediately south of the Lake Champlain Bridge is the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation boat launch at the Crown Point Reservation Campground. Adjacent to the launch is a dock with a couple of transient slips for brief tie ups. Check in with the campground management for a day-use ticket and enjoy an onshore adventure. Restrooms and picnic tables are available, as well as access to the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse. Note the nearby Auguste Rodin sculpture, and do climb to the top for a phenomenal panoramic view.

Visit the Lake Champlain Visitors Center for abundant area information and a commemorative exhibit of the former 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge. Cross at the pedestrian crosswalk to the Crown Point State Historic Site. Note that you are now at the eastern terminus of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a 4,500 mile trail that extends from this point to North Dakota.

The CPSHS museum will engage you with “The Eye of the Storm,” a dramatic audio-visual presentation that will further your appreciation of this significant piece of ground. Next, grab some guides at the museum and prowl the ruins of His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point and Fort St. Frederic. Rarely are two distinct National Historic Landmarks in such close proximity to one another.

After touring the historic sites, there are acres of scenic fields, woods, and shoreline to explore. If you are not quite ready to get back on board your vessel, enjoy the pedestrian walk on the 2011 Lake Champlain Bridge or the Bridge Interpretive Trail, and visit Chimney Point Historic Site on the Vermont side of the lake.

Shoreline communities

A little further north, several shoreline communities offer services and amenities easily accessible to boaters. The Village of Port Henry, within the Town of Moriah, has two marinas. Casual dining, supplies, and refreshments are easily within walking distance. So is Moriah’s Iron Center Museum. This museum interprets Moriah’s rich iron ore mining industry and has a fantastic mining diorama on display. At the museum, or in the adjacent town hall, pick up a Village of Port Henry walking guide for an interesting historical architecture tour. Port Henry’s Main Street, at the top of the hill, offers additional shopping and several dining choices.

Historically, Westport welcomed steamships of visitors arriving by water for an Adirondack vacation. Today, boaters continue to receive a warm welcome. The Westport Marina has abundant transient docking. This marina is a full-service marina that also offers boat rentals, includes a Ship’s Store and lakeside dining at its Galley Restaurant. Just up the hill is Ballard Park, where concerts are enjoyed Thursday evenings in the summer. Westport’s Main Street boasts great shops, more eateries, a bank, and a library. Walk just a little further to the Essex County Fairgrounds, or catch a matinee at the Depot Theatre, which operates out of the historic Amtrak rail station.  

Once an important shipbuilding port, the Town of Essex is another great stop for boaters. The entire hamlet is on the National Register of Historic Places as the largest intact collection of pre-Civil War architecture. Situated directly on the lake, this community has two marinas, a commercial ferry crossing to Vermont, choices of lakeside dining, unique shopping experiences, an intriguing art gallery, and the Essex Inn, a recently renovated, 200-year-old inn that now has fine dining and modern amenities. 

Keep an eye and ear on the weather as summer storms can brew up quickly on Lake Champlain. Attend to all boating safety regulations, but be certain to enjoy your on the water experience and the hospitality of its shoreline communities.