Ready - Set - Launch
Launch your boat at one of the many boat launches or marinas along the Adirondack Coast and a 450 square mile playground is available to you. Stretching approximately 125 miles from northern to southern end this vast lake borders two states and rests in two countries. It may surprise you to learn that once on the Lake Champlain water, you could easily voyage to Montreal by traveling north, or Manhattan by traveling south. Connected with canals to the St. Lawrence River in Canada or the Hudson River in southern New York, this inland interconnected waterway is actually a passageway to the Atlantic and is only about 200’ above sea level. Peppered with 80 islands, countless coves and numerous beaches imagine what adventures await you.
Nowhere will you find scenic beauty that surpasses your view from anywhere on this body of water. Sunrises over Vermont’s Green Mountains will brighten your morning; while sunsets over the Adirondacks provide a dramatic closure to your day. You can easily appreciate why this body of water has been coveted for centuries, by both man and animals. As you take in the natural beauty of this incredible lake and surrounding valley reflect over what it has witnessed through the past several centuries. Known as the original “Blue Highway”, its waters were transportation to Native Americans, military soldiers, commercial vessels and even migratory animals. Today it predominantly offers you an incredible recreational resource and you know, enjoying any water resource of this magnitude can best be done by boat.
Bring your own or rent one from one of many marinas along the water. Numerous NYS boat launches are available within the Lake Champlain Region and marinas are readily equipped to assist. No visit should be without an “on the water experience”. As you skim across the water, be aware that over 300 shipwrecks lie at the lake bottom. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum can guide certified divers for a visit to some of these underwater historic preserves, or take you on an exploration tour without even getting wet using a remote robotic camera.
If fishing is on your list of fun things to do, know that over 80 species of fish make this body of water home. The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, B.A.S.S., lists Lake Champlain as Number 5 of the top bass fishing lakes in the United States. Dozens of tournaments are held here annually. Salmon, lake trout, pike, and perch are a few of the other popular species. Local fishing guides can get you on the water, equip you with the appropriate gear, bait, and coaching so that you return in time for dinner with both the fish tales and the fillets.
There is nothing as refreshing as just cruising on top of the water on a hot summer day, riding the waves, sprinkled by an occasional spray while taking in the spectacular scenery and watching the gulls soar overhead. Tubing, boarding or testing your skill at water skiing can get you a closer connection to the water, or, just jumping in from the swim platform of course. Time easily slips away on the water, but sooner or later you’ll want to freshen up, grab a bite to eat, restock supplies, or maybe just stretch your legs and do a little shoreline exploration.
An Excursion into History
One of my favorite shoreline excursions is heavily steeped in history. Immediately south of the Lake Champlain Bridge is the NYS DEC boat launch at the Crown Point Reservation Campground. Adjacent to the launch a dock offers a couple of transient slips for brief tie ups. Check in with the campground management for a day use ticket and plenty of opportunity for an onshore adventure. Restrooms and picnic tables are available as well as access to the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse. Note the Auguste Rodin sculpture on the exterior 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 4500 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. Prowl the ruins of His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point, and Fort St. Frederic (obtain the ruins guide at the museum).Rarely do you find two distinct National Historic Landmarks in such close proximity to one another. There are acres of fields, woods, and shoreline here 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 underneath and visit Chimney Point Historic Site on the Vermont side of the lake.
Some 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 the Town of 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 adjacent Town Hall, pick up a Village of Port Henry Walking Guide for an interesting historical architectural 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 operating 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, claimed to be 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 offering 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.