Lighthouses kept vessels off lake shoals

Lake Champlain has been a natural byway for European explorers, American and Canadian merchants and travelers since the 17th century. Native peoples traversed the lake from north and south for thousands of years. As lake traffic increased by the end of the 19th century, ten manned light stations, ten smaller lights, 36 buoys, and 15 smaller navigation beacons ringed the big lake. Today, while commercial traffic has declined, recreational use has exploded. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains 150 so-called aids to navigation on Lake Champlain, which include 50 beacons and 100 buoys. While modern beacons lack the romantic appeal of isolated, manned lighthouses of the past, you can still experience the lakes grand light stations from either land or water. After reviewing the list of Champlain lights (and with no slight to Vermont intended), we think the best of the remaining light stations are on the New York side of the international lake. Heres a brief guide to the lights around Lake Champlain. While you may be able to glimpse most of them in your travels, remember that they are mostly privately owned. Sadly, access is available only by permission. Perhaps someday, the states of Vermont and New York will see the light and transform some of the lighthouses into public maritime parks. Its a shame that nearly all of our regions lighthouses are in private hands. Barbers Point Light Station, N.Y.Barbers Point light was established in 1873 and is identical to several Long Island, N.Y. lighthouses. The stations fresnel light, which was visible for 14 miles up and down the lake, was extinguished in 1934. Trivia: The famous Hawaiian lighthouse of the same name was dubbed in honor of the New York light station. From Highway 22 south of Westport, turn onto the loop road County Road 22G (Dudley Road). Look for Barber's Lane and go east to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is a private residence. Burlington Breakwater Lights, Vt.Burlington: Work on Burlingtons twin breakwater light stations began in 1837. While the original wooden lighthouse towers no longer stand, two new, less impressive automated light stations are in place at the north and sound harbor entrance. The best view of the lights is at sunset from comfortable deck chairs at the Burlington Community Boathouse. Colchester Reef Light, Vt.Shelburne: This lighthouse is open to the public through the good graces of the Shelburne Museum. The station was removed off its reef platform in 1952 and reassembled at the museum. While admission to the museum is steep, its worth the price just to visit this land-locked lighthouse. Other lake icons are part of admission, too, such as the lake steamer S.S. Ticonderoga built at the time the RMS Titanic sank. Crown Point Light Station, N.Y.The stone Champlain Memorial Lighthouse dates to 1909 and the tricentennial of Samuel de Champlains exploration of the lake. You can walk around the impressive lighthouse by entering the New York State campground just south of the bridge. Noteworthy Auguste Rodin bronze statuary enhances this one-of-a-kind lighthouse; it is blend of fine early 20th century art and architecture. An earlier lighthouse stood next to the lightkeepers house (which still stands) at the foot of the Champlain Bridge. Cumberland Head Light, N.Y.Plattsburgh: In 1836, the U.S. Government purchased four acres of land from rancher Luther Hagar to build the Cumberland Head Lighthouse. The tower is notable because it overlooks over the lake-phase site of the Battle of Plattsburgh between American and British fleets in 1814 during Americas Second War for Independence. The lighthouse is only visible from the lake. Juniper Island Light Station, Vt.Burlington: A lighthouse on Juniper island first appeared in 1826. The station went through several changes having been rebuilt in 1846 with its light replaced in 1954. Sadly, a campers fire destroyed the lightkeepers house in 1962. Now, only the houses foundation and a brick wall remain. But the iron tower of the station is still visible (barely) from the lake. The island is overgrown and poison ivy vines are reclaiming the island. But visitors can anchor off the island and explore the ruins. Isle la Motte Lighthouse, Vt.Grand Isle (Isle la Motte): This is a classic light station which looks as though it belongs on Cape Cod. The first light was built here in 1857, rebuilt in 1881 and replaced yet again in 1933. To get to the island, use the lake causeway on Route 129 in Alburg. Point Au Roche Light Station, N.Y.Beekmantown: This light station was built on the New York shore near La Roche Reef. It was first established in 1858. There is an effort afoot to preserve the deteriorating structure. You can view the Point Au Roche station .5 mile north of Mooney Bay. On the lake, the station is visible opposite the reef. Split Rock Light, N.Y. Essex: Established in 1838, Split Rock Light has a long and distinguished career. In 1928, Split Rock became the first unmanned station on the lake. An acetylene gas light was installed which could be seen for 12 miles. Look for it off Route 22, Whallons Bay, south of Essex Town. Valcour Island Light, N.Y.Plattsburgh: This was the last manned lighthouse on the lake. Built in 1874 on the west shore of famous Valcour island. The light overlooks the 1776 naval battle of Valcour Island. The red-topped lighthouse may be seen from Route 9 just south of Plattsburgh. Windmill Point Lighthouse, Vt.Alburg (Grand Isle): Established in 1858 and replaced in 1931, this is the most northern light on lake Champlain. To view the old stone station, take Route 2 in Alburg, Vt. In New York, you can see the station from Route 9B at Rouses Point. To learn more about Lake Champlain lighthouses, read the following book and article: Lake Champlain Lighthouses, by George Clifford, Clinton County Historical Association, 1999. The Lighthouses of Lake Champlain, by Morris Glenn, Keepers Log, the Quarterly Journal of the United States Lighthouse Society, Winter 1994.

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