How Lake Champlain Got Its Name

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer, navigator and the first European to discover the beauty and awe of Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley. Born in Brouage, France, Samuel de Champlain acquired his skills as a mariner from his father, who was a ship captain. After establishing himself as a skilled navigator, Champlain spent most of his life traveling between France and North America exploring the St. Lawrence region.

Samuel de Champlain’s main contributions to North America included:

  • Mapping much of what is now northeastern Canada and the Great Lakes
  • Founding the city of Quebec in 1608. He also died there on Christmas in 1635
  • European discoverer of Lake Champlain and the Champlain Valley in 1609
  • Relocating able French men and women to the St. Lawrence region to establish French settlements in the New World 

The story of Lake Champlain’s discovery

After demonstrating his skills as a navigator on voyages to the West Indies and Central America, Champlain was first sent as an observer to North America in 1603. There he made contact with the Native Americans and reconnoitered for the fur trade. The following year he was asked to be a geographer for another French expedition, and spent the following three years mapping what is now northeastern Canada. He also founded the city of Quebec in 1608. 

It was during that time Champlain learned from the Native Americans of a large lake to the south surrounded by lofty mountains and dotted with beautiful islands. In the summer of 1609, with the help of the local Native Americans, Champlain set out to explore what is now known as Lake Champlain.

Beautiful and tranquil: Lake Champlain’s war-laced past

Long before Samuel de Champlain’s discovery of the lake and long after, Lake Champlain has a history rich in war. Wars were waged by many to control trade through the St. Lawrence region, and in the fight for territory and freedom. Some of the United States' oldest history is here for you to discover today. Come see why this region was battled over for centuries. Visit the historic sites and enjoy the water, mountains, recreation and relaxation that is purely Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Park.

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