Stretching 64 miles between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, the Champlain Canal Region of Lakes to Locks Passage has served as a travel corridor for centuries. The first inhabitants came following migratory species. Here they found vast fisheries, bubbling medicinal springs, and a navigable travel corridor that allowed them to trade, exchange ideas, and occasionally make war with neighboring tribes. Early voyagers could navigate the Hudson River as far north as Fort Edward before it was necessary to portage overland to the headwaters of Lake Champlain.
By the early 17th century, the Dutch settlers of Albany had established a series of successful fur trading posts in villages along the Hudson River. The most prosperous were the port City of Albany and Saratoga, a strategic crossroad where Fish Creek and the Battenkill converge. When British took control of the Dutch colony in the latter half of the century the waterway was fortified as a series of wars between the British and French unfolded. There were four major conflicts fought along this waterway before the British expelled the French from the region at the end of the French and Indian War.
A little more than a decade after the end of the French and Indian War, the American colonists took up the cause for independence. It was along this route that British General John Burgoyne marched southward in his military campaign of 1777. His efforts were thwarted just north of Stillwater in the Battles of Saratoga, one of the most decisive military victories in world history. This conflict is commemorated in Saratoga National Historical Park.
It was General Philip Schuyler, along with Elkanah Watson, that recognized the economic potential for a continuous waterway between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. The Champlain Canal was opened in 1823 and consisted of a land cut channel from Waterford to a canalized Wood Creek, which joins Lake Champlain at Whitehall, the birthplace of the United States Navy. Later efforts to build a canal large enough for ocean-going vessels were too ambitious and costly to implement. Instead, an enlarged barge canal incorporating the Glens Feeder Canal was built in 1916.
Visitors have flocked to the region since transportation made the interior parts of this country accessible. They arrived for the charming small cities of Albany and Troy, the “Health, History, and Horses” of Saratoga, and the rural charm of Washington County. By boat, by bike, by train, or by car, discover all the region has to offer.