Resource for Historians, Educators, Students and Visitors since 1997
Beautiful Lake Champlain, stretching south from Quebec and dividing New York and Vermont, has justifiably been called the most historic body of water in North America.
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).
Once 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.
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