The Lakes of Vermont

Words to Know

- Reservoir

- Wetlands


Lake Champlain Islands

Lake Champlain

GREAT RESOURCE!  Check out the online Lake Champlain Atlas

Among Vermont’s most treasured resources are the numerous lakes and ponds throughout the state.  The deep lakes were gouged out of the rock by the glaciers.  Most of the lakes and ponds were formed by glacial deposits that created dams.  These bodies or water are usually shallow and therefore warmer than the deep lakes.  They also vary in size and shape.  Some lakes are “man-made” and are know as reservoirs.

Vermont has many lakes.  In the northern sections of the state there is the Lake Memphremagog.  This lake, like Lake Champlain, is shared by Vermont and Canada.  Lake Willoughby is famous for the beautiful mountains that surround it and fore its cold water fishing.  It is one of the deepest lakes in New England.  Lake Bomoseen is the largest natural lake entirely within Vermont.  Bomoseen and Lake St. Catherine are located just west of Rutland.  Both are favorite summer camping area.  Seymour Lake is the second largest natural lake in Vermont.  Crystal Lake and Caspian Lake are also beautiful summer resort areas.

 lake willoughby sunset.jpg (4788 bytes)

Lake Willoughby Sunset

Vermont also has many reservoirs.  Some of the largest and best known include Waterbury Reservoir in northern Vermont and Chittenden Reservoir, Somerset Reservoir and Harriman Reservoir in the southern Green Mountains.  Harriman Reservoir, also known as Lake Whitingham, is the largest lake of any kind located entirely within Vermont.  These lakes provide drinking water, electric power, and recreation opportunities, such as swimming, fishing and boating.

Chittenden Reservoir

Lake Champlain

Click here for the excellent on-line Lake Champlain Atlas

            Lake Champlain forms part of Vermont’s western boundary with New York State.  The lake is about 118 miles long and 12 miles across at its widest point.  There are many rivers and streams that flow into Lake Champlain from Vermont, New York, and Canada.  The outlet for the lake is the Richelieu River in Canada, which flows north to the St. Lawrence River.  The lake has about 75 islands.  The largest are Grand Isle, North Hero, and Isle La Motte, which make up most of Grand Isle County.  The lake is divided into five sub basins each with its own hydrological and ecological characteristics: The South Lake, Main Lake, Malletts Bay, Inland Sea, and the Missisquoi Bay.

            The deepest spot in the lake is 400 feet.  It is located just off Split Rock Point in Essex, New York.  The lake level varies from season to season and year to year.  The average is about 95 feet above sea level.  The lowest recorded level was 91.9 feet above sea level in 1909.  The Highest recording was taken in 1976 at 101.62 feet.  This makes Lake Champlain the lowest point in Vermont.


            Previous to discovery by modern people the lake went by several names the Native American group the Mohawks referred to it as Caniadari Guarunte, which meant lake with a bulge in it or door of the country.  The Abenakis used the name Petonbowk, meaning waters that lie between (between being the Adirondacks and Green Mountains).  Then in 1609 Samuel de Champlain named the lake after himself after discovering it.  The lake has served as a natural transportation route for thousands of years.  The importance of the lake was recognized by both the French and English colonists.  For many years forts were built along the lake and many battles were fought on and near the lake.  Whoever controlled the lake also controlled and important route into the heart of the northern colonies.

            Burlington was hand picked by Ira Allen to be the sight for lumber shipments on Lake Champlain.  Burlington grew to become the largest port in the region.  In the 1870’s, the so-called “Queen City” was the third largest lumber port in North America, just behind Albany and Montreal.

Click here for the excellent on-line resource Historic Lakes

            Today Lake Champlain is important for the recreational opportunities it provides to residents and visitors.  Boating, fishing, and swimming are all very popular.  The wetlands around the lake serve as an important breeding and feeding habitat for many fish and waterfowl, making the area popular with fishermen and hunters.

Perkin's Pier sunset


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