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Introduction to the Interpretive Guide to the Champlain Canal

Panoramic View of the Waterford Flight of Locks – Waterford Museum

The Hudson-Champlain region formed the stage on which the drama of European domination and settlement of North America was set. Dutch, English and French adventurers, traders, and colonists encountered here the Mohican, Mohawk and Abenaki. The battle that marked the turning point of the Revolutionary War was fought at Saratoga. Whitehall lays claim to being the birthplace of the American Navy.

These human events took place within the awe-inspiring landscape of rivers, lakes, and mountains, which for millennia bore witness to less volatile migrations, when the violence in the landscape was from the earth’s own shifting tectonics.

Stretching along the Upper Hudson to the southern end of Lake Champlain, the Champlain Canal corridor is a natural thoroughfare, whether for the seasonal migrations of fish, birds, and mammals; the movement of Native Americans, exploration by fur traders and colonists; immigrants seeking opportunity and slaves seeking freedom.

The Champlain Canal is a thread woven through the landscape, binding together two immensely important waterways and creating a continuous north-south trade route between New York City and Montreal. As an engineering achievement, it was remarkable: digging the canal by hand and, later, with steam shovels, was no small feat. The access to transportation it afforded increased the scale and value of the region’s agricultural and industrial output. The canal region prospered as natural resources of northern New York, Vermont, and Quebec were tapped and goods were sent to far-flung markets.

The canal created a lifeway and livelihoods for the families who plied it; and for the millworkers, timber men, miners and farmers whose goods were shipped to national and international markets through it. This book tells some of this story. Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Lakes to Locks Passage Scenic Byway, and the Alfred Z. Solomon Cultural Heritage Trail all interpret the Champlain Canal and its rich history through publications, public programs, interpretive panels and visitors centers along the route.