Lake Champlain is a natural body of water in New York and Vermont, along with a portion in the province of Quebec, Canada. It is connected by Canals with the Hudson River.
Discovered by Samuel Champlain in 1609, the lake was a natural conduit for military forces headed both north and south. During the French and Indian Wars, the French and Canadian forces first gained a victory at Fort Ticonderoga in 1758, but were defeated by the British the following year.
During the American Revolution, the lake was used by continental forces under Benedict Arnold, who won a major victory at Valcour Island in 1776. It was taken by the British in 1777 and remained under British control for the remainder of the conflict.
The last military activity on the lake was during the War of 1812, when Commodore Thomas Macdonough`s total destruction of the British fleet in Plattsburgh Bay in 1814 was the decisive battle of the second war with England.
Lake Champlain is the eighth largest naturally occurring body of fresh water in the continental United States. Champlain covers 435 square miles of surface water and contains more than 70 islands. The lake is 120 miles long with nearly 600 miles of shoreline and lies in a valley flanked by Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east and New York’s Adirondacks to the west. Lake Champlain contains 6.8 trillion gallons of water and is a drinking water source for nearly 200,000 people.
The lake has five major segments: the South Lake, long skinny and riverine the Main Lake, the deepest and widest section Malletts Bay, circumscribed by historical railroad and road causeways the Inland Sea, which lies to the east of the Hero Islands and Missisquoi Bay, a large and discrete bay rich with wildlife.
Thirty-one major tributaries drain the 8,234 square mile Lake Champlain Basin, delivering over 91 percent of the water entering the lake. The deltaic mouths and associated wetlands of these tributaries provide some of the most interesting paddling opportunities on the lake.
Geologic HistoryPhoto by Vincent Rossano.
The rocks and landforms of the Lake Champlain valley are a geologist’s dream. The oldest fossil coral reef in the world, young mountains made of ancient rocks, and the excavation site of a 10,000 year-old beluga whale are just three examples of the lake’s many geologic delights.
The New York shoreline from the vicinity of Port Kent south is “basement” rock, part of an ancient range of mountains that pre-dated the Adirondacks. Thought the Adirondack Mountains themselves formed a mere 20 million years ago, these rocks are over one billion years old!
The New York shoreline at the northern end of the lake and nearly all of the Vermont shoreline is composed of sedimentary rocks (limestones, dolostones, quartzites) which were deposited in a shallow tropical sea about 500 million years ago. The fossilized coral reefs on Isle La Motte formed during this period, as did fossils at Button Bay.
The precursor to Lake Champlain formed about 200 million years ago. At that time the stretching of continents caused a massive piece of bedrock to fall down between two parallel faults forming a deep canyon known as a graben valley.
More recently, the Pleistocene glaciers overrode the area as far south as Long Island, blanketing the area in a mile thick sheet of ice. The glaciers moved laterally over the landscape as they grew thicker, following the paths of least resistance through valleys. Along the way rocks and boulders dragged beneath the ice sheet acted like sandpaper rubbed against the land. Glaciation started about three million years ago and continued to about 12,000 years ago.
As the ice began to melt, the slowly retreating glaciers to the north limited the flow of the meltwater forcing drainage to the south through the present day Hudson River. Debris dams forced the water to pool in a huge lake – Lake Vermont. At its height, Lake Vermont had a surface elevation around 500 feet higher than Lake Champlain’s current level!
When the glacier receded north of the St. Lawrence Valley, the landmass it had covered was below sea level as a result of the huge weight of the ice. Ocean waters flowed in from the Atlantic forming the Champlain Sea. Saltwater animals such as the famous Charlotte whale frolicked in the region at that time. Subsequent rebounding of the land raised the lake elevation above sea level. Gradually saltwater flushed out and was replaced by fresh water from tributaries.
Lake Champlain can be divided into four distinct zones. Nearshore is the littoral zone. This is the area where sunlight penetrates to the bottom of the lake and submerged vegetation can grow. With the invasion of zebra mussels, the littoral zone has grown in some areas because zebra mussels filter feed and can increase water clarity. Deeper waters can be divided into a limnetic zone and a profundal zone. The limnetic zone is the open water area where sunlight can penetrate, but not to the bottom. Here algae dominate the base of the food chain. The perpetually dark profundal zone sits beneath the limnetic zone, beyond the reach of sunlight. Underneath it all is the benthic zone, the sediment layer which provides a home for many organisms. They find their sustenance from the detritus that sinks to the bottom through the year.
WetlandsPhoto by Jessica Rossi.
Wetlands, the transition zone between land and water, are defined by their soil type, the amount of standing water they hold in a year, and their vegetation. Lake Champlain’s wetland communities include marshes, lakeshore grasslands, lakeside floodplain forests, and riverine floodplain forests. Many of the lake’s shoreline wetlands have been created over thousands of years by fluctuating Lake levels. A 1994 Lake Champlain Basin Program study identified 166 major wetlands, at least 50 acres or larger, with a direct hydrological connection to Lake Champlain.
Wetlands improve water quality by filtering sediments, pollutants and nutrients. They protect groundwater and drinking water supplies, control flooding, stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion. They provide havens for numerous fish and wildlife: pike spawn in flooded fields, amphibians breed in temporary pools, and numerous bird species depend on the cover provided by cattails.
Many wetlands have been lost to development pressure in recent decades. Strong regulations and strict enforcement are necessary to protect those that remain.
Some distinctive shoreline vegetation communities can be found around Lake Champlain. Cobble beaches occur regularly where constant disturbances from waves fragment rocks, and prevent permanent establishment of vegetation. Natural sand beaches and dunes are found in only a few locations where rivers deposit their sediments or where currents wash eroded sands into the base of some bays. Dunes form along the landside of some of the larger beaches, when blowing winds pile the sand into cliffs and hills. White cedar communities perch atop many limestone and dolomite cliffs along the lake.
The book Wetland, Woodland, Wildland offers more detailed information about natural communities of the lake and surrounding uplands.
Lake Champlain provides a rich environment for a multitude of animal species.
Most visible are the birds that fly and hunt over the water. Over 250 species can be found within the Lake Champlain Basin in a given year. Four species of gulls are regularly seen on the lake. Most common and familiar are the ubiquitous ring-billed gulls and the larger herring gulls. A few massive great black-backed gulls can be seen year round, while small dainty tern-like Bonaparte's gulls are seen most frequently in the spring and fall. Double-crested cormorants hunt throughout the lake during the summer this now common species was first reported nesting on the lake in the early 1980s. Bald eagles and osprey soar about. Common and Caspian terns breed on islands. Wading birds that stalk the shorelines and weedy areas include great blue herons, green herons, American bitterns, black-crowned night herons, and, more recently, great egrets. The most frequently sighted duck species are common mergansers, a diving duck, and mallards and wood ducks, both puddle ducks. During the winter, large rafts of common goldeneye float on calm water.
Fish attract anglers from throughout the country. Lake Champlain hosts about seventy species of fish and another dozen or so species inhabit tributaries between the lake and the fall line. Popular game species include an abundance of different panfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, lake trout, and Atlantic salmon.
Most of the creatures that live in the lake are invertebrates - insects, snails, mussels, worms, a variety of zooplankton, and more. Invertebrate communities are little thought of and not well understood, but they are an integral part of Lake Champlain's ecosystem.
Lake Look is a monthly essay produced by the Lake Champlain Committee. The articles cover the natural history of the lake and current issues about lake management. Lake Look is distributed to newspapers throughout the basin and is available to members by email. Click here to sign up online to receive them.
Many of the Lake Look columns have been pulled together in LCC's award-winning book LAKE CHAMPLAIN: A NATURAL HISTORY.
LCC's Award-winning BookLake Champlain: A Natural History 160pp. softcover $18.95
Why do clouds hang low over the lake on autumn mornings? Where do invasive species come from and how do they arrive? How might global warming affect Lake Champlain’s future? How did the lake get here?
The answers can be found in LCC's award-winning book Lake Champlain: A Natural History co-published by the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) and Images from the Past (IfP). Short essays in six intriguing chapters cover the lake’s origins and present day setting, the forces that define the region, the phenomena that add to its mystery, the “living lake” of plants and animals, and the lake’s future.
Written in a light, engaging style by LCC staff scientist Mike Winslow with black and white photographs and detailed pen and ink illustrations by Libby Davidson, the book will help people discover and understand the lake’s rich and diverse resources. The book builds on a series of monthly columns, “Lake Look”, which LCC has distributed to its members and local and regional newspapers since 2002. Lake Champlain: A Natural History is one of LCC’s officially designated Quadricentennial projects. The publication won an IPPY silver medal for regional publication.
“This book goes a long ways toward educating anyone who loves the sight of Lake Champlain,” notes author and environmentalist Bill McKibben. “Mike Winslow and Libby Davidson, with clear and lucid prose and accurate, charming illustration, answer dozens of questions that have occurred to me over the years, and better yet they answer questions it hadn’t even struck me to ask. This is less like a field guide, and more like having a wise naturalist along with you on a trip.”
“(R)eaders will come away with a better understanding and appreciation of this great lake”, said the Rutland Herald (10/28/08).
Retailing for $18.95, the 7” x 10” 160-page soft cover publication is accessible both for its content and price.
We are currently out of stock and awaiting re-prints. If you order now, delivery may be delayed for several months.
Benedict Arnold fights valiantly at Valcour Island
On October 11, 1776, a British fleet under Sir Guy Carleton defeats 15 American gunboats under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, in what is now Clinton County, New York.
Although nearly all of Arnold’s ships were destroyed, it took more than two days for the British to subdue the Patriot naval force, delaying Carleton’s campaign and giving the Patriot ground forces adequate time to prepare a crucial defense of New York.
One year earlier, during the Patriots’ unsuccessful campaign to take Canada, Carleton, the royal governor general of Canada, had managed to escape Patriot General Richard Montgomery’s early successful attacks during the summer and autumn. He snuck into Quebec City, organized 1,800 men for the city’s defense, and prepared to wait out the Patriot siege. The Patriots, facing a deadline as their troops’ enlistments expired at the end of the year, fired arrows over the city walls on December 7. The arrows carried letters demanding Carleton’s surrender. When Carleton did not acquiesce, the Americans began a bombardment of the city with Montgomery’s cannon on December 8. They then attempted a disastrous failed assault on December 31, in which Montgomery was killed and Arnold seriously wounded. The action around Valcour Island was the final stage of Carleton’s effort to drive Arnold from Canada, once and for all.
Arnold was considered a Patriot hero for his bravery in the siege of Quebec, and earlier during the Patriot capture of Fort Ticonderoga, New York, on May 10, 1775. Arnold, however, did not feel that he had received sufficient accolades for his efforts, and, while serving as commander of West Point in 1780, agreed to surrender the important Hudson River fort to the British for a bribe of ꌠ,000. The plot was discovered after British spy John Andre was captured while carrying incriminating papers, forcing Arnold to flee to British protection. He then joined the British in their fight against the country that he had once so valiantly served.
Lake Champlain Today
Today, the Lake Champlain Transportation Company continues to ferry cars and passengers across the lake at 3 separate crossings, making it the oldest steamship company in operation in the United States.
Burlington became a center of northern trade as most of the mountains of Vermont were stripped of their forests. The sawn timber was brought to Burlington to be milled and shipped out all over North America. By the 1850's, the population had grown. When the railroads finally made their way through the mountains, the vibrant steamboat trade slowed and the transportation focus switched to land travel.
The early part of the 20th century brought predicaments and prosperity. Many young people left the state to find work elsewhere. In the Burlington area, despite this population shift, the economy grew slowly but surely. The Great Depression caused hard times, but WWII created manufacturing jobs and prosperity grew. Manufacturing jobs then slipped away in the 1950's, depressing the local economy.
Marketing of Vermont
In the 1960's, Vermont began promoting itself aggressively through the efforts of many state and local organizations, and brought industry to the Green Mountain state. International Business Machines and General Dynamics came to the state and others followed.
Today, the civic discussion centers on how to maintain Vermont's rural quality and the superior quality of life that brought people to Burlington in the first place. Over the years, Burlington has established itself as a community with vision and the ability to follow turn vision into reality, whether turning Church Street into a successful outdoor mall or finding innovative ways to keep Lake Champlain clean and healthy. The overriding concern for Burlington's residents is to continue to ensure Vermont's unique character and beauty.
Some useful Vermont Historical Websites:
Visit more on the local information page. If you have other questions or would like help with finding a home in the Greater Burlington VT area, contact the Brian Boardman Group. You might also like to view our listings or start your own home search.
Indigenous History of the Champlain Valley
Sabael, an Abenaki man who became the first permanent settler of present-day Indian Lake, NY. Source: http://www.nedoba.org/bio_benedict01.html.
Before European colonization of North America, Algonquian and Iroquoian peoples inhabited the area surrounding Lake Champlain. Indigenous settlements in the region were centered around the Champlain Valley as well as the nearby Mohawk and St. Lawrence valleys, while the Adirondack mountains served primarily as hunting grounds for the peoples who inhabited the nearby valleys. 1 Around the time that Europeans first came to the region, the Abenaki—an Algonquian tribe—occupied the area approximately from Lake Champlain eastward through New Hampshire, while the Mohawk—one of the six members of the Iroquois Confederacy—occupied the area from Lake Champlain westward along the Mohawk River and northward into the St. Lawrence Valley. 2 However, territorial boundaries between neighboring indigenous peoples historically were not strict, and overlapping hunting territories were common, as was the case for the Abenaki and the Mohawk. 3
The Western Abenaki had settlements up until the eighteenth century at the mouths of Otter Creek and the Winooski, Lamoille, and Missisquoi Rivers and also on Grand Isle, but eventually these communities concentrated at the Missisquoi settlement. Historically, Abenaki families traveled widely across the Lake Champlain region in birchbark canoes in the summer and on snowshoes in the winter, sustaining themselves for generations by hunting species including moose, deer, bear, waterfowl, and passenger pigeon fishing, especially for eel gathering wild foods such as butternut, berries, maple sugar, and greens and planting corn, beans, and squash. Abenaki people mostly lived and traveled in family groups, but in times of conflict communities selected leaders for war parties. The Abenaki allied with other neighboring Algonquian peoples living primarily to the east and north, while they often fought with the Iroquois nations to the west. 4
The Mohawk, who call themselves Kanienkehake (“People of the Flint”), primarily had settled in the Mohawk Valley of New York by the eighteenth century, but claim an original homeland that extends into southern Canada and Vermont as well. 5 The Mohawk formed a peaceful alliance with four other Iroquois tribes that occupied most of northern and western New York but “roamed wide over eastern North America” to create the Iroquois—or Haudenosaunee— Confederacy approximately a century before European colonization. The alliance remained a powerful political entity that “had to be reckoned with by all of the colonial powers until the close of the Revolutionary War.” 6 The Mohawks were the first to join this Confederacy, and are known as the “Elder Brothers” of the Iroquois as well as the “Keepers of the Eastern Door”. The Mohawk traditionally lived in the distinctive Iroquois multi-family homes known as longhouses, and cultivated large fields with corn, beans, and squash, supplementing this diet by hunting, fishing, and trapping. 7
Mitchell Sabattis, a famous Adirondack Guide. 1886. Source: Adirondack Museum [STILL NEED PERMISSION].
With the arrival of Europeans in the seventeenth century, the Champlain Valley became “a cultural meeting ground w here Algonquian and English, Iroquois and French, contended and interacted.” 8 Over the following centuries, securing European control of the region “entailed more than simply settling the land it required the dispersal, dispossession, and expulsion of native inhabitants,” and European settlers and traders also brought widespread epidemics to indigenous communities which suffered greatly from introduced diseases such as smallpox 9 As British settlers expanded northward in New England and New York, the Abenaki—allied with the French enemies of the British—often raided frontier settlements. Ultimately, however, many Abenaki people in the Champlain Valley fled northward to other Native communities near or beyond the Canadian border as a result of settler encroachment on their traditional lands, while others remained on their territory. 10 For the Mohawks, the expansion of settler colonialism in New York forced communities to relocate in the eighteenth century northward into the St. Lawrence Valley, where they allied with the French. 11 Some Abenakis took refuge with these French-allied Mohawks, with whom they formed part of the Seven Nations of Canada, 12 and a handful also took up residence in the Adirondack mountains. Some of these Adirondack Abenaki refugees became legendary wilderness guides, including Sabael—an Abenaki man from Maine who was the first settler at Indian Lake and guided Ebenezer Emmons on his climb of Mt. Marcy—and Mitchell Sabattis—a famous Long Lake guide who worked with Verplanck Colvin’s surveying team. 13
It is important to remember, also, that the history of indigenous oppression across North America did not end with the arrival of settlers who displaced and wiped out Native communities. Abenaki people were persecuted, for instance, by the Eugenics Survey of Vermont well into the twentieth century. Through the eugenics program, at least an estimated 200 Abenaki people were sterilized without full informed consent from approximately 1925-1936, and forced sterilizations of Abenaki people continued at least until the late 1950s. The program labeled indigenous peoples living on the margins of Vermont society as “mentally deficient”, “gypsies”, and “pirates” to justify the government-sponsored practice of sterilizing and eliminating poor and marginalized communities. 14 Through programs and attitudes such as those demonstrated by the eugenics program, the Abenaki and other indigenous groups across North America have continued to face structural violence, the traumas of colonialism, and social exclusion in the centuries since European colonization began.
Battle of Lake Champlain
British Perspective: In 1775, the British lost control of their outposts along the Hudson River Valley at Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Fort St. John. Rebel raiders also seized or destroyed British ships operating on Lake Champlain, which considerably weakened the Crown&rsquos control of the region.
After successfully thwarting the American Canadian offensive the British followed their defeated foe south into the American colonies. Control of Lake Champlain was essential to both sides, and in order to threaten the Americans from the north, the British knew they had to control that important waterway.
Because the long and narrow lake was closed to deep water traffic on both ends, Gen. Sir Guy Carleton was forced to organize a large flotilla of ships to be hauled in for duty on the inland lake. Most of the ships were small vessels with rows and sails, and thus unsuited for moving against the wind.
The ships were dismantled at Chambly and transported overland across the river narrows to St. John, where they were reassembled&mdasha tremendous feat accomplished in a mere 28 days. In the wake of the larger ships were 400 smaller vessels loaded with 7,000 British soldiers and Indians preparing for an invasion of New York.
General Carleton&rsquos naval commander, Capt. Thomas Pringle, finally set off from St. John on the 4th of October, moving slowly south down Richelieu River in search of the Patriot ships they knew had been operating on the lake. One week later the British fleet sailed past Cumberland Head and below Valcour Island before realizing the American flotilla was arrayed between the island and the lake&rsquos western shore.
Once Captain Pringle maneuvered his fleet to block southern access to Arnold, the battle for Lake Champlain was underway.
American Perspective: On May 14, 1775, at Skenesboro (now Whitehall), New York, 50 Patriots led by Col. Benedict Arnold captured a British schooner. Arnold sailed the vessel to St. John on the Richelieu River, where on the 18th of May he discovered 10 more British ships of varying size.
His men destroyed five and captured the remaining five, among them a 70-ton sloop. Arnold&rsquos amazing feat wiped out the Crown&rsquos maritime supremacy on Lake Champlain while simultaneously establishing an American ad-hock naval presence on the key lake. Although luck played a part in his success, Arnold was an experienced sea captain before the war and was skilled on the water.
During the summer and fall of 1775, the Americans conducted an unsuccessful campaign to wrest Canada from British occupation. Rebuffed, the Patriots retreated in the spring of 1776, with the tiny American fleet following as it sailed south down Lake Champlain toward New York.
In an effort to hold the lake and delay the British, Arnold set about building a larger fleet nearly from scratch. Although the odds were long, he pulled the tools and craftsman together and used available timber to construct his small ships in the southern reaches of the waterway at Crown Point and Skenesboro.
The backbone of his &ldquofleet&rdquo comprised four stout flat-bottomed galleys, each crewed by 80 men. These galleys were about 70 feet long and 20 feet across, with a short mast and lateen sail. Their armament is open to some dispute, but it is likely each possessed one or more of the following: 18-pounders, 12-pounders, 9-pounders, and 4-pounders, together with swivel guns on the quarterdeck. Eight smaller &ldquogondolas&rdquo were also cobbled together.
These flat-bottomed vessels were 53 feet long with a beam of 15.5 feet and a draft of four feet. Each had a small single mast with two small sails and a crew of 45 working three guns: a 12-pounder in the bow and two 9-pounders amidships. Like the larger galleys, the gondolas were also equipped with oars.
With his fleet finished and the British approaching, Arnold cleverly moved his motley flotilla into the narrow strait between southwest portion of Valcour Island and the New York shore. He knew his fleet was not evenly matched with that of the enemy, and decided instead to rely on stealth and unexpected tactics to make up for his lack of artillery and numbers.
With a scout ship he watched the main channel and waited for the more powerful British fleet to appear. Arnold took the galley Congress as his flagship, while his second in command, Gen. David Waterbury, took station on the galley Washington.
The Fighting: Inexplicably, Captain Pringle and General Carleton failed to conduct a proper reconnaissance and on the morning of October 11 overshot their enemy. The result was that the American fleet was not spotted until the British ships had sailed past the southern tip of Valcour Island. This mistake gave Arnold&rsquos small fleet the wind and at least some advantage he otherwise would not have enjoyed.
Fearing Carleton would move north and use the wind to come around Valcour Island and down the passage behind him, Arnold ordered several ships to sally out and engage the British, hoping to lure them into the southern channel off the island&rsquos southwest tip. When he saw how large the enemy flotilla was, however, Arnold pulled back and prepared to fight with his ships arrayed in a line across the narrow channel.
About 11:00 a.m. the British pressed the attack. The American schooner Royal Savage was the engagement&rsquos first casualty. Enemy fire damaged the ship early when it ripped away from the schooner&rsquos rigging and shattered a mast. During the attempt to escape, Royal Savage ran aground off the southwestern corner of the island. (Captain Hawley may have deliberately pushed his crippled ship aground to save the lives of his men, who stood to their guns until they were eventually driven away.) Losing the schooner, especially so early in the fight, was a blow the Americans could ill afford.
Arnold&rsquos navy stood fast and exchanged artillery fire for hours with the larger enemy fleet, with much of the action unfolding at a range of about 350 to 400 yards. The ships were small, difficult to handle under the weather conditions of the day, and battle smoke obscured much of the fighting in the narrow channel. These factors contributed to poor shooting, the combat thus lasting much longer than it otherwise would have.
Arnold is said to have personally aimed many of the guns aboard Congress because of a lack of trained gunners. Both sides suffered direct hits and losses, with the Americans taking the lion&rsquos share of the iron. One of the key Patriot high points of the battle was the damage inflicted against the British schooner Carleton, which killed and wounded many of her crew. Only the brave actions of a 19-year-old midshipman who found himself in command saved the vessel.
Dusk fell on Lake Champlain about 5:00 p.m. and the British warships pulled back another 300 or 400 yards. During this time Pringle&rsquos powerful flagship Inflexible let loose with five medium-ranged broadsides that crippled many of the American ships and rendered most of Arnold&rsquos guns unserviceable. Darkness ended the action.
Arnold was justifiably proud of the fight his flotilla had waged, but his losses were significant. The grounded Royal Savage was burned by the British. Enemy gunfire had torn apart masts and rigging on the galleys Congress and Washington. Each had also been hulled numerous times. Neither would be fit for action anytime soon, if ever again. The gondolas New York and Philadelphia had also fared poorly.
The former lost every officer except her captain, while the crew of the latter had been decimated by flying iron balls and wooden splinters, the ship itself crippled she sank an hour after the artillery fell silent. The darkness had also masked a less visible American weakness. The fighting had not only cut many Patriot ships to pieces but had nearly exhausted Arnold&rsquos supply of ammunition. Another round of fighting could only end in defeat for the Americans, a reality that prompted Arnold to prepare an escape.
Beneath an overcast night sky, the Americans muffled their oars and lined their ships into a single file. At 7:00 p.m. the Trumbull led the American column directly southward along the western shore through a heavy fog. When the sun rose on October 12 the battered American fleet had slipped away safely but was only eight miles distant from Valcour Island. Arnold&rsquos problems were only beginning. The gondolas Providence and New York were so badly damaged they had to be scuttled. Jersey hit a rock and, coupled with previous battle damage, had to be abandoned.
The daring escape angered the British commanders, who had gone to sleep that night believing Arnold was trapped and ripe for destruction. An immediate pursuit was launched. All that day the British rowed after Arnold, both sides fighting the wind now blowing up from the south. Early on the morning of October 13, the wind changed back to the north, and Pringle&rsquos warships overtook the crippled American fleet near Split Rock Point. The fighting began anew with a focused attack by Inflexible and Maria against Arnold&rsquos larger ships.
General Waterbury&rsquos Washington and more than 100 men surrendered when the pair of British ships bracketed the crippled galley. The galley Lee ran up against rocks near the shore and was left to her fate. Inflexible, Maria and the badly damaged but still dangerous Carleton moved alongside Arnold&rsquos flagship Congress, spraying her decks with grapeshot that ripped apart rigging and bodies while cannonballs smashed their way through the flagship&rsquos already porous hull. Woefully outgunned, Arnold knew if he did not get away his entire fleet and every crewman would be killed or captured.
In a stunning display of seamanship and leadership, Arnold ordered his remaining ships to turn into the wind and make a run past the British for Buttonmould Bay on the Vermont shore. His enemy could not sail into the wind, and some reports claim the bay was too shallow for the larger British vessels to safely enter.
Once inside this sanctuary, the Americans stripped the ships of everything of value and scuttled them. Their mission at an end, Arnold and his men marched overland to Crown Point. He could not hold that position and so continued his journey to Fort Ticonderoga, which he and his 200 survivors reached at 4:00 a.m. on the morning of October 14.
For more in-depth research about the Battle of Lake Champlain read the book Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution written by Theodore Savas and J. David Dameron.
Steamboats on Lake Champlain, a brief history
Circa 1910, the Ticonderoga approaching the dock at Thompson’s Point, with the Point’s motor launch Elsa tied to a small dock. Used with permission of the Charlotte Historical Society.
Dan Cole, Contributor
The first steamboat on the lake was the wood hulled Vermont I, built in 1808 in Burlington by John and James Winan, who had worked with Robert Fulton on America’s first steamboat in 1807, the Clermont. Lake Champlain was used extensively for early travel and trade, as the roads were poor and rail was non-existent, and most of the trade was with Canada. But the vagaries of the wind on the lake made sailing difficult. The problem with early steam vessels, as noted with the Redbud in our editorial in this edition, was their slow speed. The Vermont I could make about 5 knots on a good day—if it didn’t break down, which it did regularly. The quality of their construction improved and owners added cozy and well-appointed cabins to attract travelers.
This was taken at the end of Thompson’s Point during a busy summer. Photo courtesy of Ross Andrews.
Samuel de Champlain
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Samuel de Champlain, (born 1567?, Brouage, France—died December 25, 1635, Quebec, New France [now in Canada]), French explorer, acknowledged founder of the city of Quebec (1608), and consolidator of the French colonies in the New World. He was the first known European to sight the lake that bears his name (1609) and made other explorations of what are now northern New York, the Ottawa River, and the eastern Great Lakes.
Why is Samuel de Champlain significant?
He was key to French expansion in the New World. Known as the “Father of New France,” Champlain founded Quebec (1608), one of the oldest cities in what is now Canada, and consolidated French colonies. He also made important explorations of what is now northern New York, the Ottawa River, and the eastern Great Lakes.
What was Samuel de Champlain’s early life like?
He was born about 1567 in Brouage, France, a seaport on the Atlantic coast. While little is known of his childhood, he stated that at a young age he developed an interest in navigation and “a love of the high seas.” Some sources claim that he made his first ocean voyage as a teenager.
How did Samuel de Champlain die?
He died of a stroke on December 25, 1635, in Quebec, New France.
Champlain was probably born a commoner, but, after acquiring a reputation as a navigator (having taken part in an expedition to the West Indies and Central America), he received an honorary if unofficial title at the court of Henry IV. In 1603 he accepted an invitation to visit what he called the River of Canada ( St. Lawrence River). He sailed, as an observer in a longboat, upstream from the mother ship’s anchorage at Tadoussac, a summer trading post, to the site of Montreal and its rapids. His report on the expedition was soon published in France, and in 1604 he accompanied a group of ill-fated settlers to Acadia, a region surrounding the Bay of Fundy.
Champlain spent three winters in Acadia—the first on an island in the St. Croix River, where scurvy killed nearly half the party, and the second and third, which claimed the lives of fewer men, at Annapolis Basin. During the summers he searched for an ideal site for colonization. His explorations led him down the Atlantic coast southward to Massachusetts Bay and beyond, mapping in detail the harbours that his English rivals had only touched. In 1607 the English came to Kennebec (now in Maine) in southern Acadia. They spent only one winter there, but the threat of conflict increased French interest in colonization.
Heading an expedition that left France in 1608, Champlain undertook his most ambitious project—the founding of Quebec. On earlier expeditions he had been a subordinate, but this time he was the leader of 32 colonists.
Champlain and eight others survived the first winter at Quebec and greeted more colonists in June. Allied by an earlier French treaty with the northern Indian tribes, he joined them in defeating Iroquois marauders in a skirmish on Lake Champlain. That and a similar victory in 1610 enhanced French prestige among the allied tribes, and fur trade between France and the Indians increased. In 1610 he left for France, where he married Hélène Boullé, the daughter of the secretary to the king’s chamber.
The fur trade had heavy financial losses in 1611, which prompted Quebec’s sponsors to abandon the colony, but Champlain persuaded Louis XIII to intervene. Eventually the king appointed a viceroy, who made Champlain commandant of New France. In 1613 he reestablished his authority at Quebec and immediately embarked for the Ottawa River on a mission to restore the ruined fur trade. The following year he organized a company of French merchants to finance trade, religious missions, and his own exploration.
Champlain next went to Lake Huron, where native chiefs persuaded him to lead a war party against a fortified village south of Lake Ontario. The Iroquois defenders wounded him and repulsed his Huron- Algonquin warriors, a somewhat disorganized but loyal force, who carried him to safety. After spending a winter in their territory, he returned to France, where political maneuvers were endangering the colony’s future. In 1620 the king reaffirmed Champlain’s authority over Quebec but forbade his personal exploration, directing him instead to employ his talents in administrative tasks.
The colony, still dependent on the fur trade and only experimenting in agriculture, hardly prospered under his care or under the patronage of a new and strong company. English privateers, however, considered Quebec worth besieging in 1628, when England and France were at war. Champlain manned the walls until the following summer, when his distressed garrison exhausted its food and gunpowder. Although he surrendered the fort, he did not abandon his colony. Taken to England as a prisoner, he argued that the surrender had occurred after the end of French and English hostilities. In 1632 the colony was restored to France, and in 1633, a year after publishing his seventh book, he made his last voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to Quebec.
Only a few more settlers were aboard when his ships dropped anchor at Quebec, but others continued to arrive each year. Before he died of a stroke in 1635, his colony extended along both shores of the St. Lawrence River.
A lake in crisis
An algal bloom near St. Albans Bay, Vermont. Pollution has repeatedly closed nearby beaches in recent years. Photo by Armand Messier/northernvermontaerial.com
Battling ‘putrid’ outbreaks on the Adirondack Park’s eastern flank, New York and Vermont advocates struggle to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain
By RY RIVARD
A few billion years ago, cyanobacteria were creators. The colorful bacteria produced much of the planet’s early oxygen.
Now, they are increasingly known as something else—destroyers.
In lakes around the world and close to home, the tiny floating cells threaten public health and property values. That’s because toxic outbreaks or “blooms” of cyanobacteria, often mistaken for and even called algae, are getting worse.
In Ohio, residents of Toledo couldn’t drink their water for several days in 2014, because it was drawn from a bacteria-filled Lake Erie. In New Jersey, bacteria blooms closed beaches around the state’s largest lake last summer.
New York has put a dozen lakes on a cyanobacteria watch list, including several of the Finger Lakes and two Adirondack lakes.
The first local lake, Lake George—assiduously guarded for decades by strict environmental regulations—has never had a confirmed outbreak of cyanobacteria, but such a “harmful algal bloom” could be devastating to a lake prized for its clear waters.
Ironically, Lake George’s waters are painstakingly protected only to drain straight into the second local lake on the list, a lake in crisis, Lake Champlain.
Bacteria in Champlain—cupped by New York, Vermont and Quebec—are feeding on polluted runoff from around the lake, especially Vermont’s dairyland, and thriving in water that is warming along with the rest of the globe.
“They just want to eat and grow and be warm,” said Natalie Flores, a University of Vermont researcher studying the dangers of cyanobacteria.
When they do all that, their blooms close beaches and put public health officials on alert because of the tens of thousands of people who drink water from the lake.
Number of people who drink Lake Champlain water: About 150,000, according to the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
On the lake’s New York side, blooms have been spotted around the Adirondack hamlet of Port Henry every recent summer and closed beaches at least once most summers.
In reports published by Vermont, trained watchers around the lake have described Champlain in dispiriting terms during blooms that cover sections of the lake and its bays: “putrid,” “smells bad,” “unbelievable stench,” “sections look like broccoli, others like green paint spill,” “pea soup,” “9th day of green,” “awfully discouraging,” “pictures don’t do it justice.” One volunteer reported that they’d like to sample part of the lake for testing but, “I could not get a cup of water without getting in and I was not doing that.”
Various arms of the government have worried about algae in Champlain since at least the early 1900s, when the United States Geological Survey was dispatched to look into “troublesome alga” in the lake. Action took decades, though. Burlington was dumping untreated sewage into the lake until the middle of the century.
Much of the lake’s phosphorus pollution comes from Vermont farms, though several Adirondack Park rivers also contribute. Graphic courtesy of Lake Champlain Basin Program
Now, a more serious and sweeping attempt to control the largest source of pollution—runoff from nearby dairy farms—is one of the major political issues around the lake. It is especially so in Vermont where dairy is a literal and figurative sacred cow.
But other industries now hang in the balance, too. In an area dependent on tourism, the blooms aren’t just an inconvenience—they threaten a way of life.
“No one wants to move to a lake house when the lake has an algae bloom all year long,” said Anne Schechinger, an economist at the Environmental Working Group, a national nonprofit focused on clean water.
Twenty years ago, several dogs died along Champlain’s shores after swallowing cyanobacteria toxins.
The deaths woke up public health officials then but, if anything, the blooms have become more noticeable and likely worse since.
Laurel Casey lives on the Vermont side of the lake, not far from the Lake Champlain Bridge that crosses over from New York’s Crown Point peninsula.
She calls herself a failed cabaret singer. She said she depends on two things for income: her Social Security check and summer tourists who rent a cottage on lakeside property she inherited from her parents.
Casey worries about the blooms on the lake.
She wouldn’t be alone in suffering economic loss from the lake’s woes. In the northern Vermont town of Georgia, three dozen homes near a polluted bay each lost $50,000 in value because of the pollution.
“It keeps me up at night, because, should I sell before everyone figures it out?” Casey said one cold mid-November night.
Laurel Casey lives on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain, across from Crown Point, but worries cyanobacteria blooms caused by farm runoff will scare away tourists and ruin property values for everyone around the lake. Photo by Elodie Reed/Vermont Public Radio
A dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of manure a day. There are about 130,000 dairy cows in Vermont. Many of them are in Addison County, where Casey lives.
Their manure contains phosphorus, an essential chemical known by scientists as a “nutrient,” a friendly label that can be confusing as governments spend millions a year to keep “nutrients” out of the lake. Cyanobacteria love the stuff and when manure lies exposed on a farm during a rainstorm, it can wash right into the lake.
Since the dog deaths, officials around the lake have stepped up their efforts to track and prevent blooms, in part by cutting phosphorus.
Results are mixed, at best.
“It has been extraordinarily slow going,” said Elena Mihaly, an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation.
New York and Vermont worked together on a major phosphorus reduction plan in 2002. The plan required states upgrade wastewater treatment plants, restore natural habitat, ensure farmers do more to keep manure from being flushed into the river, and prevent urban flooding that drags pollution into the lake. But the Conservation Law Foundation challenged Vermont’s part in court for being too weak. The federal government handed the state a stronger set of rules to follow in 2016.
Now two states are trying to clean up the same lake using plans and numbers created a decade apart. The plans don’t agree on basic things, like how much pollution goes into the lake each year.
The best guess is about 2 million pounds of phosphorus, about 70 percent of it from Vermont. To do its part, Vermont needs to reduce pollution coming from its shores by a third.
The state’s preliminary estimate for how much phosphorus it has been able to keep from running into the lake in a typical year is about 35,000 pounds, thanks to new regulations and state and federal spending on water quality improvement projects. New York says it has been able to prevent slightly more runoff, about 40,000 pounds per year.
Continue reading below …
Black Creek — a wetland are near St. Albans Bay, Vermont — shows the effects of phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain tributaries. Photo by Armand Messier/northernvermontaerial.com
Research on phosphorus levels in the lake’s tributaries in both states shows no overall trend. Worse, some tributaries around the lake seem to carry even more phosphorus now than before.
Julie Moore, the head of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, said it’s too soon to tell how well the state is doing.
“We have very robust tracking of the projects and programs we’re putting on the ground, but 95 percent of phosphorus pollution is weather driven, so we have to overcome the inherent noisiness of weather,” she said.
But the weather is unlikely to cooperate. Officials are seeing more rain and storms so intense they’re called “rain bombs,” a recipe for uncontrolled flashes of water that sweep manure off fields and urban pollution into the lake. By one estimate, phosphorus levels could increase by 30 percent due to climate change in coming decades.
All this means the food for cyanobacteria keeps coming into the lake.
Angela Shambaugh, a scientist with the state of Vermont, said blooms are happening later into the year. In 2019, for instance, blooms were showing up in fall, though they used to end with the summer.
Blooms also seem to be starting earlier, though that’s harder to ascertain. Both the later and earlier blooms would likely tie into the global warming that’s giving bacteria more weeks of favorably warm water to grow, which means a better chance that bacteria will ruin someone’s trip to the lake.
Shambaugh says when she hears from people who are afraid to come to Vermont because of beach closures, she tells them to come anyway. If a beach is closed, there’s still other stuff to do, like hike. Plus, she said, there are blooms elsewhere.
“My advice is you probably have cyanobacteria blooms in your state learn what they look like,” Shambaugh said.
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In Vermont, it sometimes looks like the whole of state government is focused on the lake’s problems. Tourism, after all, helps support some 30,000 Vermont jobs and much of it happens around the lake. According to one study, Vermont risks losing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tourism spending if the lake becomes even slightly dirtier-looking.
In 2019, Vermont lawmakers set aside millions more toward what is intended to become a $50 million-a-year fund to pay for water quality projects—a plan designed to help satisfy federal mandates to improve the lake. New York is also spending millions to curb blooms, but officials are generally not as focused on Champlain specifically.
Vermont’s auditor, Douglas Hoffer, criticized his state for spending more money so far on upgrading wastewater treatment plants—rather than trying to reduce runoff from dairy farms—even though farming is a far larger source of phosphorus pollution than human sewage.
“The price of milk doesn’t include the cost of cleaning up this problem, and that’s true of so many industries that got a pass for 50, 100 years,” he said.
A sign at New York’s Point Au Roche State Park warns of a Lake Champlain algal bloom in October 2019. Photo by Mike Lynch
Other Vermont officials pushed back, arguing that there are other reasons to upgrade sewage treatment plants, like meeting stringent regulations and because inadequate plants can release other pollution besides phosphorus that can also close beaches, like E coli.
Vermont is also working on new rules to make urban property owners contain runoff. When rain lands or snow melts on concrete and asphalt, it sweeps pollution into the waterways. Preventing this might cost $50,000 an acre, leaving hundreds of property owners across the state on the hook for roughly a quarter billion dollars in upgrades.
In the meantime, the blooms are still coming and public scrutiny has largely settled on farms, which are the source of about 40 percent of Vermont’s phosphorus runoff. That’s set up a showdown of sorts between water and milk.
Michael Colby, the head of Regeneration Vermont, a nonprofit that takes on big dairy companies, said the state can have large dairy farms or it can have clean water.
“That’s the choice,” he said. “You can’t have both.”
Chuck Ross, a former state agriculture official who now leads the University of Vermont’s extension, said that’s far too simple.
“Does it mean that we have to do things differently than we do today? Yes,” Ross said. “Does it mean we have to stop farming? No.”
Vermont farmers are eventually expected to reduce their phosphorus runoff by more than half while other sectors have to make relatively smaller cuts.
“So you can look at it that agriculture is subsidizing the other sectors,” Ross said.
Part of Vermont’s problem is past practices, some of which were encouraged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which decades ago subsidized farmers who imported phosphorus fertilizer and dumped it on their fields.
Even if officials around the lake succeed in curbing new phosphorus runoff, it could still take a long time for the lake to bounce back because of all that legacy pollution in the soil or already in the lake.
Eric Howe, the head of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which helps monitor and improve the lake, said everyone around the lake needs to focus on restoring important natural habitat.
“If we wanted the lake to go back to pristine condition, then humans would need to pack up and move out of the watershed,” Howe said. “That is obviously not going to happen and nobody wants that to happen, so what we want to do is reforest the critical areas that have the potential to contribute more pollutants to the lake.”
Casey, the singer and lakeside cottage owner, blames a 450-cow dairy farm uphill of her house for runoff that affects her personally and the lake generally. She admits to being a bit out there (she said she once put manure on herself to show up to a public meeting on pollution).
Now, she has realized such tactics may not be the best ones.
“Crazy isn’t the way to do it,” Casey said. “Legislation is.”
Her neighbors, the Ouellette family, owners of the Iroquois Acres farm, react as anyone might when a neighbor starts accusing them. One of the Ouellettes sent Casey a message that said Casey ought to show visitors her septic system. The point was that it’s not just cow manure that runs into Lake Champlain. Leaking septics at old lake homes and overflowing sewage systems also mean there’s human sewage in the lake, though that’s a much smaller problem overall than farm runoff.
Deep Bay, on Lake Champlain, experienced algal blooms in October 2019. Photo by Mike Lynch
Another Ouellette, Stephanie Ouellette Pope, said the family has looked to buy a manure injection system, which does pretty much what it says: injects manure into the soil to help crops grow, rather than spreading it on the field where it might be washed away.
But Ouellette Pope said the system she looked at would cost nearly a quarter-million dollars, plus the tractors needed to run it.
That’s hard to stomach right now because, for several years, the cost to make a wholesale unit of milk has exceeded the price that farmers can sell the milk for. Basically, cows aren’t going anywhere and farmers are more efficient, so the milk supply is up. Yet consumers want nut milks, like almond milk, instead of the real thing, so demand is down.
“When the price of milk is $15 for a five-year average, you do the math,” Ouellette Pope said.
In Chazy, on the lake’s New York side, it was mid-November and farmer Tony LaPierre was thinking about his manure pit, which holds 3 million gallons.
“You don’t want to be caught with minimal storage heading into the wintertime, because you’re creating too much of a risk,” he said.
Farmers spend a surprising amount of time thinking about this crap. Manure is already valuable, since they can spread it as fertilizer. But it can quickly become a liability if farmers don’t plan ahead. If there’s more rain than expected and their pits fill up, there’s trouble. The manure runs off into the lake.
That means the changing weather is a problem for farmers, too.
LaPierre hopes for a day when his manure could be used to generate electricity, something that some other farmers are already doing. Then it could be even more valuable and less of a liability.
Lake Champlain History
Samuel de Champlain's "discovery" in the summer of 1609 gave the French knowledge that the Native Americans had possessed for centuries. This was knowledge of a body of water that would become known as Lake Champlain.
This waterway had already had a fascinating past by the time that the Europeans arrived. It had been formed by glacier activity, had expanded and contracted, and had turned from salt water to fresh water. It had seen the creatures that lived in it die or adapt to these changes and had seen the coming of man.
Most know the history of Lake Champlain from the wars that were fought upon its waters and surrounding shores. Indeed, the Lakes history shows that it was incredibly important for those efforts. Samuel de Champlain himself brought war to the Lake on his first foray with (and for) the Native Americans at the south end. After that, the French and Indian War combatants utilized the Lake for offensive and withdrawal purposes. Then came the Revolutionary War and the notable efforts of Benedict Arnold and his fleet - a story that every student learns. The last major wartime incursion was in the War of 1812 when the English used the Lake to invade the young American land and were repulsed at the north end by Commodore Thomas MacDonough. Without question, the Lake has a storied past of wartime service.
What is not so well known is its commercial past. In the 1700s, the shores of Lake Champlain began to be settled. With this settlement came the need and desire for trade. Small vessels began to crisscross the Lake with goods, livestock and people. Many of these vessels were canoes or glorified rowboats and were organized by local farmers. One of these ferries is still functioning today, although with a considerably different vessel, in the form of the Ticonderoga Ferry, which has been operating since 1759.
As the years passed, more commerce potential was contemplated. In the 1760s and 1770s, sailing vessels began to ply the trade on the Lake. Bateaux, flat bottomed wooden boats, were particularly well used in the area due to their ability to carry a large payload. Sloops and schooners sailed north and south delivering products to the settlers of the growing towns along the shores. One of the first men to see the value of this commerce was Philip Skene who, while a Major in the English Army, served in the Champlain Valley. He settled at the south end of Lake Champlain in the area now known as Whitehall. In the summer of 1771, he had launched a sloop with works built of red cedar to sail to Canada with cargos of lumber. He also built barges to carry produce north. In 1775 he traveled to London and returned as the Lieutenant Governor of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Sadly for him, those areas, and his home in Skenesborough, had been seized by patriot forces. At that time he also lost his new trading schooner, Liberty, when it was seized by the Green Mountain Boys and added to the American fleet. By the turn of the 19th century, many vessels were being produced for Lake service, some by imported shipwrights and some by settlers.
By 1814 more than twenty five large (over 25 ton displacement) were sailing across the Champlain waves with cargo. Trade with Canada was very important. Vessels traded raw materials from New York (such as iron and ash) and Vermont (such as maple sugar, flax, and meat) with Canadian ports. On the return trip, they were laden with finished goods from overseas such as rum, linens and woolens as well as tea, coffee and chocolate. Gideon King of Burlington, known as the "Admiral of the Lake" for his virtual monopoly of the carrier trade, increased his wealth greatly while serving as one of John Jacob Astor's agents during this time.
So important was this commerce that even the Embargo Acts of 1807 and 1808, which barred international trade, could not stop the Lake traffic. The Lake Champlain route became a smuggling route for European goods into the United States. In fact, in 1808, there are reports of a particularly difficult smuggler, Samuel J. Mott of Alburgh, and what are described as 7 desperate men as a crew. They used the large bateau Black Snake to smuggle goods. In August of that year, they had a battle with the revenue cutter Fly, under the command of Lieutenant Farrington, near Winooski on the Onion River. In that conflict, Lt. Farrington was wounded and two of his crew and one of the smugglers were killed. Earlier that year, in June, the Black Snake had been involved in another altercation near Windmill Point. According to Richard M. Strum in his book, Ticonderoga: Lake Champlain Steamboat, in 1809 goods valued at more than 75,000 English pounds passed illegally through the Lake, a sum equivalent to approximately $3.7 million in 1996 dollars. Even the War of 1812 didn't stop this illicit commercial traffic. In June of 1814, there is a report that smugglers were caught towing two spars toward Canada to be used to construct the British warship Confiance. Smuggling was a serious business on Lake Champlain.
The age of sail vessels was in full swing on the Lake when, in June of 1808, an odd, noisy vessel appeared. In 1807, Robert Fulton had put the first regularly operating steamer to work on the Hudson River. Two of the men that helped build that craft moved to Burlington and built the steamer Vermont. Just one year after Fulton, Lake Champlain became the waterway with the second regularly operating steamboat in the world. The age of steam had arrived on the Lake. The Vermont steamed a regular course from Whitehall to St. Johns with an optimistic schedule of one week. She could make 6 miles an hour when not challenged with one of her frequent mechanical break downs. The Vermont kept this schedule until October of 1815 when, while transiting the Richelieu River, she shook loose her connecting rod and threw it through her side which sank her near Ash Island.
One of the Vermont's owners (John Winan) decided to continue in Lake service and, with associates, incorporated as the Lake Champlain Steamboat Company. They began to build a new steamer at Otter Creek in Vergennes. They were interrupted by the War of 1812 when Commodore MacDonough commandeered the not quite completed hull and, not being a proponent of steam power, built her as the schooner rigged U.S.S. Ticonderoga.
After the war, the company was at it again. This time a larger boat was laid down and, with second hand engines from a Hudson River steamer, the Phoenix was put into service in 1815. The following year the engines salvaged from the Vermont were installed in a new vessel named Champlain until mechanical difficulties forced their replacement. These two vessels steamed from one end of the Lake to the other on opposite runs. Now Whitehall, NY and St Johns, Quebec were serviced by a vessel every Wednesday and Saturday and points between had the benefit of the transit between them. The cost to travel the whole way was $9 with board and lodging. The steamer Champlain burned at Whitehall in September of 1817. The Phoenix burned while underway in September of 1819 with a loss of life of 6 people. The Phoenix is now a Vermont State Underwater Historic Site lying in between 60 and 110 feet of water on the north face of the Colchester Shoal Reef. The fire in the Phoenix was rumored to have been started by a candle in the pantry but evidence exists that it may have been intentional by competing shipping companies.
The Champlain was replaced in 1818 by a craft double her size which the Lake Champlain Steamboat Company christened Congress. The Phoenix was replaced in 1820 by a vessel, Phoenix II, one third larger than Congress displacing 343 tons. By 1828, seven steamers were traveling Lake Champlain. With this many vessels, the competition for freight became fierce. It was during this period that Plattsburgh harbor became interesting to shippers. Until the 1820s vessels had stopped at Cumberland Head where the storehouses stood and a stage line ran. Operators began looking for ways to make their vessels better and faster. For instance, the Franklin was built in 1827 at St. Albans and displaced 350 tons with a speed of 10 miles per hour.
The Champlain Canal System, opened in 1823, brought more commercial opportunity to the Champlain Valley. Maritime shipping no longer needed to focus on only Canada as a route for goods. New York City became an outlet for cargo as well. In fact, the water route south reduced the travel time of cargo considerably so merchants were very pleased to use the maritime shippers. The age of steam would bring more vessels - and more competition - to 19th century Lake Champlain.