Lake Champlain Toasts its 400th Anniversary

The sculpture of Samuel de Champlain gazes up the lake he explored 400 years ago this summer, opening the way for Europeans who made extensive use of the waterway during their 200-year struggle for control of North America.

The bronze statue, flanked by a crouching Huron Indian and a French soldier, is perched on the lake side of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, overlooking the strait separating New York and Vermont at Lake Champlain's southern end.

Nearly a century ago, the original 1858 lighthouse was turned into a monument to Champlain after New York and Vermont officials decided during 1909's tricentennial celebrations that a permanent memorial to the French explorer was needed.

Work on the memorial began during a period when Champlain's legacy was being re-examined by American historians, said Sylvie Beaudreau, associate professor of history at Plattsburgh State College. Renewed interest in his exploits resulted in several monuments being built in his honor in the Champlain Valley, joining the nation's "landscape of memory," she said.

"By building all these monuments, what Americans did was make history visible," said Beaudreau, one of the featured speakers at a Champlain symposium scheduled for Burlington, Vt., in early July.

This year, New York and Vermont are commemorating the 400th anniversary of Champlain's exploration of the region with five months of public events around the lake's shoreline. They range from kid-friendly festivities such as parades and "pirate" festival and to lake tours and concerts.

New York is nearing completion of a more than $2 million refurbishing of the Champlain monument and a nearby pier, both located on the state-owned Crown Point campground. The project is expected to be completed by July 4, and visitors will once again be able to climb the lighthouse's interior staircase to the narrow observation deck offering views of the Vermont shore, the Adirondack Mountains and the neighboring Crown Point State Historic Site.

Here are some of the events, along with listings for museums and historic sites hosting related activities and exhibits. For a more extensive list, check the state's Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission Web site,, or New York's Clinton, Essex and Washington counties' site,