The Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain

August 23, 2021

I am TRYING to get caught up on my posts. Although I posted yesterday, I did not include the Champlain Canal and our trip to Burlington, Vermont which is mid-lake. As a reminder, even if I have not written, I am much better at keeping the map on my site up-to-date, so you can at least see where we happen to be.

Hurricane Henri

Going east on the Erie; getting out of there, See the tiny red spot? That is the channel marker we are looking for. We found many of these that were covered with debris and or essentially submerged as the water was high. This was not the case when we were heading west up the Erie.

We have outrun the Hurricane! Yeah! There may be some scattered thundershowers, but the weather reports say they are not Henri related. We are happy about that, and happy that Henri has not been as destructive as it could have been. It is very good that we got out of the Erie as they have closed down the Locks all the way through the Erie and were going to dump water to winter levels (very low water) . If we had not turned around and left the Erie, we would now be stuck for some unknown amount of time. Whew!

The Champlain Canal

Much of the Champlain Canal is arrow straight after exiting the Hudson River. Where possible, all these canals use existing rivers, but to connect them, they have to dig canals. Why not make them straight.

The Champlain Canal was started in 1792 to connect Lake Champlain with the Hudson so logs, pelts and other items could be moved from the back country to New York . Lake Champlain is sometimes called an inland sea. It is 75 miles long and separates New York from Vermont.

This is actually part of the Champlain Narrows, the lower part of lake Champlain. rather spectacular.

The day before yesterday, we left Mechanicville, NY headed north. Not positive where we’d stop, but knowing we had 9 Locks to Whitehall where we were pretty sure we’d be north of the storm. We head through the locks not knowing if we’d make it all the way in one day. Each lock has tie up points outside the lock where you can overnight so we figured we go till we made Whitehall or got tired. The trip was only 52 miles but there were a bunch of locks and after the previous few days, we were a bit tired and frazzled. We’d done 16 locks in 3 days and this day we’d have 9 in one day.

It was going pretty smoothly until we reached Lock 9. The Lockmaster asked how wide our boat was. 17 feet, 6 inches I repled. Turns out she could only open one gate. The other had been acting up, but she said we’d fit through. My, it looked skinny, but we’d give it a try. She said we’d fit. I creep up, more slowly than usual. We’ve got fenders out on both sides with both Julia and Jim monitoring one side of the boat. Both could easily have touched the lock doors going through. But, we made it! I asked the Lockmaster how wide the open was and she said, they tell them it was 24 feet, but it was much closer to 20 or 21.

Most of the locks on both the Erie and Champlain are right next to a dam. These dams allow much/most of the water to flow over and also have a small hydro component. When you enter a lock where you will be lifted to the top of the next reservoir, it is pretty interesting and can be a bit disconcerting to see the water rushing by next to you.

We made it to Whitehall, hoping to get below the lock as the Lockmaster at Lock 9 told us there were going to dump water through the dam in preparation for Henri. It is frustrating that the only canal alerts seem to be on the Erie, even though it is all part of the New York Canal Corporation.

We got to Lock 12 in Whitehall at 5:15. We thought they would be open, but had not looked too closely. Again, shame on us. Called twice. No reply. Check the information; closes at 5. Dang! Luckily Whitehall has a nice wall to tie up to right before the lock. Pretty spot. But, what about the water to be dumped from the dams. It would be fine, just lowering water, not emptying.

Ok, the important thing to look at is the height of the boat above the concrete dock. This is the water level when we arrived at Whitehall. UPDATE: Jim has graciously told me the above image is NOT at Whitehall. True, it is Mechanicville, our stop the day before. So, taking the text above, modifying and moving it to the pic below.
The important thing to look at is the height of the boat above the concrete dock, easiest to see at the back of the boat. This pic was taken at 10:30 at night so they had already been dumping water for 5 hours.
Look closely. The back of the boat is almost at the top of the cockpit roof. Compare to the picture above. Same spot, 9 hours later. We’d heard they were going to drop the water level. We had 2 feet under the boat at this point. A couple other boats, much smaller were somewhat hanging by their dock lines. When Jim chatted with the Lockmaster to make sure there would be enough water for us to go through the lock, she said she opened the dam when she left at 5. Someone apparently was supposed to come and close it. At 7 am when she showed up, her words were “oh shit!” They were NOT supposed to drop the water this low.

Lake Champlain

We got through the Lock 12 just fine and headed into the Champlain Narrows, now officially in the lake, but still seeming more like a river or canal than a lake.,

This is the marina below Lock 12. We had planned to dock here. Beside there not being any space when we walked down here to look, the rapid flow of water creates this foamy stuff. I believe it is tannins in the water. Our boat would have been covered with it. Tank God we could not get through the lock. Jim and I had a nice chat with this couple who were headed south down to Newberg for a visit.

Very peaceful here and it was clear we were now in rural country with much less industry. Yes, they logged the heck out of the Adirondacks for years, but big industry is much lighter here. The Champlain Canal was primarily built to transport goods between New York and Montreal.

There is some lovely wildlife along the way. I am always excited when I see an bald eagle.

As we had done very little planning, we had no idea where we were going now that we were on the lake. We finally decided on Burlington Vermont, about mid-lake. The biggest city in Vermont at 40,000 and the biggest on the lake. They have several nice marinas and it will provide a good spot to regroup. We were feeling a bit out of sorts.

Lake Champlain in the background. To the left, clouds from Henri, to the right, clear sailing. So glad we are here for many reasons.

We felt so much more relaxed being fixed for a few days. Going for a walk around town, this is an amazing place. Who knew Burlington Vermont was such as vacation spot. The place is teaming with tourists, but a fun eclectic town with lots of good restaurants and shops.

Fun artwork and a double rainbow to boot! Across from the Burlington town square.
This is the only moose we’ve seen so far.

Planning Ahead

Today we started doing some planning. We will spend a few more days here, then head north to Plattsburgh, NY, then into Canada. We are still working the details of our rapid COVID test which is required to get into Canada (along with our vaccination), but it is coming together. We’ll then continue up the Richelieu River and into the Chambly Canal which empties into the St Lawrence. A bit down stream is Montreal. We are planning ton Montreal, but still discussing if we make a side trip to Quebec City before returning back via the same path. We just do not trust the loop back into the Oswego and Erie at this point.

There are lots of sailboats on Lake Champlain. Seems like a sailors paradise.

Remember I said the NY Canal Corporation never sends out announcements on the Champlain Canal? They did today. Lock 9, the one I barely could get through has now been closed to repair an electrical problem. I do believe they expect a fix, but for the moment, we cannot return back to NYC via the Champlain Canal and the Hudson River. Our only current paths out of Champlain are north; out the St. Lawrence and around to Maine or through the Great Lakes into the Mississippi. We are not concerned that we will have to use either of these paths though. But, keep your fingers crossed for us!

We are in New England now I guess. This covered bridge looking up a little rivulet from the canal.


The Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain — 2 Comments

  1. We were pretty sick of locks by the time we got to Burlington but there will be more on the way to the Saint Lawrence seaway, but they will be Canadian locks LOL

  2. Decisions, decisions. Looks like you’re having a great time and I’m enjoying every minute of it.