A Two Hour Tour

I had a great time Sunday aboard Basin Harbor Club’s tour boat the Escape. Elizabeth Lee, Naturalist and Outdoor Guide, served as our narrator for much of the two-hour tour. I could listen to Elizabeth forever. She has an easy way of explaining the science and nature surrounding us and has a keen observer’s eye to point out features you may otherwise miss.

Next Opportunity August 10

The Escape is a 45 foot USCG approved vessel that regularly operates out of the Basin Harbor Club in Vermont. Elizabeth arranged for it to operate out of the Westport Marina twice this summer for special New York/Vermont excursions; July 13th and August 10th. Therefore, if you missed getting on board last Sunday, you still have another chance. Book your reservation through her website,  

The boat holds approximately 48 people. It has a covered area and wind curtains to protect from the weather. The open bow is reached by a few steps on either side of the pilot house and is great location for unobstructed viewing opportunities. I joined approximated 25 others on the July 13th trip arriving a little early at the marina to ensure my seat. The weather was a bit “iffy”. It was overcast and forecasts hinted of a chance of rain; possible a thunderstorm. 

Boarding the boat was smoothly accomplished. The crew swung a simple gate in the side open and you easily stepped onto the flat deck of the boat, which is the same height as the dock. Seats are arranged around the perimeter of the back covered deck with another two rows in the middle facing outside, back-to-back. I wasn’t sure where to sit since I wanted to make sure I was able to hear the narrators, but a crew member informed me there was a PA system on board, so I would be able to hear no matter where I was located. I settled on an inside row figuring the choppy water might send up an occasional splash. It was a good choice.

On our way

We launched right on time and headed north along the Adirondack Coast. The scenery along our entire tour was breathtaking. We passed some of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline on the entire lake. We also had great views of interesting rock formations, and the tall rising rocky cliffs known as the Palisades. Along the way Elizabeth and/or the crew of the Escape pointed out important features, including flora, fauna and maritime history. Most interesting was spotting the eagle’s nest with one of the adult birds standing watch nearby.

A shipwreck & a bit of history

Before this excursion, I did not know about the shipwrecked steamboat, the Champlain II, whose voyages on Lake Champlain ended in 1875. This steamboat used to ferry railroad cars from Burlington, VT to Plattsburgh, NY. A large part of the stern still remains below the water’s surface where it ran aground in the summer of 1875. It is part of the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preservation System and marked with a large bright yellow buoy. Certified divers may register and explore this wreck which lies close to the shoreline, north of Westport between Barn Rock and Rock Harbor. 

The Route

We crossed the lake at the northern part of the Slit Rock Forest Preserve, cruised by Diamond Island and entered the mouth of Otter Creek. We learned that Otter Creek is Vermont’s largest river. It extends over 100 miles and flows north from the Rutland area into Lake Champlain. Entering the river we were out of the wind and choppy water. It was extremely peaceful as we slowly progressed upstream. Waterbirds were everywhere. We saw many Great Blue Heron, kingfishers, and osprey. Elizabeth pointed out that the vegetation was entirely different here in this floodplain on the Vermont side of the lake. Rounding the point at Fort Cassin we learned of more maritime history and battles as our boat headed into the return voyage across the lake, back toward the Westport Marina.

Headed west our crossing was a bit rougher. The boat rocked with the choppy water and an occasional large wave splashed above the protective curtains. It added an element of refreshing fun to the trip as we wiped water off our clothes and glasses, smiling into the wind.

I highly recommend you book your August 10th reservation now. Visit Elizabeth Lee’s website to do so. You won’t want to miss this “on the water” experience.   


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