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Lake Champlain in New York - Weekend Trip Report

Trip Overview

Until a few months ago we had never heard of the the Lake Champlain Canal. After a bit of research and checking the New York canal website, we were as ready as possible to head out on what proved to be a a rather interesting trip.(It was to be our 16th annual paddle.)
The canal is 65 miles long. It starts at the southern tip of Lake Chaplain in Whitehall, NY. From there it extends southward a bit over 24 miles as a normal canal. After that it entersthe Hudson River at Fort Edward and runs another 40 miles until meeting up with the Erie Canal in Troy, NY. There are a total of 11 locks, with the height of land near Fort Ann, between lock 8 and 9.

Taking out and putting in at the locks, with the exception of Lock 7, is NOT an option. The banks are steep with no natural launch points. My brother and I were going to paddle for 4 days and would not be camping on the canal or river. We had a desire for some creature comforts, so had found the Sara Glen motel in Moreau, 7 miles away, to be ideal for our purposes of daily paddles.

The first 2 legs from Lock seven to just before Lock 11 and then from there to the major state launch in South Bay can be characterized by thinking of an actual canal; defined sides and relatively straight, with no current. In one area you can see over two miles ahead. Generally one would consider this to be quite boring, however the addition of locks makes it interesting and fun.The "lifts" vary from 12 feet to 19 feet.The water is either pumped in or pumped out depending upon which way you are headed. Each lock is at least 100 yards long and 100 to 200 feet wide. Water moves into or out of the locks at the rate of one foot every 15 seconds. One must hang on to ropes to keep from being buffeted about when they in operation. Lock tenders are a friendly and helpful bunch, especially Leslie at Lock 7. As you pass through the tender will call ahead to the next lock with the approximate time you will be arriving. In general it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get to and through a lock.

The wildlife in the canalized areas is limited to birds. However you will see many types of herons and waterfowl throughout this 24 mile section. Also there are kingfishers, crows, ravens and any number of song birds. The thick plant life and steep sides really preclude much other than the occaisonal beaver or muskrat. With the execption of a couple of vilages that you pass through, they are no homes along the canal. There was however one barn that was about 1/3 of the way into the canal and tipping prcariously towards the water.

The Hudson River end of the canal is a bit more interesting. There are often camps, cabins, homes and several businesses to be seen. It still has zero current and always has a wind blowing.The wind blows south to north 90% of the time, so be prepared to fight some rather strong head winds at times when paddling south.There are many more launch points avaliable from Lock 7 southward. Most are marinas and most will let you put in or take out for free or for only a small parking fee. Beaware that there are barges and large boats up to 50 feet long that use this canal system. Most are courteous and slow while passing man-powered water craft. However, we encountered several of both who never glanced in our direction and if anything slowed only enough to create larger wakes. Be prepared to ride out their wakes in a safe manner.

One last highlight was seeing a 70 foot paddle boat plying the canal just north of Lock 5. We were a mutual source of amusement and interest. Total paddle miles 53. Time of actual paddling about 15 hours, plus the time to get to a launch point, drop off, drive to takeout, bike back and reverse all that.


16 sea kayaks


no, except for some parking fees.


Depending where you start there are several highways nearby. The primary one is New York Route 4, as it parallels most of the canal.


New York State Canal System web site has most of what you will need. Should scout the launch sites as they are not all created equal.

  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip