Lake Champlain Monster Road Trip

Over the past few years, primarily since the time of my “On the Trail of Champ” documentary series released in 2018 (available here on DVD, and streaming here) I’ve been very interested in the mystery of Lake Champlain. “Champ” the Lake Monster has become one of my favorite Cryptids. That is only part of the fascination however; Lake Champlain itself and the surrounding areas have spurred my interest even further.

I’ve explored quite a bit of the region and in 2019 came up with a “Champ must-see” list of sorts. I’ve added to it and hope to continue to add to it! With travel and general movement being halted with the COVID-19 Pandemic I decided I would publish the list for people to enjoy or perhaps plan a future trip up to Lake Champlain in Vermont/New York (aka America’s Loch Ness). It’s a great way to partake in some “Cryptid Tourism” and see some of the awesome locations that this beautiful natural wonder has to offer, then you’re in luck! Plenty of great vistas, attractions and photo opportunities abound. While there are recommended “stops” on the list, you can pick and choose where to go or where to start.

If you’re traveling from the south I’d recommend starting at Whitehall, New York. Whitehall is where Lake Champlain begins and the birthplace of the US Navy. It’s well known for Bigfoot today due to the famous Abair road incident of 1976 but many of the Champ sightings of the 1870’s took place right near town! It’s a place where Cryptids converge. There are Bigfoot signs, Champ signs and Bigfoot cutouts all over the place.

For a more detailed list of what to see in Whitehall, check out my "Whitehall: Where Cryptids Converge, A Visitor's Guide".

Stop #1: Whitehall, New York:

Things to see:

  1. The Champlain Canal.
  2. Skenesborough Museum (including the remains of the USS Ticonderoga).
  3. Bigfoot statue just before the museum.
  4. The Sasquatch Saloon restaurant.
  5. Champs Corner Pub & Grill
  6. Joe’s Pizza, Bigfoot Wine & Liquor
  7. Vermont Marble, Granite, Slate & Soapstone Shop (they have a huge metal Bigfoot on the outside and have some Whitehall Bigfoot related souvenirs).
  8. Skene Valley Country Club (they have a Bigfoot as their logo as well as a metal Bigfoot statue on the golf course. The original owner had a Bigfoot sighting on the golf course itself in 1975, prior to the Abair road sightings).
  9. Heading out of town northeast check out Abair road. There isn’t a lot to see nowadays but you can take a picture with the road sign and try and relive the famous Abair road incident. After that head back towards town and start heading north towards Ticonderoga, New York on Route 22 (it’s about 30 minutes without any stops).

Stop #2: Lake Champlain’s South Bay (right outside of Whitehall):

You’ll see a sign that says Dresden right before the bridge. A nice place to stop and get some pictures of scenic south bay with the mountains in the background. From there keep heading North. Many of the Champ sightings documented during the “Serpent Scare” of the 1870’s took place on this narrower section of the lake, almost resembling a river. Feel free to stop anywhere around here to get some pictures, such as in Clemons, Putnam Station or Wright, NY.

Stop #3: Ticonderoga, New York:

Things to see:

  1. Fort Ticonderoga
  2. Star Trek Original Series Set Tour (Great for Trekkies)
  3. Lake George (very close to town, home to a monster hoax called “Georgie” in the 1930’s).

From there head north for Port Henry, New York (about 23 minutes without any stops).

Stop #4: Port Henry/Moriah, New York:

Things to see:

  1. Port Henry “Home of Champ” sign. It’s on the right side just past the U-haul and Citgo.
  2. Famous Red Champ sightings sign. It’s also on the right, just a minute or so past the Home of Champ sign. There is a pull off for it and it’s great for a picture.
  3. Main Street. Picturesque Americana main street, there is a tourism office on the left that has Champ on it’s sign as well as signs for the annual Champ day event.
  4. Champ Parade Float: On the right side just past the Dollar General leading into the Port Henry Marina area and the Port Henry Beach. Dock Street takes to down to a dock area where you can walk out and get a great view of the Bulwagga Bay (site of many Champ sightings over the centuries).

From there just head back south through town heading towards Crown Point, NY and the bridge to Vermont.

Stop #5: Crown Point, New York/Champlain Bridge to Vermont:

Things to see:

  1. Champlain Memorial Lighthouse. There may be a fee if the ranger station is open, but the lighthouse will be open during regular hours and you can climb up to the top for a spectacular view of the Champlain Bridge as well as the Lake.
  2. Crown Point Campground (camping option)
  3. Crown Point State Historic Sight. (Nice place to walk around and see the ruins of a historic fort, with great views of the broader lake).
  4. Lake Champlain Visitors Center
  5. The Lake Champlain Bridge Itself

Cross into Vermont and begin heading North on Vermont Route 17 West.

The Crown Point Lighthouse
The Crown Point Lighthouse
The Lake Champlain Bridge
The Lake Champlain Bridge

Stop #6: Champ’s Trading Post, Addison, Vermont:

Fairly hard to miss, it’s on the right side a few minutes north of the bridge. Great place for Vermont souvenirs, maple products and Champ memorabilia. They’ve changed it up a bit in recent times but they should still have a good amount of Champ related items. They’ve also got mini-golf in the back.

Keep heading north from there. I should point out there are plenty of great spots to stop for a swim, some views or eating/snacking. D.A.R. state park is nearby, just before the trading post.

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Stop #7: Arnold’s Bay, Panton, Vermont:

A bit tough to get to but worth checking out. It’ll take driving on some dirt back roads but you’ll see the spot where Benedict Arnold sunk his fleet to escape the British following a naval battle on the lake during the revolutionary war. Also the sight of various Champ sightings. Best coordinates to put would be 1355 Adams Ferry Road, Panton, Vermont. Be careful driving down to the lake itself, there may be people loading boats into the water or the water level may be high, it’s a steep road that empties right into the bay. It’s a nice spot though and there is a sign explaining the whole Benedict Arnold incident.

Arnold's Bay from the air
Arnold's Bay from the air
Looking toward's the Adirondack's in New York from Arnold's Bay
Looking toward's the Adirondack's in New York from Arnold's Bay

Stop #8: Button Bay Area:

There have been various Champ sightings in the Button bay area over the years, plus it’s a scenic spot with amazing views of the Adirondack mountains across the lake in New York.

Things to see:

  1. Button Bay State Park.
  2. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
  3. Basin Harbor.
Button Bay itself
Button Bay itself
The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Stop #9: Vergennes, Vermont:

Very scenic little town. They have a cool main street with some nice shops/restaurants. Also a nice waterfall that connects to the Otter Creek, which empties into Lake Champlain. There has even been a Champ sighting near the waterfall by town.

Stop #10: Mouth of Otter Creek/Fort Cassin:

Just northwest of Vergennes, head to Fort Cassin Road. This is where the very wide Otter “creek” opens into the broader lake. Big fish like to feed in this area and there have been various Champ sightings in the creek and the bay’s on either side, as well as a few on land sighting crossing the short strip of land between the creek and the bays.

-Optional stops on the way for food/passing through. Because the way the road works, you won’t be parallel in this section of Vermont heading north but you’ll be passing through a lot of scenic farmland and small Vermont towns etc.

Otter Creek feeding into the lake.
Otter Creek feeding into the lake.
Porter Bay looking into Vermont
Porter Bay looking into Vermont

Stop #11: Charlotte Whale sign, Charlotte, Vermont:

Sign for the site of Vermont’s state fossil, where in the 1800’s the skeleton of a Beluga whale was discovered while digging for a railroad. The whale died as recently as 12,000 years ago, when Lake Champlain was an arm of the Atlantic ocean known as the “Champlain Sea”, filled with various marine mammals and other sea creatures. A brief stop to see the sign for a picture.

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Stop #12: Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont:

Not exactly a farm anymore but a nice area, be sure to check out the Inn, it has an amazing lake view. Shelburne Farms was also the site of a historic summit/conference in 1981 on the topic of Champ existing. Attending by many leading Cryptozoologists and Champ researchers such as Joseph Zarzynski, Loren Coleman, Dr. Phillip Rines, Sandra Mansi, etc.

Stop #13: Burlington, Vermont area

Things to see:

  1. Champ Touchless Car Wash, South Burlington, VT. Just a cool quick stop for a picture of their sign.
  2. Red Rocks State Park, South Burlington. Nice scenic area with some awesome red cliffs that overlook Lake Champlain. It’s a good swimming spot with cliff jumping too.
  3. Oakledge Park. Just north of Red Rocks Park, with some nice cliff areas for relaxing and check out. The water around the park is the location of the 2009 alleged Olsen Champ video.
  4. Vermont Lake Monsters Baseball Team office. The main office of Vermont’s minor league baseball team has some cool artwork on the outside of the office, as well as a big Champ statue right outside of it. They also have a gift shop with all sorts of memorabilia for the team, almost exclusively featuring their beloved mascot, Champ.
  5. Sign for Champ: Right near the Lake Monsters office on the end of Perkin’s Pier you’ll see a small granite monument dedicated to Champ. It has the Latin name given to Champ by researcher Joseph Zarzynski, Belua Aquatica Champlainiensis.
  6. Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain: Awesome science center with exhibits all about the lake, aquariums with Sturgeon and other large fish, amphibians and reptiles found in the lake. They also have a cool Champ exhibit, as well as some cool Champ related souvenirs in their gift shop. They are in possession of Sandra Mansi’s original 1977 Champ photo, which they display for the public occasionally.
  7. The Spirit of Ethan Allen cruises. Great cruises right out of Burlington in some of the widest sections of the lake. Gives you an idea of the scale of the place, lasts a few hours and sunset cruises are usually the best. It was on this cruises that dozens of out of state folks had a Champ sighting in the 1980’s during a wedding reception.
  8. Perkins museum of Geology: UVM’s geology museum, not open during the weekends but they have the original Charlotte whale skeleton on display, as well as other Vermont related fossils and rocks.
  9. Donahue Sea Caves: You can’t really get to the caves but you can see them across the water. These above ground caves were once a part of the Champlain sea and underwater.

Side note: Ton’s of great food, bars, and other things to see in Burlington. Church Street is the main pedestrian area and it’s usually very lively in the evenings and a great atmosphere. There are the occasional shops that will sell Champ related shirts and souvenirs in town too.

Stop #14: The Auer Family/Charlie’s Boathouse, 3181 North Avenue, Burlington, VT.

Awesome little family owned boat rental area right at the mouth of the Winooski River. The Winooski River is where landlocked Atlantic Salmon spawn, also the scene of various Champ sightings. Charlie is in his 90’s but still does most of the rentals and he his quite a character. He can tell you about the sightings in the area, including that of his sister and mother who saw multiple Champ creatures in the 1980’s under a street lamp by the boat ramp. Great place to rent some kayak’s and check out the Winooski River, very beautiful and scenic area with the river and the wide lake and Adirondack mountains across on the New York side. Even if you’re just walking around it’s a nice spot, there is a bike path a bridge that connects to the Delta Park nature area, filled with Champlain marshland.

View of the widest section of Lake Champlain from the Auer Family Boathouse
View of the widest section of Lake Champlain from the Auer Family Boathouse
View while kayaking near the mouth of the Winooski River
View while kayaking near the mouth of the Winooski River

Stop #15: Mallets Bay, Colchester, Vermont

A large scenic bay with a history of Champ sightings, it also contains “Cave Island” which is a small island with a large cave in it. This cave, like the Donahue Sea Cave, is a remnant of the Champlain Sea and was once underwater. On the other side of the bay is Niquette Bay State Park.

The cave on Cave Island, Mallets Bay
The cave on Cave Island, Mallets Bay

You can choose to head north either along the coastline or via the Vermont islands. On the Vermont Islands there isn’t too much to see, it’s mostly farmland, shoreline, etc. There are bike trails and a few Champ related things to see, listed below.

  1. McKee’s Island Pub & Pizza Shop on South Hero Island has a sign that features Champ on it.
  2. Hero’s Welcome general store on North Hero has a sandwich called the “Champ” Wrap and they have some books and some limited souvenirs about Champ.
  3. There is a cool little Free Civil war museum/souvenir shop in Alburg, VT that has a few newspaper clippings related to Champ, as well as “Champ” driftwood on display. The owners are very nice and knowledgeable folks about the area.

There are some scenic areas and state parks like Alburg Dunes state park and North Hero State Park in this area. If you continue north towards Alburg, Vermont you’ll be near the Canadian border, so you can either turn left going towards New York, or right towards Vermont. Near Rouses Point, NY you’ll see where the lake transitions into the Richelieu River, you can see the old abandoned fort from a distance.

When heading back towards Vermont from the Alburg area you’ll see the large Missisiquoi Bay, a very shallow bay that is mostly in Quebec, Canada. But you’ll drive through the Missiquoi National Wildlife Refuge on your way to Swanton. Lot’s of marshland in this area.

-Maple City Candy is a store in Swanton, Vermont that has a cool Champ monster themed maple candy.

You’ll head past Saint Albans Vermont (There are technically two, Saint Albans City and Saint Albans Town). Nearby Saint Albans Bay is a cool place to check out, some believe this is the area that Sandra Mansi took her famous photo in 1977, although the true location is not known. There is however the legend of a ghost pirate ship in Saint Albans Bay, that of the ghostly crew of the Black Snake ship that smuggled goods into Canada during President Jefferson’s embargo on British Canada in 1807, where I talk about in my "Stranger Stories from Lake Champlain" piece. It’s a nice area to check out either way.

There is obviously a lot more to see on this route and I haven’t covered much of the New York side of the lake yet, so feel free to let me know if there are other spots that should be added or if any things have changed! Enjoy your time on beautiful Lake Champlain!

 

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