Lake Champlain

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Landsat photo

Lake Champlain, named for the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who encountered it 1609, is a large lake in North America, mostly within the borders of the United States (states of Vermont and New York) but partially situated across the US-Canada border in Quebec, Canada.

It is the sixth-largest body of fresh water in the United States, situated in the Champlain Valley between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York, drained northward by the Richelieu River into the St. Lawrence River near Montreal and fed by Otter Creek, the Winooski, Missisquoi, and Lamoille Rivers in Vermont, and the Ausable, Chazy, and Saranac Rivers in New York. Lake Champlain also receives water from Lake George via the La Chute River. The lake varies from 95 to 100 feet above mean sea level.

While the ports of Burlington, Vermont, Port Henry, New York, and Plattsburgh, New York are little used nowadays except by small crafts, ferries and lake cruise ships, they had substantial commercial and military importance in the 18th and 19th Century.


A region of large freshwater lakes

Lake Champlain is one of a large number of large lakes spread in an arc from Labrador through the Northern United States and into the Northwest Territories of Canada. Although it cannot be compared with Ontario, Erie, Huron, Superior, or Michigan, Lake Champlain is a large body of fresh water. Approximately 1130 km² (435 square miles) in area, the lake is roughly 180 km (110 miles) long, and 19 km (12 miles) across at its widest point. It contains roughly 80 islands including an entire county in Vermont.

Colonial America and the Revolutionary War

In colonial times, Lake Champlain provided an easily traversed water (or, in winter, ice) passage between the Saint Lawrence and the Hudson Valleys. Boats and sledges were usually preferable to the unpaved and frequently mud bound roads of the time. The northern tip of the lake at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec (St. John in colonial times) is a short distance from Montreal. The Southern tip at Whitehall (Skeenesboro in colonial times) is a short distance from Saratoga, Glens Falls, and Albany, New York.

Forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point (Fort St. Frederic) controlled passage of the lake in colonial times. Important battles were fought at Ticonderoga in 1758 and 1777. A significant naval battle was fought in 1776 at Valcour Island: in the Battle of Valcour Island, Benedict Arnold delayed British ships enough to prevent the fall of these forts until the following year, allowing the Continental Army to grow stronger and enabling the later victory at Saratoga.

War of 1812

In the early 19th century, the construction of the New York Barge Canal connected Lake Champlain to the Hudson River system, allowing north-south commerce by water from New York City to Montreal and Atlantic Canada.

The Battle of Plattsburgh also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, fought in 1814, ended the final invasion of the Northern states during the War of 1812. Fought just prior to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, the American victory denied the British any leverage to demand exclusive control over the Great Lakes and any territorial gains against the New England states. (See: Battle of Plattsburgh)

Fort Blunder (more properly known as Fort Montgomery) was built by the Americans on an arm of Lake Champlain after the war of 1812, to protect against attacks from British Canada. Its name comes from a surveying error that caused it to inadvertently be built on the Canadian side of the border.

Modern History

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A false-color image of Lake Champlain. (Source: )

Lake Champlain briefly became the nation's sixth Great Lake on March 6, 1998, when President Clinton signed Senate Bill 927. This bill, which reauthorized the Sea Grant Program, contained a line penned by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, declaring Lake Champlain to be a Great Lake. Not coincidentally, this status allows neighboring states to apply for additional federal research and education funds allocated to these national resources. Following a small uproar the Great Lake status was rescinded (although Vermont universities continue to receive funds to monitor and study the lake.)

One of the more enduring myths surrounding Lake Champlain is that of Champ. Reminiscent of the Loch Ness monster, Ogopogo and other phenomena of cryptozoology, Champ is purportedly a giant aquatic animal that makes the lake its home. Sightings have been few and far between (and come from sources of questionable veracity). Regardless, locals and tourists have developed something of a fondness for the creature and its legend and representations of Champ can now be found on tee shirts, coffee mugs, and many other tourist souvenirs.

The Alburg Peninsula (also known as the Alburg Tongue), extending south from the Quebec shore of the lake into Vermont, shares with Point Roberts, Washington, and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota the distinction of being reachable by land from the rest of its state only via Canada. However, unlike the other two cases, this is no longer of practical significance since highway bridges across the lake do provide access to the peninsula within the United States (from three directions, in fact).

Lake crossings

The lake can be crossed by road at several southerly points including:

North of this point, the lake widens appreciably; ferry service is provided by the Lake Champlain Transportation Company at:

Grand Isle County, Vermont connects to the Vermont mainland via:

Grand Island County, Vermont connects to the New York mainland via:

fr:Lac Champlain ja:シャンプレーン湖 pl:Jezioro Champlain


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