Lake Champlain (French: Lac Champlain) is a natural freshwater lake in North America, located mainly within the borders of the United States (states of Vermont and New York) but partially situated across the Canada-United States border in the Canadian province of Quebec.
The New York portion of the Champlain Valley includes the eastern portions of Clinton County and Essex County. Most of this area is part of the Adirondack Park. There are recreational opportunities in the park and along the relatively undeveloped coastline of Lake Champlain. The cities of Plattsburgh, New York and Burlington, Vermont are to the north of the lake, and the village of Ticonderoga, New York is located in the southern part of the region. The Quebec portion is located in the regional county municipalities of Le Haut-Richelieu and Brome-Missisquoi.
Lake Champlain has long been part of an important waterway passage between the St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers. Flowing south to north, the lake stretches some 120 miles from its beginning at Whitehall, New York to the Richelieu River in Quebec.
The first European to discover the lake was Samuel de Champlain in 1609. Champlain claimed the waterway and the virgin forested lands surrounding it for his sovereign, setting in motion a long conflict between France and Great Britain.
Lake Champlain, together with Lake George, played a crucial role in the early history of the United States and Canada. Due largely to its strategic importance as the only navigable passage between the Adirondack and Green Mountains, many important forts were built and several critical battles were fought upon its shores. Among these are some of the most storied names in colonial history- Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Valcour Island to name but a few. The lake also figured prominently during the War of 1812, culminating in the Battle of Plattsburgh (also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain).
Click here to see the Burlington waterfront circa 1885Once these early conflicts ended the lake lost its strategic importance to military planners. During the mid-nineteenth century the lake became a vital transportation corridor for all sorts of cargo, especially after canals were constructed on both ends of the lake. Sailing vessels gave way to steamboats, which eventually were replaced by the railroads. As the lake became less important for commercial carriage, it became a recreational haven.
Today, Lake Champlain, together with Lake George to the south, is an important recreational playground for millions. The lake faces challenges brought upon by it by increased recreational use and population growth but it retains its appeal and natural beauty.
Other Lake Champlain Links
Lake Champlain Region: Lake Champlain Region
Lake Champlain Chocolates: LakeChamplainChocolates.com
Vermont Tourism: Vermont.org
Lake Champlain Ferries: Ferries.com