Leaping into the Landscape

The spectacular scenery of Lake Champlain attracted tourists even before they were identified as such. The sublime wildness of the mountains to the east and west contrasted sharply with the more open countryside along the lake, presenting an intoxicating blend of Nature’s wealth. Beginning with Theodore Dwight’s The Northern Traveller in 1825, a completely new genre of publication, guidebooks for travelers, offered detailed histories of the landscapes, forts and battles that laid the foundation of the nation. An 1833 guidebook by G. M. Davidson described the shores of Lake Champlain as “unredeemed from a state of nature” interspersed with “villages of a cheerful and thriving appearance.” Steamboat service made the travel convenient, while luxurious furnishings made it comfortable. When Charles Dickens traveled the length of the lake in 1842, he declared the accommodations aboard the steamer, Burlington, “a perfect curiosity of graceful comfort and beautiful contrivance.”

Most travelers in the first half of the nineteenth century came for business, pursuing the profits to be made from lumber, iron and stone. Others, like Dickens, traveled to see the country so they could write about it or illustrate it in paintings and engravings. Professional writers and artists laid the groundwork for the tourism industry by sharing the beauty and excitement of the landscape with a public eager to learn about their new nation. A few more decades had to pass before those people had the leisure time, the disposable income, and a railroad to help them get here on their own.

the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Andrew Alberti

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